June 22, 2024

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This Is How AI Is Changing The Way You Buy Travel Insurance

6 min read

Artificial intelligence is transforming the way you buy travel insurance. From shopping for a policy to filing a claim, there’s no part that hasn’t been touched by AI.

“AI is revolutionizing travel insurance,” says Greg Jung, chief growth officer for Seven Corners. “It’s making it more efficient and tailored to individual needs.”

Words like “efficient” and “tailored” are rare in the one-size-fits-all, bureaucratic travel insurance industry. For years, consumers had limited choices. And when they filed a claim, it took close to forever to get an answer, much less get paid.

Not anymore.

Jung says AI is doing away with that. The benefits to travelers include:

  • Personalized coverage. AI can analyze vast amounts of data on traveler profiles, including travel history, preferences, and even risk factors like age and health conditions. That allows insurers to recommend customized travel insurance plans that provide the right level of coverage for each individual’s needs.
  • Proactive risk management. AI can analyze data to predict potential disruptions or emergencies that could impact a traveler’s trip. This allows insurers to offer assistance, such as medical advice or flight rebooking assistance, in case of unforeseen events.
  • Faster claims processing. AI can automate much of the claims process, verifying documents, assessing damages, and expediting settlements. Travelers can be reimbursed for covered expenses much more quickly, especially for straightforward claims.

Behind the scenes, travel insurance companies are also using AI to conduct better risk management. And there are parts of the business where travel insurance companies won’t talk about how they use AI, such as in efforts to sell policies on their sites. Travel insurance companies are also hush-hush about how they are analyzing data to set rates and identify patterns in fraudulent claims data.

This story is a long time coming. Travel insurance companies have been generally slow to adopt AI. You can see artificial intelligence in action in a few places, but in the places that matter to you — such as finding the best policy — there are still some gaps. AI won’t fix everything in travel insurance, but it promises to make many things better.

What took travel insurance so long?

Why has AI been slow to catch on in the travel insurance industry? Well, it has — and it hasn’t. I wrote about how Allianz was using machine learning to improve its products five years ago.

But across the industry, change has been gradual.

“Travel Insurance is highly regulated,” explains Tim Dodge, vice president of marketing at Arch RoamRight. “There are strict policy definitions, communications guidelines and adjudication rules to which we must adhere. For AI to be successful in our industry, it has to be implemented carefully; improving the customer experience while maintaining regulatory compliance.”

If you file a travel insurance claim and get frustrated with the time it takes to be settled, it’s because of the way travel insurance is set up. There’s a lot of required documentation to review in support of the claim.

Dodge says AI can potentially facilitate and speed up the claims handling process and reduce claimants’ frustrations, and that’s what travel insurance companies are now doing.

Where can you see AI in action right now in travel insurance?

Travel insurance companies are not waiting for the future.

Arch RoamRight’s AI chatbot has been integrated into every aspect of its customer experience, from its phone system to its website and travel agent portal. It’s even used as a training tool for new hires, according to Dodge.

At Generali Global Assistance, a carefully trained chatbot helps customers obtain instant assistance, receive accurate information, and navigate policy complexities. “This digitalization empowers our agents to provide personalized support promptly,” says Christopher Carnicelli, CEO of Generali Global Assistance.

Allianz Travel Insurance has been using AI to help streamline its claims process for years. It just added a new chatbot for customer support, too. “Our chatbot supports the customer during filing in the event the customer has questions or needs further assistance, and uses AI to qualify the customer’s needs to quickly get them the help they need,” explains Maggie Butler, director of customer experience at Allianz Partners USA.

At Faye Travel Insurance, an AI-powered app helps customers file claims for flight cancellations, baggage delays, and medical emergencies. The app speeds up the claims process, ensuring travelers get paid in hours instead of days. “It’s part of our commitment to making travel insurance an integral and personalized part of each traveler’s experience,” says Elad Schaffer, Faye’s CEO.

Over time, the entire travel insurance industry will embrace AI. But there are exceptions.

Can artificial intelligence help you find the best travel insurance?

AI might help you find a better policy, but you have to know where to look. I tested the major AIs to see how they responded to a sample query, “I’m a 28-year-old woman who lives in New York. I am planning a one-week trip to Paris this summer. Please help me find the best travel insurance.”

  • Gemini offered two options — Generali and Travel Insured International, but did not show rates or a bookable link. The responses appeared to be based on a news article.
  • Meta AI generated a succinct response citing the benefits of travel insurance with key coverage areas.
  • Microsoft Copilot showed a generic “how-to” story about travel insurance based on an article I had written for Forbes.
  • Hugging Face gave a generic response with advice on how to buy travel insurance.
  • Perplexity offered several specific options, including Seven Corners, Nationwide and Travelex. However, it based its quotes on a story on a news site and did not offer a link to buy the policies.

Bottom line: You can’t really shop for travel insurance using AI — at least, not yet.

AI doesn’t work for everything in travel insurance

In the travel insurance industry, like in other places, artificial intelligence isn’t the answer to everything.

For example, at INF Visitor Care, a company that sells travel insurance to those traveling to the U.S., AI is helping automate its claims system. INF applies machine learning to identify emerging trends in claims to design policies that cover customers when they need it for unexpected issues.

“It has revolutionized the way we think about pricing and policy coverages,” says PK Rao, CEO of INF Visitor Care.

But when it comes to customer service, AI is not always the best solution.

“We find customers enjoy talking to a live person on chat and phone,” adds Rao.

The future of travel insurance and AI is promising

Over the long term, AI promises to reshape the travel insurance business into one that works the way customers expect it to — quickly, nimbly and efficiently.

At least that’s what Daniel Green, chief technology officer for Faye Travel Insurance, sees.

“Imagine a world where most insurance claims are processed in hours instead of days,” he says. “A computer system can go out and collect all the documentation for you and prepare the paperwork perfectly, ready for a human to make a quick decision on whether to approve it or not.”

AI also has the potential to insure you for only what you need — to give you the “perfect” policy.

“AI can prepare it in seconds based on being able to tell a computer in your own words what coverage you need, by having it translated into insurance paperwork-speak for you,” he adds.

We aren’t quite there yet, but we’re getting close.

There’s one more thing that is potentially keeping AI from changing travel insurance — and that is customers themselves.

Breanne Armstrong, who is director of insurance intelligence at J.D. Power, says most consumers understand that artificial intelligence and machine learning have a lot of potential, “but there is hesitancy.”

Armstrong bases her observation on another study that J.D. Power recently conducted on banking customers and AI. Only 28% of respondents said they believe AI will make their lives better in the next three years. Roughly one-third say it will make no difference, and 17% say it will make their lives worse.

All you have to do is engage with any chatbot to understand those 17% of respondents. Talking to an AI about banking or travel insurance — or anything else, really — can quickly end in frustration.

“There are mixed sentiments,” adds Armstrong.

That may well describe how people feel about travel insurance and AI. It could be great. But if it isn’t implemented carefully, it could be not so great.

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