Interview: Karin Tranberg, Executive Vice President Travelcare Division, SOS International
Are Danish travelers eager to start traveling abroad again and do you think they are more interested in travel insurance and the services provided by assistance companies? Are business or leisure travelers more likely to start traveling again?
The majority of our support cases are related to travel in Europe and primarily leisure, but we have also seen a recent increase in cases relating to travel to Thailand and the United States. Business travel has definitely declined – a trend that is expected to continue as many companies have seen the financial benefits of using online meetings instead of travel. In general, however, travel activity – particularly for our Danish travelers but now also for our Nordic travelers – is increasing, which is reflected in our case volumes. Additionally, we are seeing an increasing demand for coronavirus-related pre-trip advice – e.g. customers asking for clarification on insurance cover/terms and conditions.
With very limited air travel lately, has SOS International focused more on international roadside assistance services? How are they evolving?
During the first period of the pandemic, we experienced a decrease in roadside assistance cases while the country was in lockdown, but over the past year many northern travelers have chosen driving holidays and we we expect that to be the case this summer. What we’re hearing from our end users is that due to coronavirus and travel restrictions, they find driving vacations safer and less hassle than traveling by plane.
How difficult has SOS International been to maintain its network of medical providers while being unable to perform on-site inspections and ensure partners continue to meet their obligations to you as payer?
At SOS International, we have an extensive global network of local support partners who can perform on-site inspections upon request and ensure high quality for our customers. However, it goes without saying that times are still tough in many parts of the world and a significant number of our suppliers are struggling financially. We continuously monitor our provider network through local partners and via feedback from our medical escort corps.
How have you used technology to your advantage to provide services to customers during the pandemic?
During corona, we have generally become accustomed to the use of online channels, e.g. Teams, Zoom, etc., which has influenced the digital behavior of our customers. To a much greater extent now than before the pandemic, they are open to using digital support services such as video consultations with medical advisers and psychologists – especially when it comes to our healthcare services.
In 2021, SOS International celebrated 60 years of travel assistance – how do you think the business will continue to change and adapt to the latest challenges the world of travel will bring?
The past two years have highlighted the importance of being ready to adapt when the world changes. For the next 60 years, helping people will always be our mission. We will do this by monitoring trends and developments even more – and being prepared to respond to them. We have gained good experience in scaling our organization, developing more flexible processes and systems, and generally preparing for change.
What do you like most about your role?
I love – and it’s very important to me – to be part of an organization whose primary goal is to help people.