Travel is here! That was the starting tagline from Malte Jess, Regional Product Lead at Google for Travel Ads APAC, for the RAM event co hosted by Plug and Play and RAM. Analyzing Google search, the demand for outbound international travel from Singapore reached 107% compared to that of 2019 within 3 days of VTF announcement in March 2022, an increase from 57% in February 2022.
For many of us, the two years of lockdown not only grounded us physically but also reminded us how we have taken travel for granted. It has crippled the global travel ecosystem and also forced businesses to assume the burden of disrupted travel economies. I vividly remember hundreds of planes parked side by side at KLIA like a full parking lot and my colleagues scrambling to process overwhelming amounts of refunds when I was working at AirAsia. Thankfully with the global travel industry slowly gaining back momentum, we are asked to look at travel and travel insurance from a new perspective. Over the next few minutes, we will explore how the sentiment for travel insurance is changing and what new innovations are sprouting from the remnants of global COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Travel insurance is in the inner circle
Being healthy, I never have and thought about purchasing travel insurance. It was just another cost and inconvenience that I could live without. This was until last month when one of our dear family members had a medical emergency stemming from COVID-19 while visiting us in Singapore. It was one of the most frightening experiences for our family, and it really put travel insurance at the top of my considerations.
This shift in perception is not only echoed within my circle of friends, but also resonates across the world. According to Ancileo’s 2022 Travel Insurance Outlook¹, up to 81% of the surveyed travelers indicated their willingness to purchase travel insurance. As a gradual measure to open up borders, some countries required inbound travelers to purchase COVID-19 coverage travel insurance, which has also educated and improved the awareness for the global travelers. In the new-era of travel, I truly believe that travel insurance will no longer be the last ancillary purchase that a traveler books after flights, hotels, and activities, and will emerge as a necessity that travelers purchase in tandem with their flight tickets. So let's examine how travel insurance is evolving and innovating with the times.
2. Protection for every occasion
The most obvious innovation is happening around product offering.With the changing regulatory conditions, travel insurance was also forced to innovate away from the traditional one-size-fit-all packages. Starting with COVID-19 protection, the breadth and granularity of coverage for the trip, belongings, and health are expanding. Any sort of travel interruptions such as flight cancellation, trip curtailment, trip delay, and trip elongation are covered by many insurers, and the overwhelming amount of uncertainties is fueling the popularity of ‘cancel for any reason’ packages despite their higher price point. In addition to the typical protected valuables, insurance for personal electronics, sporting equipment, and even pets are becoming more available. Health coverage is attracting second look, and many insurers are supplementing their medical and emergency coverage with other value adding services like 24/7 medical assistance hotline, verified directory of local specialists, and even air ambulances services for added layer of security. Going one step further, Sensible Weather is guaranteeing sunshine! In line with growing gen-z travelers who value experience above all, the US based travel insurance startup is covering against weather risks such as rain at the destination by embedding its product within its partners’ booking flow.
3. Mix & match and cut down on cost
I know that sometimes I get lost in too much variety. There are de finitely other things I would rather do than to read through the fine prints for irrelevant coverage before I fly off on my beach vacation. If I can customize my Spicy McChicken burger with no mayo, I should be able to pick and choose my travel insurance bundle. Battleface, a US based full-stack travel insurance startup, is doing just that. It is challenging the traditional one-size-fits-all travel insurance approach by providing mix-and-match modular travel insurance offerings. Through its platform, travelers can maximize their cost saving opportunity without sacrificing the flexibility and choice. Not all travelers are equal, and insurers have the means to adopt data-driven methods to offer water sport insurance for surf bros heading to Bali to catch the wave.
4. Dwight never takes vacations, and your carriers shouldn’t either
Now that we identified the suitable package for us, we want a simple and easy way to purchase and manage our insurance plan. Instead of writing our names and emails for the fifth time on your PC, we want to submit the least amount of forms, review our package in layman's terms, pay, and get covered. During the trip, we want to submit claims quickly and easily, and get reimbursed fast if anything goes wrong. Israel based travel insurance startup, Faye, delivers this simplified user journey through its whole-trip travel insurance application. Users can sign up in 60 seconds, submit claims via its 24/7 in-app chat service, and receive instant reimbursements. On top of all this, Faye provides relevant features such as real-time flight data, COVID-19 information, weather data, and activity recommendations to enrich the travel experience.
5. Big brother watches over you wherever you go
Going one step further, what we love more than a well made app is no app. Other than my camera, Spotify, and Google maps, I don’t want any other apps to interfere with my hard earned vacation. We live in the age where our phone tracks literally every step that we take, and of course the phone knows if I am abroad (unless your phone was stolen and being traded on the black market). In June 2021, Chubb announced its development of ‘Pay-as-you-Roam’ service. Through partnerships with banks, fintechs, and telecom providers, Chubb can use the mobile phone roaming data to identify if the policy holder is abroad and activate coverage automatically. Similarly, NTUC Income’s FlexiTravel Hourly Insurance triggers reminders to activate or discontinue their micro travel insurance coverage for short international trips. Cross-vertical collaboration can create win-win scenarios by efficiently sharing user data, captive audience, and product offerings.
A global eSIM marketplace startup, Airalo, is a great example of a high relevance partner for travel insurers. Airalo’s mobile eSIM store allows travelers to access local, regional, and global eSIMs at an affordable rate without the hassle of purchasing and changing physical SIM cards in every country they visit. Insurers can leverage Airalo’s captive traveler base and distribute relevant protection products at the right time.
Thankfully, we are heading towards the endemic period without such daunting travel restrictions. Travel will look very different from the way we knew it in 2019, and we can expect travel insurance to also take on a new form. The market potential for both international and domestic travel grew tremendously with the changing perspective on the necessity of travel insurance. I am very excited to witness how product innovation, customization, simplification, and automation drive the evolution of travel insurance from the remnants of a global pandemic.
Ancelio 2022 Travel Insurance Outlook - https://ancileo.com/travel-insurance-outlook-2022/
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: JUN HO BAE
Jun Ho Bae is a Ventures Associate (Insurtech, Fintech, and Healthtech) at Plug and Play APAC. As an in-house venture capital, our goal is to fund the teams that are building the defensible businesses of the future. By leveraging our capital, our network of VCs, and our corporate partners, we give our portfolio companies an added advantage. Find out more here!
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