ITIJ are reporting on all the discussions taking place at ITIC APAC 2022 in Singapore. Read more of the reviews here
Madjid Benchaiba, Regional Head of Partnership Development, Travel & EW - AXA Life & Health Reinsurance Solutions
Madjid’s presentation focused on the results of several recent surveys on travel and how these relate to insurance. What is clear, he said, is that people are excited to travel again, especially in the US and Europe. Madjijd added: “We see also new trends where people try to now travel for longer periods of time. And we see the concept of trip stacking, where we see that people travel for longer period, and they’ll go to multiple destinations.”
A YouGov survey from the UK showed that 52 per cent of people just want to travel again, and most want to do so to visit friends and relatives. An AXA survey, meanwhile, showed that while travel insurance used to be a ‘nice to have’ item on holiday, it is now a ‘must have’. “Looking at the top driving factors to buy travel insurance, of course, pricing is still top of mind,” said Madjid. “People still want to make sure that they pay the right price for their travel insurance.”
The key benefits consumers are looking for, according to the survey, are medical expenses and medical assistance, along with trip cancellation. They are also requesting Covid cover, especially wanting to know what happens should they test positive while overseas.
“Amadeus shows that 79 per cent of travellers consider buying travel insurance as a necessity when traveling overseas,” said Madjid, “and 42 per cent of people are considering buying travel insurance for each and every small trip that they are going to take, which is a big evolution from what we have seen in the past.” There is also a huge shift towards digitisation – ‘people want to see their policies and claims processing services online’ Madjid told the audience.
Looking at the travel recovery, Madjid pointed out that while it is recovering, it is nowhere near 2019 levels, and yet the AXA has already hit the number of sales in travel insurance that it saw in 2019.
David Burns, CEO, First Assistance
David started by pointing out that why people purchased travel insurance in the past is different to why they buy it now, and there are different levels of engagement. “People are reading and trying to understand the policy wording and conditions,” he told attendees. More people are taking out travel insurance, and the market is changing with a significant shift – 50 per cent of travel agents shut their doors post 2020, and online travel agencies are leading the recovery. Furthermore, travel patterns themselves have changed as people reconnect with friends and relatives following the pandemic.
Changes to assistance are also noticeable – travellers are less confident about their trips, leading to an increase in non-emergency queries, there is more bureaucracy around repatriation, and admission to hospital is more challenging.
Moving forward, the insurance and assistance industries need to innovate more, providing more customer-orientated solutions that will help to renew trust in travel and travel insurance. Compliance is another challenge the industry must face: “Regulation is not going away,” he warned. As with every industry, insurers are facing a staffing skills shortage. When it comes to future proofing the industry, he concluded, we need to embrace digital solutions for claims, even medical claims, to meet customer demands and streamline processes.
Bruno Auplat, Head of Global Networks, Europ Assistance
Bruno began with a detailed introduction to Europ Assistance’s services and global network before looking at how the travel market has been changed by the Covid crisis in terms of volume, spend and behaviour. As it recovers, trends highlighted by Bruno include the willingness of APAC residents to travel, but primarily within their region – 56 per cent of Thai and 36 per cent of Australians plan to travel abroad in the coming months, but most are choosing neighbouring countries. A key factor influencing travel decisions, said Bruno, is inflation – standing at nine per cent for most OECD countries, inflation has a significant impact on willingness to travel. An important change Europ Assistance has seen though, is a marked increase in the number of people buying travel insurance cover, particularly for cruises.
All this has pressured assistance companies to respond effectively when called upon for help – they must build effective networks by identifying where the gaps lie in terms of claims data and travel patterns, along with analysing the capabilities of various destinations. Providers should be selected based on quality of care, medical outcome, and a willingness to work effectively with international partners.