(Reuters) – In the new reality of COVID-19, some Americans may still be willing to travel abroad – but they’re going to make sure they’re insured up to the hilt.
U.S. travel insurers are seeing a surge in demand for highly priced “cancel for any reason” policies as holidaymakers planning to venture out in the months ahead seek the kind of comprehensive cover that was seldom seen pre-pandemic.
With the prospect of countries moving in and out of lockdown restrictions to weather waves of the new coronavirus, travelers are taking few chances with their cover. Thousands were burned earlier this year when policies provided by websites, airlines and agents did not pay out when governments imposed travel bans.
As destinations in Europe and Asia ease lockdowns, several U.S. industry figures told Reuters this week that holidaymakers booking for later in the year were paying around 40% more for insurance as a result.
Data from U.S. comparison website Squaremouth shows purchases of the comprehensive any-reason cover surged by 680% compared with a year ago. The data is based on policy purchases from April 1 to May 10, for travel in June, July or August.
More than a third of holidaymakers planning summer trips searched for a policy that included cancellation or medical coverage if they contract COVID-19 or are quarantined.
“Everybody hears about the possibility of a resurgence of COVID-19,” said Jeremy Murchland, president of U.S. travel insurer Seven Corners. “People are looking for the one insurance policy to give them the most flexible options.”
The shift in behavior is one area of opportunity for an insurance industry that has been hammered by the crisis, and is a rare area where they can develop new products.
However it also leaves the sector, which already faces huge and varying claims from businesses and households hit by the pandemic, on the hook for bumper payouts should a new wave of infections force new travel restrictions or create alarm.
The “cancel for any reason” cover includes travelers who pull out due to the fear of contacting the novel coronavirus, provided they cancel the trip within two days of departure.
For the wider tourism industry, more expensive insurance cover could suck up cash that travelers would otherwise spend abroad on hotels, restaurants, shopping and excursions.
Boon or bane?
In one simple search on Seven Corners, standard round trip cover for a $5,000, 15-day holiday from the United States to Italy cost $171 per head for a standard policy but $240 for the comprehensive cover, adding up to several hundred dollars when applied to families and other groups.
“The cancel for any reason policy was an option before, but it is more expensive, which is probably why it wasn’t popular,” Squaremouth spokeswoman Kasara Barto said.
“When the pandemic occurred, travelers had concerns that were not covered. That is when it became the best option.”
World Nomads, which insures independent travelers from more than 130 countries, surveyed more than 2,000 visitors to its site over the past two months, asking them about their travel intentions “post-COVID-19”.
Over a third said they would start traveling in less than a month, while 55% said they would travel within three months, with top destinations spread across Europe and Asia.
A total of 72% said they would purchase insurance for trips abroad, up from 38% in 2018.
“COVID-19 has raised awareness that sometimes unforeseen calamities do happen,” said World Nomads CEO Anna Gladman.
There are risks for the insurers too. While U.S. firms paid out little for canceled trips under the initial wave of lockdowns, peers in Britain – where policies often cover government bans – are facing a record 275 million pounds ($345 million) this year.
The coronavirus pandemic and national lockdowns are unprecedented, and there is little certainty if the surge in interest for all-in travel cover will prove a boon or bane for the insurance industry.
Erik Josowitz, an analyst from another U.S. comparison site InsuranceQuotes.com, stressed the American industry was in uncharted territory.
“In the near term, I would expect this to be a revenue boost for travel insurance providers,” he said. “But we’ve yet to see how these new types of policies will play out in terms of claims.”
($1 = 0.7952 pounds)
Reporting and photo: Reuters
Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project
Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.
This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.
The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.
In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.
No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.
Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.
As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.
From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.
Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.
Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.
Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services
Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.
Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.
“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.
“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.
Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”
Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.
“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.
To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.
Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.
Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.
For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.
Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops
Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.
As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.
Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”
“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”
Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.
All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.
Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/
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