Jeremy Murchland has more than 20 years of experience building high-performing teams, and growing revenue and profitability across a variety of businesses. In 2018, he joined Seven Corners as vice president of sales and was appointed president in January 2020. You can reach Murchland through LinkedIn or via email at email@example.com.
Generations upon generations have defined travel, inventing and reinventing trends, top destinations, attractions and much more. From the classic family trip, to solo travel and international travelers, to business travelers and road-trip enthusiasts, we’ve seen just how peoples’ knack for adventure and learning has evolved in more ways than one. Internally, we’ve also been witness to the transformations that have taken place for travel insurance providers. This is largely thanks to technological growth felt throughout the world as well as the diversification of product offerings and a greater emphasis on consumer awareness. Considering the travel insurance market grew from $1.3 billion in consumer spend in 2006 to $3.8 billion in 2019, the general expectation throughout the industry was that this growth would continue on a similar trajectory. Little did we know, at that time, the implications of the upcoming pandemic would both challenge and promote growth.
As I reflect over these innumerable changes, I am even more motivated to consider a number of “what ifs” that can or could have disrupted the travel industry as we know it. There were a number of questions that I’ve asked myself; however, I find that four key scenarios remain top of mind as their resulting impact would be particularly influential on the travel industry.
This “what if” is incredibly weighted as the pandemic affected the world in many negative ways. In terms of the state of travel, the entire industry was halted, and consumers and vendors alike found themselves in varying financial states. Consumers lost quite a bit of money that they had invested into their travel plans due to the pandemic. While the possibility of disruptions has always existed and impacted some travelers, many had never anticipated that cancellations, changes and interruptions would affect them. Now, travelers are finding themselves in the position of having to consider “What happens if I get sick or injured when I travel?” and recognize the potential dangers of being in that situation without the proper coverage. There was a portion of travelers that didn’t even realize that travel medical coverage existed; however, the pandemic generated greater consumer awareness and, in particular, a stronger awareness that domestic health insurance may not provide the coverage they need.
Over the last two years, I’ve interacted with a number of people who have come to me for guidance on their next trip because they had never purchased or even considered purchasing travel insurance in the past. These interactions have ranged from my friends, extended family and even one of my daughter’s teachers. Individuals who have lived and interacted with an executive in this industry for years are now finally recognizing the need for this coverage. Had the pandemic not occurred, it is very unlikely that this increase in consumer awareness would have been possible to achieve in such a short period of time.
While the pandemic seems to be far from over with new cases and influxes being reported regularly around the world, it is important to consider how the industry would react to a new, similar situation. COVID-19 was impressionable on every generation, particularly for the younger generations that are just getting a taste of travel. Travel tips and suggestions that are currently standard to the industry will likely stick with them for years to come. In Seven Corners’ case, we saw the largest increase in baby boomer and millennial purchases driven mainly by their desire for travel medical insurance and coverage for interruptions or cancellations. I foresee the future of travel to be widely influenced by cost-conscious consumers who are looking to protect their investment, no matter the duration of the trip.
As it relates to company operations, the pandemic forced organizations throughout the industry to build in stronger preparedness and crisis response plans. We’ve dealt with the initial panic and confusion surrounding drastic change; therefore, our future response to adversity will come from the lessons we’ve learned through this past experience.
Inflation greatly impacts travel insurers, which creates a domino effect throughout organizations as well as impacts the consumer. Trip protection products are priced based on trip costs; therefore, as trip costs go up, so does the cost of insurance for consumers. Additionally, insurance providers would likely need to increase compensation for resources across their company from sales to claims to customer service, which in turn would increase rates. This dips into all industries that are connected to travel. For example, the hospital and medical providers that provide services to those insured will now cost more, driving up claims cost and resulting in rate changes.
No company is immune to the impacts of global inflation, and it is certainly something that the travel industry is concerned about. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to focus on improving processes and incorporating greater technological reliance as it promotes efficiency and can help offset some of the costs associated with travel. For now, we’re monitoring the macroeconomic trends closely and developing long-term forecasts for sales.
Organizations need to implement a wide range of improvements as they prioritize their relationship with customers. Increased flexibility, expansion of “non-insurance services” and modifications to travel insurance products are just the beginning. More travelers are purchasing insurance now, and insurers need to compensate for that increase by investing in technology and support teams to drive the best customer experience following each sale. Closing the gap and prioritizing customer relationships means placing more focus on educating consumers on offerings and simplifying policy language to make them much more consumer friendly. The movement of paper throughout the claims process also needs to be addressed as the complex jargon and excessive number of forms result in customer complaints that must be handled through time-consuming human interaction. Improving the claims process will provide a more positive experience and maintain a loyal customer base you’ve worked so hard to build.
In our case, investments in additional support staff for claims and customer service was a given. We’ve made significant investments into technology that encourages multi-channel communication with our customers. This includes our well-rounded mobile app, SMS/Text, WhatsApp and Sven, our chatbot for 24/7 policy questions and assistance. While these are just a few of the many internal and external changes we have incorporated, I am in the unique position of operating on a forward-looking mentality and searching for capabilities that will add to the travel experience. With each new trend or obstacle that comes our way, our main focus will remain the same — meeting the customer where they are and giving them the best possible service. I&FMM