There can be no doubt that of all the industries affected by the outbreak of Covid-19, the Travel industry remains one of the hardest hit by some distance. Whole fleets of airliners and cruise ships have been grounded and moored, many countries have enforced quarantine measures on new visitors and, fundamentally, nobody wants to be taking the risk of travelling for pleasure when there is this much uncertainty at play regarding lockdowns, transmission, and control of the virus.
Demand for international travel reduced to virtually zero overnight and we saw the impact to our industry instantaneously. Travel premiums dropped significantly and insurers were forced to downsize and ‘lean out’ their distribution teams; and while there was an immediate spike in demand for assistance services (to help process all of the Covid-related cancellations and repatriate travellers stranded abroad), demand for travel assistance services have equally declined due to the lack of foreign travel occurring worldwide at present. The industry was put in the impossible position of navigating through the minefield of no demand, unclear information and an uncertain resumption of service and, as such, there was an immediate bolting down of new spend. Growth projects were halted and the focus was placed on survival.
Domestically, we saw industry changes as well – companies shifted to working from home, and the result was a much greater demand for digital services and platforms to help support this transition. Like many other companies in our industry, our team had to make the change to working remotely and we needed to ensure that we continued to deliver what our customers had come to expect from us at a time when they needed us most – the last thing companies should have to worry about in a crisis that requires smooth operational execution, is their IT systems.
As the pandemic continues to loom over our industry, companies have begun to shift from response to refocus – what does the ‘new normal’ mean to their operations going forward? One immediate difference we can already see relates to the changes in conditions around travel. There will now need to be a whole new set of medical exclusions, quarantine rules, and other complexities that will have to be catered for with future travel insurance offerings. The demand for travel products, and indeed the global appetite for land, sea and air travel will change, radically in the short term, but possibly also over a longer period too. Social distancing will change how insurance is distributed too, putting greater emphasis on individual levels of risk and online assessment, sale and fulfilment.
Service providers have also responded to the crisis by broadening their offerings, focusing on domestic health services and telemedicine, and continuing to support long-term residents abroad where possible. We feel responsible as a technology provider to contribute to the recovery of our industry – instead of adding another hurdle for companies to jump over in dealing with Covid-19. While we focused our immediate efforts on support and service, we have now started in earnest to investigate and develop solutions for what the industry will need going forward. The following are four key trends that have either arisen due to the Covid-19 pandemic or have been amplified due to the operational challenges that it has exposed.
The key response to any amount of uncertainty should be flexibility; and whether it is Covid-19 or any other future industry disruptors, having the ability to pivot strategically and operationally is critical to survival. While Covid-19 forced many conventional travel operations to shut down, it also created opportunity for incumbents to switch to new products and services, and having an IT system that enables this type of flexibility (rather than inhibiting it) can make a great difference in dealing with uncertainty. Our software platform features a broad configuration layer that allows the majority of system setup to be done by our customers in-house, and provides the tools necessary to adjust existing operations and on-board new opportunities as they arise simply through codeless configuration tasks.
Scalability can mean different things to different people within your organization, from scaling your business to new product and service lines, to scaling resources in/out of your company as demand ebbs and flows. The underlying principles of scalability are to reproduce something based on existing resources with little to no additional cost – if you’re looking at new product lines, new staff, or new operational processes, how can you manage them with what you already have? Our software is designed to support your scalability needs on all fronts: our platforms are web-based, with a highly intuitive UI, so managing new staff or transitioning staff between onsite and remote working facilities is seamless. Our broad configuration layer makes setting up new business opportunities easier, as well as providing system-driven support for new staff. It is because all of this functionality is built-in to our standard product suite that our customers are able to scale existing system setups to new business requirements with little to no additional IT spend.
Claims automation was already an increasingly important trend prior to the Covid-19 pandemic; however, the significant volume of service and claims requests that arose at the start of the outbreak further highlighted the importance of having systems and processes that could streamline and automate simple requests. Our platform handles automation through simple workflow configuration, making it possible to identify and implement automation within your organization quickly and easily.
Similar to automation, platform digitization was already a growing trend in insurance prior to the outbreak of Covid-19. Customer portals led the way; however, the proliferation of cloud infrastructure coupled with technological advances created an increasing demand for digital solutions throughout the value chain. With Covid-19 not only changing the way we work, but also how we access customers and how customers access our products and services, online tools and digital communication solutions will be more important than ever. Our software gives customers the ability to manage operations digitally and to stay more closely connected to customers than ever before.
It is no understatement to say that Covid-19 has completely uprooted the global travel market, and it is without doubt that it will leave a lasting impact on our industry for the future. While we may not experience a similar pandemic going forward, what Covid-19 has forced companies around the world to realize is disruption isn’t only the preserve of innovators, true industry disruption can be forced upon industries by way of global phenomena that erode the status quo. This is a prime opportunity for companies to take stock and figure out some new ways of doing business.
Ultimately, what we try to do at NIS is to enable companies to not only scale for growth but, more importantly, to scale for change. Being agile with your business will definitely become more important than ever before. Being flexible with your workforce, and with your ways of working, will also give you the edge in adjusting to the shifting sands. We have all experienced a period of uncertainty, and it’s also some way off returning to anything like normal, but I sincerely hope that some of the lessons we have learned and tried to detail in this article will help you with your business during and beyond Covid-19.