From Reactive to Proactive:
A Changing Travel Industry

Listen to episode #19 of NAVIGATE to find out how technology is making travel safer

From Reactive to Proactive: How the Travel Industry has Changed transcript:




Alex Laidlaw

0:00:03 – 0:00:49

Hi, welcome to another episode of NAVIGATE. I’m your host, Alex Laidlaw, Technical Product Director of World Travel Protection. Today I’ll be walking through how the travel safety industry has evolved from being reactive when something goes wrong to proactively helping travellers avoid incidents and identified risks. In this episode, we’ll explore this transition and dive into the technology that makes travel risk management possible.

Today, I’m joined by Will McAleer, President for North America Operations at World Travel Protection, and Jason Scott, Vice President of Channels and Alliances from Onsolve to help us understand further where the industry has come from, and where we can expect it’s heading.

Welcome, Will. I’ll start with you, as I know you have a long history in the insurance and travel assistance industry. So maybe you can share some of your insights on the changes you’ve noticed during this time.

Will McAleer

0:00:49 – 0:01:38

It’s been probably longer than I’d like to, I’d like to admit, but certainly back in the 90s, you take a look at travel insurance and people, individuals, go out and they, they go travel the world. And travel insurance was often thought not only as sort of an afterthought, but beyond that, it was also one more of well, it’s there in case I have a big medical emergency. And you know what, they’ll be there almost like, you know, a lottery check, they’ll be holding up this big check for me, and I’ll get that and they’ll pay the bills if I have a medical emergency while I’ve been away.

So incredibly reactive. Maybe there’s a telephone number for me to call. But basically, I know, that when I get back I guess I’m going to I’m going to be able to be reimbursed for that medical claim.

Alex Laidlaw

0:01:38 – 0:01:54

Yeah, I agree. I know when I travelled, Will, I thought insurance was only to use when you really got in serious trouble. When needed to be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses. I know for me, personally, it was hard to see the value in the price you had to pay for a policy, especially if you never made a claim.

Will McAleer

0:01:54 – 0:03:12

You know what, where else are you going to spend several 100 to maybe even several $1,000, depending on how old you are, how long you’re travelling for, and never get a chance to use that policy. You never get a chance to try the jacket on. And most times, that’s a really good thing, right? Because it means you’ve had a good journey. You’ve had a good trip, off you go.

But what happens if something goes wrong? So the way I’ve seen it sort of change over the years is now more individuals know, hey, listen, if I’m just not quite feeling well, I’m going to call in and I’m going to find out. Okay, is there a particular place that I should go? So in other words, directional care. Can I can I go to a particular medical facility, and more recently, we’ve seen an even bigger revolution.

So now I can call up and I can get help about how best to be treated based on my conditions. So for example, I can I can find out whether or not it’s just something minor and maybe I can be served with a telemedicine consult, maybe I need to go to an ER or maybe it’s an urgent care facility that’s quite close to me. So in many ways that assistance services has got more robust, to make my trip a little easier to navigate if something goes wrong.

Alex Laidlaw

0:03:12 – 0:03:28

It’s great to see that the travellers are better informed and using the services available to them. Will, I noticed you mentioned telemedicine as an option. This no doubt has been well utilised by travellers as a good alternative to traditional medical assistance. I’m sure technology has played its part in enabling this evolution of proactive care?

Will McAleer

0:03:29 – 0:04:42

Oh look, technology, particularly when we look at the experience leading into and post pandemic, has just increased that that much more. So the ability, as I mentioned, to get a telemedicine consult is great. On my mobile phone, I can pick it up and I can have that discussion with a doctor, might be able to write a prescription, get it right to my hotel room, and I can keep on with my journey. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a business meeting the next morning. Or maybe it’s because I just need to go explore some more. So technology has been a huge part of that.

Virtual care has been one aspect to it. But I think what we’re starting to see is a much more move from a reactive service. So us answering your call that you make to us as an assistance company to one of better understanding what our travellers are, where they are and also trying to help them understand what some of the risks are while they’re there. And maybe even to that spot where real assistance companies are moving is to proactive assistance so it’s providing you help sometimes before even know you need it.

Alex Laidlaw

0:04:42 – 0:04:48

Hearing about proactive assistance is great. So Will how do travellers interact with technology to access it?

Will McAleer

0:04:48 – 0:05:51

Yeah, look, help is always either a phone call away with one button access through the type of technology that we put up for customers. But beyond that is the ability to make phone call and ask more about the information that’s being provided. Because not only can it be done in advance, it can be done in real time.

So as you’re walking down the street, you can, you can understand whether there’s a civil disturbance, for instance, there’s a riot or protest that’s happening two blocks away, hey, might make sense. Take a look at your alert that’s now popped up on your mobile device, and rearrange your plans, that helps you avoid that.

And I’ll tell you, that’s what insurers are looking for. They’re looking for that type of, it’s not just a cost avoidance play, because obviously insurers think about the bottom line, but they want to make sure that their insurers are protected when they’re travelling. And one way to do that as soon insurance policy, the other is through proactive assistance.

Alex Laidlaw

0:05:52 – 0:06:06

To understand more about proactive assistance, I’m now joined by Jason Scott from Onsolve, leading critical event management tech company. Thanks for your time today, Jason, firstly, can you give us a brief overview of Onsolve and how you help travellers?

Jason Scott

0:06:06 – 0:07:06

Thanks, Alex. And first and foremost, appreciate you inviting me to join you and your listeners on this timely topic. You know, as we are returning to travel, a lot of organisations are trying to figure out how they can best prepare, both as an organisation and their travellers for being safe on the road.

