Based on data, we know that consumers today don’t simply want customisation, they expect it. And because of Aon’s position as a broker, it can create those tailored travel protection plans that travellers want from their travel suppliers.
“Our team helps many of North America’s leading travel suppliers – including cruise lines, tour operators, traditional and online travel agencies – design personalised travel protection packages for their guests,” said Godlin. “Working intimately with these travel suppliers also means having deeper insights into not only customer demographics, but also the nuances associated with the specific type of travel and destinations. That knowledge gives brokers the ability to take a product like travel protection that used to be one size fits all and turn it into an offering that’s tailored to both the travel supplier’s customer demographic and the travel experience itself.” Godlin continued: “Then we serve it up at the point of booking, much in the way Netflix serves up recommendations when you log in, adding ease of use to the personalisation equation.”
It’s been an exceptionally difficult year for the travel industry, and consequently, the travel insurance sector. But is there light at the end of the tunnel? “While this is an evolving landscape, the travel insurance segment, as well as the broader travel industry, are well prepared for this moment,” Godlin told ITIJ. “We are cautiously optimistic about a very strong return to travel. We know our partners have dedicated their time and resources preparing for leisure travel’s resurgence – and delivering that experience in a safe manner.”
The fact of the matter is that as an industry, travel insurers have seen many other challenges – such as 9/11, or the economic crash of 2008 – that have resulted in consumers suspending travel due to concerns, albeit not as protracted as the current situation. “This allows the industry to say with confidence that when travel comes back, and it will, it will come back big, fuelled by the joy that only travel and personal connections can offer, along with the care and safety that companies in the travel industry are focused on delivering,” said Godlin.
Broadening of travel insurance coverage
At moments like these, the industry tends to see an increased demand in consumers purchasing travel insurance in general. “Often,” Godlin explained, “a higher percentage of consumers tend to purchase travel insurance for a longer-haul, higher-price-point trip booked months in advance. However, travel insurance can address risks even when travellers are staying closer to home.” This can – and does in this case, according to many industry reports – mean increased demand for travel insurance, and the added level of security it can offer, for all types of travel.
“Across the board, we have seen increased interest in Cancel For Any Reason (CFAR) features as well as enhanced medical benefits – especially for suppliers operating abroad or in remote locations,” noted Goldin. “Medical benefits included in a travel supplier’s travel protection plan can be customised by the supplier based on its destinations and passenger demographic.” That ability to offer customised plan benefits can be an important differentiating factor for consumers as they make these new travel decisions.
In addition, as Aon works on the programmes that will be available when travellers are ready to get back on the road, the company has seen a strong focus on reviewing and understanding how the programme benefits are defined, and will respond, given the new environment. For example, should the policy adapt to include Covid-19 or a Covid-related illness on its list of covered reasons for trip cancellation benefits, or will a physician- or government-mandated quarantine qualify to trigger trip interruption benefits?
Finally, some countries, like Aruba and Costa Rica, are taking precautions one step further by requiring travellers to carry travel insurance due to Covid-19, and Aon has developed a supplemental product to address those scenarios.
But has the travel insurance industry taken the opportunity to reflect on its current state, and perhaps improve its products and service propositions?
“Absolutely!” responds Godlin. “Both the travel and travel insurance industries have been reassessing and enhancing its travel protection plans, services and protocols to anticipate the needs of the post-pandemic traveller. Beyond the critical health and safety protocols that travel suppliers are focused on adapting and enhancing, travel protection programmes can and will play an even larger role in helping travellers embrace the unexpected that is the travel adventure.”
And to be clear, many travel insurance packages did and will provide coverage if a traveller contracts coronavirus or another illness during their trip. Many companies have also enhanced existing plans, such as expanding medical and travel delay benefits in line with travellers’ top priorities. Further, Aon Affinity has worked with travel partners to provide their guests with blanket coverage plans that are purchased by the cruise line or tour operator on behalf of the traveller as an added incentive for travelling with them. These plans provide the traveller with added security in case of illness or Covid-related quarantine situations.
Helping customers understand what they are buying is an ongoing battle in markets around the world, and Aon is far from alone in making efforts to encourage customers to read the policy before they click ‘purchase’.
“There are many factors that impact just how much coverage a traveller has and how they can leverage their benefits,” said Godlin. “Our advice is to always, always, always read the fine print for any policy they are considering. If there is a specific concern a traveller is looking to cover, they should review the programme description or call the provider or insurance administrator for the cruise line, tour operator or travel agent to get clarity that their concerns can be addressed by the programme.”
There are a lot of changes in travel insurance these days, and every policy is different. No two ‘medical enhancements’ are alike, no two Covid coverages are alike. No matter how simple or complex the travel benefits package is, there are details and nuances in coverage travellers should understand to make sure they have the coverage they expect.
The digitisation of claims is ongoing, and insurers are balancing the desire and need for new technology with a raft of legacy systems with a great deal of valuable data. Aon sees technology as an enabler of a better customer experience.
“When you ask customers what their issues are with any insurance product, they will often tell you it’s the level of effort that they have to extend if they need to use the product,” Godlin notes. “What we have spent a lot of effort on – and what I see others doing – is trying to ensure that we can get information to the customer and take advantage of technology that allows us to get a claim determination completed and communicated quickly as possible. We’ve always been in a speed-focused environment – and technology has been an enabler of that.
One thing we are seeing in the industry are some products now that are using publicly available data to pay a claim automatically, even without the customer making a claim. Examples of that are the delay benefits – if your fight is delayed by X number of hours, you automatically get a payment of Y.”
And there’s no doubt that Covid-19 certainly accelerated this process a bit. Godlin believes that as an industry, insurers have a responsibility to take a serious look at ways new technology can improve the customer experience, but also to balance that with productivity goals.
Instilling confidence among the travelling public
Godlin believes that insurers have a critical role to play in aiding the recovery of travel and ensuring its sustainability, and that clear communication with the travelling public is essential. “Beyond the critical health and safety protocols that travel suppliers are focused on adapting and enhancing, travel protection programmes can and will play an even larger role in helping travellers embrace the unexpected that is the travel adventure, while ensuring that they are protecting themselves and their financial investment. Travel insurance companies have and should continue to ensure that the terms of their programmes are clearly communicated to customers.”