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Corporate Travel and Events

An Expert Explains Why You Shouldn’t Skip Travel Insurance on Your Next Trip

Robert Gallagher, senior vice president and COO of AIG Travel, says travel insurance is vital for travelers, especially frequent travelers, because you never know when a mishap is going to occur.

Robert Gallagher

Senior Vice President and COO, AIG Travel

Why is travel insurance so important for travelers?

Travel is unpredictable. While this is one of its most alluring qualities, it can also be incredibly frustrating when things don’t always go as planned. Even in the case of a seemingly simple mishap, like a lost passport, the cost of travel insurance is likely to be of value.

Covered travelers receive the added benefit of knowing they may be protected, within the terms and conditions of their insurance policies, if something unexpected and more serious were to happen.

Considering that policies can also include coverage for travel medical expenses, emergency travel medical evacuation, and travel inconveniences, having travel insurance could make all the difference if a trip goes awry.

What would you highlight as the biggest benefit of travel insurance for frequent fliers?

Because frequent fliers are among the most likely travelers to use their reward miles to purchase flights, they have the potential to benefit from travel insurance policies that cover the fees airlines charge to put the miles used for purchase back into their accounts in the event they had to cancel their airline tickets due to a covered reason.

Also, it is statistically more common for frequent fliers to experience a trip cancellation or trip interruption (as opposed to the traveler that just takes one big trip per year), so they are more likely to need the protection that travel insurance can offer.

How can the industry incorporate some of these initiatives to ensure inclusivity for all travelers?

AIG Travel regularly strives to promote sustainable travel among travel industry peers, partners, customers, and employees. Consumer interest in sustainability isn’t unique to the travel industry, but the global nature of our business makes it particularly vital. International travel is more accessible today than ever before, and with this access comes a responsibility to positively impact the places we visit.

One of the most important things that travel service providers can do to promote sustainable and responsible travel is to educate and inform consumers as they make their travel plans. According to recent proprietary consumer research conducted by AIG Travel, many travelers feel they “don’t know how” to travel sustainably, providing a major opportunity for the travel industry to provide more consumer education around the movement. In addition to a desire for more education, many consumers suggested that travel service providers could make sustainable travel easier to achieve by incorporating more sustainable travel practices into their existing products and services.

Are there any new technologies making it easier to utilize travel insurance?

Technology advancements for the travel insurance industry will likely be those that continue to evolve the interconnectivity between various travel systems, which in turn will serve to improve accessibility and the overall customer experience. Additionally, insurers are likely to benefit from further developments in AI and machine learning to build deeper relationships with customers by better understanding their needs and preferences and meeting them where they are — on social media for example — thereby allowing greater education and personalization in the offer and delivery of travel insurance products and related services. Travelers expect every supplier with whom they engage, including travel insurance and assistance services providers, to seamlessly support their journeys by anticipating and solving challenges they may encounter along the way. Meeting these expectations in a meaningful way will require a concerted and again, interconnected industry approach.

Given a number of independent suppliers that can be involved in fulfilling a complete travel experience, it is unlikely that any one single company, market, or distribution system will ever have the capacity to fully meet these expectations globally. Just as we are able to collectively provide emergency medical evacuation services to our many of our policyholders by way of the networks of air ambulance providers which have aircraft immediately near locations where they’re needed, open sourced technologies and/or “non-competitive data” exchange platforms have the potential to enable global solutions and create significant added value for the traveler.

What is a problem the travel industry is facing now?

One of the fastest growing needs we would emphasize now and for the long term is that of travel safety. As international travel has quickly grown more accessible, it has brought with it an admirable curiosity among all travelers about far-flung locales and “off-the-beaten-path” destinations. This curiosity, though, has the potential to expose travelers to greater risk, as they seek to visit countries and regions that might have laws and cultural norms with which they are unfamiliar.

For example, there are more than 70 countries that either criminalize or heavily marginalize LGBTQ sexual orientations, and LGBTQ travelers may not be aware of the associated risks as they travel to one of these countries. There are other groups that also possess unique travel safety and security concerns, such as female travelers and student travelers. It’s important that the travel industry and all associated stakeholders be aware of these safety issues and further, be prepared to provide education, information, and resources to help ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience for all.

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