I was actually just talking with with somebody the other day, you know, that forgot to pack the travel size containers for you know, their shaving cream and all that stuff. So there’s a lot of stuff that we’ve kind of forgotten, that we need to remember, and not just, you know, making sure that we’ve got the pint size, or the small shampoos, but also you know how we make sure that we’re staying safe, when we’re on the road.

And so from an also perspective, our focus is making sure that you can approach travel confidently, right, understanding what’s happening at the location or your destination, and then how to respond if something does happen.

Alex Laidlaw

0:07:07 – 0:07:10

And what does this shifting focus mean for travellers in organisations?

Jason Scott

0:07:10 – 0:07:52


There’s two critical components for for travel risk management, right? First is the ability to monitor so truly anticipating and preparing for risk requires real time critical event intelligence that incorporates the proximity and movement of your people. Well only when you understand that that movement, can you focus resources on relevant precautions, and targeted timely alerts.

So the second component is being able to respond. So effective critical event response relies on operational preparedness, this means having the processes in place to locate, communicate, assist and potentially extract your people across borders, time zones and governments.

Alex Laidlaw

0:07:52 – 0:08:00

Okay, that makes sense. Maybe you could share some of the key features within your solution, Jason, that are helping to proactively support individuals and organisations travel safely?

Jason Scott

0:08:01 – 0:10:03

Travel risk technology, our travel risk management solution has four key components: travel risk intelligence, traveller tracking, traveller alerting and traveller communication.

So from a travel risk intelligence perspective, we’re delivering robust pre-travel advisories, based on your destination or destinations, to make sure that you will have an awareness of what’s happening at that spot.

Traveller tracking: so our mobile app was developed with user privacy at the front of our minds, right. So we allow the user to toggle on and off the tracking capabilities. We provide a ghosting mechanism so that, you know, even if a Travel Manager or an assistance provider is trying to locate you, they can’t locate you exactly, they basically get you within a five kilometre radius. And then if something does happen, and you need that, your assistance provider to know exactly where you are, you can quickly turn that ghosting function off. And then they know within you know, a couple of meters where you’re located.

The third piece of what we provide is travel alerting, right? So we’re providing real-time critical event intelligence on the things that are happening around you, that might impact you, right. So we’re not letting you know about a mugging that’s happening three miles away. But you know, if there’s a car crash, that’s a quarter mile away, that could potentially impede your ability to get from the office back to the hotel, we’ll let you know about that.

The last piece is traveller communication. So we provide that that ability to communicate on a one-to-one or a one-to-many basis, seamlessly over a multitude of communication vehicles that could be email, it could be voice, it could be SMS, it could even be teams or slack.

Alex Laidlaw

0:10:04 – 0:10:35

Thanks, Jason, I can certainly see how the technology is helping identify incidents and events that are targeted and relevant to a traveller. I know that your AI forms part of the technology that supports this capability, and is no doubt going to be more prevalent moving forward, along with a proactive approach to providing travellers with pre-trip security and health advice. It’s all helping the customer plan and prepare for safe travel.

So Will, as we’ve covered how the travel safety industry has changed over the last few decades. What changes should we expect to happen over the next few years?

Will McAleer

0:10:35 – 0:12:25

I think that the industry has has rebounded quite well, from any number of, of disruptive events throughout history from 9/11, to ash cloud disruptions, volcanic disruptions, to making changes in policies that provide coverage and protection and peace of mind, ultimately, to travellers, when they’re going and the pandemic has done just that – providing coverage for individuals, when they, when they get this providing coverage for people, even to offset quarantine expenses is seen in the industry.

Now, as well, I think the ultimate and change is this move to understand that it’s not just the dollars that are paid in an insurance policy for, for instance, a medical emergency or travel disruption. It’s the assistance that can be provided either before one of those events or during that event.

So if we were able to, for instance, understand exactly where our travellers are, which we can, understand where they are in a given situation, we can then reach out to them now and understand how many travellers we’ve got within a particular range of the disruption. Maybe it’s an active shooter event to determine, are you safe? And if they’re telling us ‘Yep, we’re safe, we’re okay’. We can then focus on the individuals who may very well be in trouble. We can then pinpoint them – have they ended up in an urgent care facility, a hospital, are they’re being treated right now and get involved so that they don’t even have to think about getting back to us so that we can do things like place guarantees of payments on their behalf, make sure that the we’re there to help, them help their family members, and be that conduit to communicate ‘Hey, everything’s okay. We’ve got it’.

Alex Laidlaw

0:12:26 – 0:13:06

Thank you, Will, I appreciate you taking the time out to join us today. And thank you also Jason for your time to give some insight into how technology is supporting the practical approach of insurance and assistance companies.

I think it’s easy to see that the industry is taking exciting steps forward. The traveller-centric focus of ensuring that travellers are educated before travel with pre-trip advice, and are communicated easily of risks through event notifications are always being supported by a team of medical and security professionals when the situation requires it.

We do appreciate you listening to NAVIGATE the travel podcast by World Travel Protection. For more expert insight into all things travel, be sure to hit the like and subscribe to always catch our latest episode. Thanks for listening and safe travels.

What if you could identify risk and avoid incidents before they disrupt your travel plans? Thanks to new technology in the travel management space, this is becoming a reality.

In this episode of Navigate, we discuss how technology has shifted the Travel Risk Management industry towards a more proactive, risk-avoidance model. We’re joined by WTP’s North America Operations President, Will Mcaleer, and Jason Scott from Onsolve, a leading critical event management tech company, to help us understand where the industry was and where it’s heading. 

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