Here’s why travelers are in ‘wait and see’ mode as the invasion of Ukraine continues
Even as Covid-19 slowly loosens its grip on the world, demand for international travel remains almost flat compared to last year. Americans are hesitant to travel abroad, with memories of quarantines and travel restrictions still fresh in their minds. And then there’s Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I asked Greg Pearson, CEO of global assistance company FocusPoint International, to take a closer look at these concerns and read the tea leaves for the upcoming 2022 holiday season.
Why are people afraid to travel today?
Most people still plan to travel through the lens of a world reeling from Covid-19. As the EU has begun to relax Covid protocols, the thought of navigating entry and exit requirements is enough to deter some people from traveling abroad. But more broadly, travelers do not want to contract Covid-19 while traveling and be forced into quarantine or, worse, find themselves hospitalized as a result. Add to that the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, and it’s easy to see why people would be reluctant to travel abroad this summer.
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How did Russia’s invasion of Ukraine change the perception of travel?
I suspect the fear of NATO being drawn into the war between Russia and Ukraine is on most people’s minds. Those who had planned to travel to Ukraine and Russia are obviously very aware of the risks and have most likely taken steps to postpone or cancel their travel plans altogether. Those seeking to travel to countries like Poland or others bordering Ukraine are likely to question themselves as conflict draws closer and refugee numbers continue to rise. However, Europe is a big continent and people planning to travel to Western European cities like London, Madrid, Lisbon or Paris this summer may have a “wait-and-see” attitude.
Since you are a security expert, I wanted to ask for your advice on traveling safely. In terms of coverage, I assume you would recommend travel insurance and a policy through a company like FocusPoint International. What else do you need to travel safely?
There is an abundance of information readily available online that covers best practices for safe travel. That said, the four basic pillars of safe travel are: be aware, be discreet, be unpredictable, and maintain good communications.
Travelers are also doing more research before they go. What type of research would you recommend?
You should do some basic research on the destinations you plan to visit. Understand local customs and cultural sensitivities. Be aware of any major events or important anniversaries taking place in the destinations you plan to visit.
Also research ground transportation and know how to access it if needed. Know where the nearest US consulate or embassy is and store their contact information. Map medical facilities in and around the areas you plan to visit. Know how to access local emergency services if needed.
Also know how to make local and international calls from your phone. And make sure your accommodation has hard-wired smoke detectors and an automatic sprinkler system if you’re staying in a hotel.
You recently extended your tripside CAP plan to consumers. Can you tell me what it is and how it can solve some of the uncertainty of travel?
Think of CAP as an on-site assistance service that acts much like a roadside assistance service, except CAP responds to medical accidents that result in hospitalization and security incidents that impact or may impact customers during a travel period.
The CAP plan comes standard with a mobile assistance app that provides travelers with destination-based health, safety and security information, a one-touch emergency assistance button and on-time alerts almost real that are transmitted to the traveler’s smartphone throughout their trip. Having access to destination-based information before the trip, keeping abreast of the latest destination developments during the trip, and being able to request assistance at the touch of a button via the mobile assistance app should make people feel more comfortable traveling. .
What about people looking for more than roadside assistance for their safety?
If that doesn’t solve the uncertainty of travel, I would add that all CAP plans include no-cost evacuation benefits for things like political threats, riots, strikes and civil unrest, terrorism or disasters natural. CAP plans also include medical evacuation and repatriation benefits for clients who suffer injuries or illnesses resulting in hospitalization; and Covid-19 benefits such as mandatory quarantine expense coverage and hospital-to-hospital medical transfers for customers who are hospitalized due to Covid-19 while travelling.
One of the things people dislike most about travel insurance is the claims process. How is?
To access CAP’s benefits, the customer does not need to complete a claims process, pay a deductible, or pay out of pocket and request a refund, which CAP does not require in the first place.
If you’re stuck in hospital and you have Covid, can you get a client out or do they have to stay? I mean, you can’t just take out a client, can you?
Yes, if a client is hospitalized due to Covid-19, our in-house medical team will work directly with the treatment facility to coordinate the client’s release for transportation to another treatment facility close to the client’s home. The CAP benefit includes coordination with the treatment facility, coordination with a receiving facility, and patient air medical transportation, all at no additional cost to the client.
Can you get someone out even if they’re on a ventilator?
Yes, transport would be by air ambulance and could include the use of an isolation pod (Iso-Pod), when connected to the ventilator.
What about travel insurance? Would that help?
We always advocate purchasing travel insurance with a “Cancel for Any Reason” or “CFAR” provision. This allows customers to cancel their trip without losing their investment should the need arise. There are other benefits, such as the ability to claim reimbursement for lost, damaged or stolen luggage, and medical expense coverage provided by some travel insurance policies which could prove very useful while travelling. But remember, to access the benefits of a travel insurance policy, you must first experience a claim. So, while medical expense benefits are vital, you must suffer an injury or illness to trigger these benefits. In contrast, the CAP plan lowers the barrier to use by responding to the threat of loss rather than the loss itself.
For example, if a customer is traveling in Europe and a violent protest breaks out, the benefits of CAP, up to and including free evacuation to a temporary shelter or terminal, can be exercised by the customer. Travel insurance benefits would not apply unless the client suffers bodily injury or property damage, a claim.
So yes, some travel insurance policies absolutely must be purchased, but customers just need to be fully aware of the nuances and complexities that come with travel insurance.