Travellers think about insurance differently post-pandemic – Travelex Insurance Services CEO

'We've had to change as an organization to fulfill our service proposition,' exec reveals

Travellers think about insurance differently post-pandemic – Travelex Insurance Services CEO

Life & Health

By Gia Snape

Travel insurance has bounced back in a big way after two years of pandemic travel restrictions. As people return to taking personal trips and holidays, they’re prioritizing safety and peace of mind.

Shannon Lofdahl (pictured), president and CEO of Travelex Insurance Services, said that while awareness of travel insurance has always been high, US and Canadian travellers are now thinking about their coverage in a different way.

“There’s always been a much greater awareness of travel insurance in the Canadian market than in the US market, but we're certainly seeing that grow. We're seeing most travellers being much savvier,” Lofdhal explained.

After more than 25 years serving American travellers, Travelex Insurance Services announced it is expanding into Canada. Full operations, including claims administration and travel assistance, will be offered from its new location in Toronto. For Lofdhal, the venture has been a long time coming.

“We had plans in place to be in Canada and then the world stopped,” she said, referring to the pandemic. “Our expansion into Canada now gives us the opportunity to serve travellers throughout North America, whether they book travel insurance through a travel professional, tour operator, or our website.”

How has travel insurance changed since the pandemic?

COVID-19 triggered to border closures across the globe and introduced tremendous uncertainty into the travel experience. As a result, consumers are now more risk-aware, ask more questions, consider what-if scenarios in their itineraries, and take more care to read insurance policy language to ensure they’re protected.

Canadians sought out travel insurance policies for peace of mind, even as borders re-opened and pandemic restrictions eased. Rate comparison website RATESDOTCA found Canadian travel insurance quotes in the third quarter of 2021 jumped 293% than the same period the year prior, though quotation levels still weren’t back to their pre-pandemic state.

“I’ve seen pretty much every era of travel, but [the pandemic] was the most unique,” said Lofdhal, who recently celebrated her 26th year with Travelex. The past few years with COVID-19 put the travel insurance industry in “response mode,” she said, as providers expanded their services to cater to travellers’ urgent needs.

“Most insurance companies had to turn into service entities. We had to stop selling and begin servicing [travellers], who had questions that were much more complicated than we had ever experienced. There was a lot of refunds, date transfers, and other things that impacted previously sold policies,” Lofdhal said. “We've had to change as an organization to fulfill that service proposition. We’re here for you, and we will ask or answer those difficult questions.”

The pandemic challenged travel insurers to step up. Travelex responded to calls for flexibility by introducing a “cancel for any reason” coverage in mid-2021 as an add-on to its travel policies. The coverage, aimed at restoring travel confidence among Americans, allows policyholders to cancel their trip up to 48 hours before their departure date and receive up to 50% of their non-refundable payment.

Travelex also launched a travel assistance mobile app in 2021 to further assist its customers. The app provides real-time notifications regarding health, security, travel requirements, and other key information based on a traveller’s location.

Catering to the Canadian traveler

Having joined the Zurich Insurance family of brands in 2017, Travelex has sought to broaden its presence in the global travel market. According to Lofdhal, the company’s move into Canada bridges a gap for its partners and opens more opportunities for Travelex products and services.

“Many of our US partnerships have Canadian operations, and they have wanted us to bring our service across and begin to supporting them in those distributions,” the CEO told Insurance Business. “For us, it was the perfect opportunity to begin considering that we were part of a larger global entity.”

Travelex won’t apply the same lens it uses for American travellers to its Canadian consumers. The company is tailoring its offerings to support Canadian travellers at every stage of their trip, said Lofdhal. It is also looking into parametric coverages to enhance its offerings in Canada.

She also cited “fundamental differences” between the US and Canada travel insurance markets, specifically around medical services.

“Traditional medical limits of Canadians far surpass those of American travellers, so we need to keep those differences in the forefront. We want to ensure that we've got those base level coverages that Canadians expect. Our service needs to be fit for purpose, and fit for the needs of the Canadians,” Lofdhal added.

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