By Jenny Cohen Derfler, CEO of Air Doctor
Few anticipated this crisis.
Everyone is speculating – although "fantasizing" might be a better word – about what the post-COVID-19 world will look like. Experts say that the situation could be under control in the countries that became infected first, but the COVID-19 situation changes too fast, so it is difficult to predict the future.
Despite the tragedy unfolding around the globe, with entire countries closed to the outside world, ultimately, travel will resume, albeit in stages. Business travel will probably resume before pleasure and tourism because even though people are now used to "Zooming," face-to-face meetings will still be preferred.
Once everything has "normalized," after the long coronavirus lockdown, we'll all need a holiday -- although we'll need to be more careful than usual. While the travel experience might look and feel different once the world begins to reopen, people will again count on the transformative and positive impact of travel to change their lives.
Wanderlust is a hard thing to stifle, even if it takes a bit longer for the more remote destinations to be popular again – who hasn't read the articles about the families trapped in paradise (Seychelles, Bali, etc.)?
The New Travel Realities
It's a safe bet that health will play a central role in people's concerns as they exit quarantine, especially as they get back on those planes.
We're all very used to airplane bookings coming with tens of add-ons. Many of us skip past speedy boarding, extra baggage, and car rental. One box that we won't be skipping is the one asking us if we want to insure the flight or buy travel health insurance. Companies and travelers will demand this when business travel returns, and consumers won't be too far behind.
Either airline providers or insurance companies are going to have to change to accommodate our new reality and cover pandemic outbreaks or the lines at immigration will be longer than we ever thought possible.
Falling ill while on a trip can be a frightening experience. Even before COVID-19, going to an emergency room (ER) in a foreign country is a daunting prospect. Anxiety levels are seriously elevated. The traveler may realize that he/she isn't critically ill, but, when away, the ER is usually the only safe, recognizable choice – even though secondary infections caught at hospitals can be more dangerous than the initial issues to begin with.
Now user-friendly, intuitive apps are available that help sick or injured travelers facing non-emergency issues find qualified, vetted medical professionals who speak their native languages --without having to set foot in an ER. Furthermore, the telemedicine options these technologies offer can make doctor's visits even more traveler friendly.
Offering these types of apps can add significant value to the insurance, credit card, mobile, and travel industries. Not only can implementing these solutions differentiate them from the competition, they are a significant relationship-building – and profitable – opportunity as the "return to 'normal' life" begins.
By offering access to private healthcare networks and keeping travelers out of the emergency rooms, insurance companies can shift from high-cost hospitals to low-cost, excellent private care. In addition, app-based technologies allow them to streamline claims costs, further reducing their expenses and hassles for their clients - customers no longer need to cope with pre-approvals, payments, claims, deductibles, etc.
Mobile operators can enhance their roaming package offerings with a travel health-insurance app – they know exactly where their clients are going, so they can co-brand this type of service based specifically on where the travelers are.
Credit card companies can supplement their own travel insurance and provide a seamless, digital customer journey, differentiating card benefits from competitors to grow customer loyalty and smooth the customer experience.
Players across industries will all enjoy enhanced revenues and increased customer loyalty. After all, who doesn't want something to facilitate peace of mind when it comes to health and travel in this day and age?
While no one can say how things will play out over the next few months, things will start again. How ready will you and your offerings be when the world starts again?
Jenny Cohen-Derfler is CEO of Air Doctor, an online platform which makes high quality medical care accessible globally to any traveler or expat, improving the customer journey, empowering local doctors, and reducing insurance costs simultaneously. www.air-dr.com