Interview: Ross Thompson, Founder and CEO, Covac Global
Our team sat down with Ross Thompson of Covac Global to discuss the history of the company, its future, and what all this means for travellers looking for protection for their next trip
“Mexico City is not a place you want to be stuck with Covid,” said Thompson, Founder and CEO of COVAC Global, the world’s first Covid-19 evacuation and repatriation membership programme, and now a leading provider in medical and security-related evacuations.
Thompson started Covac Global while in his Mexico City office. Tapping into his global crisis response network and contacts in the insurance market, Thompson designed a solution for the everyday traveller who contracted Covid-19 while abroad and was unable to return to his or her home country. Thompson was able to keep costs low for a service that would normally costs 10s, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars – private air ambulance evacuation and repatriation. As Covac Global grew, and as both the virus and the state of world travel changed, Covac Global adapted its programme to meet new challenges, and used its existing infrastructure to expand into traditional medical and security-related evacuation. Covac Global is now leading the way in creating innovative solutions for travellers in this time of uncertainty.
How did you get into this industry? What about your previous experience prepared you for building Covac Global?
I’ve been involved in crisis management and security response for years. When Covid hit and we were in Mexico looking for repatriation solutions for ourselves in case we got Covid, we found that nothing of the sort existed. We looked to what we were already doing and leveraged our existing expertise in getting people home and reached out to our contacts in the insurance market, and came up with an indemnified membership programme. Designing the programme to have real teeth and be valuable while also wiggling into the underwriters’ comfort zone was very tricky and involved a lot of legal and actuarial expertise, but the end product was entirely new and successful.
What differentiates Covac Global from any other evacuation companies working in this space?
Existing travel insurance and travel security providers were not designed for pandemic response and immediately began creating bans and restrictions for Covid-positive cases. Instead of avoiding the problem, we took it head on and created a fully indemnified membership programme where members would have actual protection from quarantining in a foreign country due to Covid and be able to get home. Critically, we don’t require a member to be hospitalised to trigger an evacuation. Dozens of travel insurance policies will cover Covid-related medical expenses in your destination country. Some even include a provision for medical evacuation, but only to the nearest adequate medical facility – not necessarily back to the US. We’ve kept this no-hospitalisation requirement as we’ve added more services for our members, such as our medical membership, which provides evacuation back to a hospital of the member’s choice in their home country in the case of an accident.
How has your company changed and adapted to the rapidly shifting world of medical evacuations post-Covid?
We’re always looking towards the next challenge and ways to create value for our customers. The spread of Monkeypox is just another example of the how a new pathogen can emerge and spread rapidly around the world, causing an elevated risk environment. Our model has an adaptability to it so that whatever the type of crisis or challenge, we will provide the same level of care, and the same no-hospitalisation policy to all our members. When our Covid-19 membership came out it was the first of its kind, and we pushed the market to adapt to Covid by providing the only solution for people getting stuck overseas.
What are the prospects for the future of global travel, pandemics, emergency evacuations, travel protection services, and Covac Global itself?
The world of global travel is certainly not the same as it was two years ago. Covid-19 will likely stay with us, and even as we get more used to it, our world remains vulnerable to the next pandemic. Traditional travel insurance policies just don’t cut it anymore, and Covac will continue to lead the industry in a direction that provides value to everyone returning to their travel routines, but want to do so safely, with all the awareness of risks that Covid has demonstrated to them. Additionally, companies are also now aware that their duty of care extends to covering for pandemic-related issues with their employees and developing a program for business travellers will be a top priority for businesses going forward.