How long have you worked in the travel insurance and assistance industry?
I have worked with travel insurance and assistance for 27 years. I finished my time as apprentice and had my first job as an assistance coordinator in 1995.
What is your current role and what are your primary responsibilities?
My current role is EVP, Travelcare Division. I develop and implement the strategy of the Travelcare Division and ensure a well-functioning and stable operation providing high-quality services to our customers and end users. Furthermore, I am responsible for our international network and medical set-up, and I am heading the development and implementation of our new case handling system, which forms the basis of further development of our automated processes and digital solutions.
How challenging have the past two years been for SOS International in terms of low traveller volumes and complex assistance cases due to travel restrictions?
Very challenging! Our volumes have been significantly affected by the decrease in travel activity and most of the assistance cases we’ve handled have been challenging and complex due to travel restrictions.
Are Danish travellers keen to start flying overseas again, and do you think they are more interested in travel insurance and the services provided by assistance companies? Are business or leisure travellers keener to start travelling again?
The majority of our assistance cases are related to European travel and mainly leisure, but we have also experienced a recent increase in cases regarding travel to Thailand and the US. Business travel has definitely decreased – a trend that we expect to continue as many companies have seen the cost benefit of using online meetings instead of travelling. In general, though, travel activity – especially for our Danish travellers but now also for our Nordic travellers – is increasing, which is reflected in our case volumes. Also, we are seeing an increasing demand for pre-travel advice related to coronavirus – for example, customers asking for clarity as to insurance coverage/terms of conditions.
With very limited air travel lately, has SOS International been more focused on international roadside assistance services? How are these changing?
In the first period of the pandemic, we experienced a decrease in roadside assistance cases while the country was in lockdown, but over the past year, many Nordic travellers have chosen a driving holiday and we expect this to be the case this coming summer. What we hear from our end users is that due to coronavirus and travel restrictions, they find a driving holiday safer and less complicated than travelling by plane.
How challenging has it been for SOS International to maintain its medical provider network while being unable to perform site inspections and ensure partners are continuing to meet their obligations to you as a payer?
At SOS International, we have a large global network of local assistance partners who can perform site inspections upon request and ensure high quality for our customers. However, needless to say, it is still challenging times in many parts of the world and a substantial number of our providers are struggling financially. We are continuously monitoring our provider network through local partners and via feedback from our medical escort corps.
How have you used technology to your advantage to provide services to clients during the pandemic?
During corona we have, in general, grown accustomed to the use of online channels, e.g. Teams, Zoom etc., which has influenced our customers’ digital behaviour. To a much greater extent now than pre-pandemic, they are open to using digital assistance services such as video consultations with medical advisors and psychologists – especially in relation to our healthcare services.
In 2021, SOS International celebrated 60 years of travel assistance – how do you think the company will continue to change and adapt to the latest challenges the world of travel will bring?
The last two years have emphasised the importance of being ready to adapt when the world changes. For the next 60 years, helping people will still be our mission. We will do this by monitoring trends and developments to an even greater degree – and being ready to respond to them. We have gained good experience in scaling our organisation, developing more flexible processes and systems and, in general, being prepared for change.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I very much enjoy – and it is very important to me – being part of an organisation with a strong purpose of helping people.