Technology can help when you have a problem while traveling
When a tourist has a mishap, like an illness or when their travel plans are cancelled, travel insurance is there to sort things out. Digitalization means the ways to get and help and the speed at which it arrives are advancing. For example, a doctor in the tourist’s home country can make a video call on the spot. A local provider can arrange for the tourist to receive the prescription they need on their cell phone. Or a geolocation service can show where the nearest open pharmacy is.
Tourism is one of the most popular forms of leisure in the world. There were 1.5 billion international trips in 2019, according to the World Tourism Organization. It expects 2023 to end up at between 80% and 95% of that level. In any case, hundreds of millions of people travel every year to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of other countries. It’s not always plain sailing though…
Awareness of the potential complications that can arise rose the Covid era, which drove higher demand for travel insurance and for greater coverage and solutions that would enable customers to deal with any possible mishap. Companies such as MAWDY, the MAPFRE Group’s assistance unit, are responsible for organizing the network needed to deal with incidents. In the travel sector, these are mostly related to health problems, as MAWDY data show.
What are the most common problems encountered by travelers?
The claims that occur most frequently in relation to travel insurance are roughly as follows, although they vary depending on the country and type of traveler:
- About 70% of the cases are for medical assistance.
- Some 15% relate to cancellations, mostly due to health problems, but also other unforeseen events such as employment dismissal, being called to jury duty or serving at an election polling station.
- About 5% are related to luggage (loss or theft).
- About 5% of cases relate to delayed flights.
- The remaining 5% correspond to other aspects of coverage, such as trip interruption or loss of documents.
Travel insurance has always offered significant financial protection against such incidents. Having insurance when traveling abroad can save you from having to pay thousands in hospital or medical charges. This can include extreme cases that aren’t uncommon in the industry, such as the need for repatriation by medical aircraft, or losing all the money you’ve spent on making travel arrangements if a mishap prevents you from traveling.
But now more than ever, tourists who take out insurance are looking for an efficient, fast and, if possible, digital service. In addition to benefits centered on compensating for financial loss, digitalization is making it possible to add more and more tools and layers to travel insurance that can be of great help to a traveler while at their destination. All the tools listed below are offered by MAWDY, MAPFRE’s assistance unit.
As we’ve seen, health problems are the most common among tourists, and many solutions are focused on this area.
- Telemedicine and online consultations are especially useful when the patient is in an unfamiliar country, and probably doesn’t speak the local language. An immediate video call with a doctor in your home country in your own language provides an initial orientation that can be used both to prescribe the medication you need and to receive information and an initial diagnosis until you can have an in-depth consultation on your return, or for any other type of indications.
- One of MAWDY’s new features is the provision of medical prescriptions at the destination. This is a another step in expediting support for travelers when they need it most. Previously, even if you had a medical diagnosis and a prescribed treatment, you often had to go to a hospital to get a prescription for the medication. Now you can receive the prescription directly on your cell phone from a local health professional and go straight to the pharmacy to buy the medication.
- In addition, by using localization of services, a tourist can find facilities such as the nearest pharmacy or hospital, their opening hours and contact phone numbers.
The new travel insurance solutions are also being applied to other common claims in the industry:
- For flight-related incidents, automation of coverage is revolutionizing the customer experience. Knowing and integrating flight data in real time means that when a delay occurs, the traveler receives an automatic and instant notification offering access to an airport lounge or a cash payment option. It’s a type of parametric insurance (where the insurance company pays for or provides the service based on pre-set data; in this case, the flight delay time) that is now included in MAWDY for Ireland under a recent agreement with Blink Parametric.
- There are other services such as the sending of information prior to the trip, with reminders of the documentation required in the destination country or any health-related restrictions of certain destinations. Or automatic reimbursement simply by uploading a photo that is digitally processed. So the traveler can do this instantly and substantially shorten the process.
“With digitalization and innovation, we’re developing solutions that can quickly respond to travelers’ needs in more and more situations, with the aim of effectively accompanying travelers before, during and after their trip,” said Leire Jiménez, CEO of MAWDY, about these new tools.
However, these capabilities don’t detract from more traditional ones, such as a 24-hour call center. Many travelers will appreciate hearing a friendly voice on the other end of the line when they have a problem. And having the peace of mind that a professional can give them by assuring them that a solution is at hand and they can enjoy their vacation worry-free.