Jody Baker, Charles Taylor Assistance

The future of business travel

Jody Baker, Charles Taylor Assistance

June 4 2019

Tech company Amadeus expects corporate travel spend in the Asia-Pacific region to account for half the global total by 2025, while travel intelligence platform Skift claims that “the future of business travel in Asia is the future of business travel”.

Research from flight data company ForwardKeys shows that air travel between Asia-Pacific countries grew by nearly 10% in 2018.

In this context, Asia’s travel and international health insurance needs are taking centre-stage – and there are three global trends that are likely to influence them.

Growing risks

From wildfires and hurricanes in the US, to terrorist attacks in Europe and tsunamis in Indonesia, global travellers had plenty to worry about in 2018 – with Asia accounting for a weighty proportion of the world’s natural catastrophes.

In addition, travellers had their own personal concerns about everything from the risk of infectious diseases and unsafe drinking water, to the likelihood of muggings, credit card cloning or causing cultural offence.

According to the Global Business Travel Association, more than half of business travellers feel that any destination could be high-risk and almost half are worried about terrorist attacks abroad. Meanwhile, the Association of Corporate Travel Executives has said that a third of travel managers are seeing a rise in enquiries about business traveller safety.

Travellers’ worries are now so prevalent that the term ‘Permanxiety’ has been coined to describe them; covering anxiety about everything from technology to Trumpism and racial tension to climate change.

Better connected

According to GSMA Intelligence, there are now more mobile devices in the world than people, and by 2025, the Asia Pacific region will account for just over half of new global subscribers, with 73% of the population using a mobile device.

Some are using their mobile apps to forecast the weather, measure heart health or even track errant partners. Others are using them to help inform and protect individuals living and working abroad: not least via online travel risk management programmes, incorporating everything from real-time medical and security alerts and assistance, to monitoring, check-in and tracking tools.

It follows that, in a recent GBTA survey, almost half of business travellers said they now expect their employers to use tools like GPS to locate them in an emergency overseas, while at least two-thirds expect their company to proactively contact them within two hours of a crisis abroad.

The rise of the tailored approach

Automation has taken customer service to new – and convenient – heights. However, there are words of warning from some in the travel industry about the “impersonal” approach.

James Waters, global director of customer service at Booking.com, talks of the importance of “maintaining the right balance between human interaction and efficient automation”. The World Travel and Tourism Council said in its latest report on travel megatrends that, “Consumers want to be treated as individuals by companies that share their values.” They also “value technology, but are uncomfortable with over-automation.”

The message to travel and health insurers doesn’t need to be spelt out.

There will always be medical and security risks for travellers, however all the trends suggest that travel and health insurance are about more than responding to emergencies. They are also about becoming personal and proactive – reducing anxieties for the globally mobile, mitigating risks, and helping policyholders feel informed and supported before, during and after a trip abroad, wherever they go in the world.

Is Asia leading the way?

This post was written by Jody Baker, commercial director for Charles Taylor Assistance.

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