Unfortunately for all of us, the coronavirus pandemic is not over. It will take some time for the world to get its act together. The everpresent fear of variants, the continual issues with vaccine distribution, and populace politics has created a divide. An insular world of border restrictions, lockdowns and a travel and tourism industry that has been hanging on by its fingertips. TPAs, travel insurance providers and assistance companies have lost huge amounts of business and have pivoted to other products or services or downsized to stay alive. Covid has accelerated a digital transformation, not only in healthcare, but also in insurance to meet the demands of a global stay-at-home population. Now, technology has appeared as the solution to get our mobility back.
Digital solutions are the clear answer
Since March 2020, the travel and tourism industry, corporations, and governments working through organisations like the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) (of which I am an executive committee member), World Economic Forum, International Air Transport Association, SITA, and the International Chamber of Commerce have focused on how we can enable travellers to travel safely again. In our new complex pandemic-focused world, every major event you wish to access, every mass transport system you want to use and every country you wish to visit may require proof that you have had a negative Covid-19 test from an authorised, approved provider and/ or a vaccine properly administered by an authorised healthcare system. They may even require proof that the vaccine you received is approved by the organisation, or government, that authorises access. Today, there are over 70 different health or travel passes being developed, or that have been launched by countries, organisations, and companies to organise, collect, and to hold Covid test and vaccine data, allowing consumers to travel, cross borders and access venues. Countries have introduced pass systems for both domestic and international use. Examples of these include: China’s ‘health code’ system, Israel’s ‘Green Pass’, the ‘BeAware’ app in Bahrain, Denmark’s ‘corona passport’, Malaysia’s Immunitee Health Passport and DHP in Singapore. The travel industry is faced with a clear choice: adopt, or build technology applications that will allow the traveller to present the required information to the right authorities at the right time so that travel will be able to restart.
Creating an interconnected system
The traveller journey will have many stages to manage, each with its own potential application to access; for example, at the airport, via an airline, at the hotel, for events, and to cross borders. Each area may require the same health information but in a different format through a different type of pass. Technology companies and the travel and tourism industry are now in a race to simplify the process and eliminate complications that could increase fear in travellers and delay a resurgence in travel demand. Interoperability, creating protocols, and having standards that all organisations will use to develop their solutions – allowing each application to communicate with others – is the direction that we are heading.
New requirements to inspire innovative travel insurance solutions
The requirements and travel pass applications being developed globally will inspire the travel insurance industry to adopt or develop new underwriting processes. Changes will also need to take place with eligibility and the design of non-medical products like trip cancellation and interruption. The future of travel is digital, but it is also a future filled with innovation and opportunities for all of us. By combining technology with travel insurance protection and emergency medical assistance services, we are providing the traveller with the confidence they need to take the risk to leave their homes and get on a plane and explore the world again.