Forbes Advisor Honors AIG Travel as Best Travel Insurance Company

AIG Travel | September 01, 2020

AIG Travel was awarded top honors by Forbes Advisor in their Best Travel Insurance Companies list for consumers. Out of 15 travel insurance companies ranked by the financial news outlet, AIG Travel came in first, based on a rigorous, data-driven methodology. AIG Travel garnered the best score in the Forbes ranking based on an in-depth review of 15 coverage benefits for multiple travel insurance plans, including baggage delays or mishaps, trip delays or cancellation, travel health or medical expenses, pre-existing medical conditions and flexibility to cancel for any reason.

Spotlight

The right policy and investment decisions are only made with empirical evidence. For over 25 years, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has been providing this evidence, quantifying the economic and employment impact of Travel & Tourism.


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INDUSTRY OUTLOOK

Backroads Announces 2022 Travel Trends and Gears Up for Busiest Year Ever

Backroads | December 28, 2021

Backroads, the leader in active travel, announced their forecast for top travel destinations in 2022 based on advance bookings and inquiries. Europe is at the top of many travelers’ lists next year, with huge demand for trips in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Greece and Iceland. Many newcomers to active travel are booking adventures already, especially easygoing Dolce Tempo tours, and e-bikes are continuing to become more popular with guests of all ages. Backroads is anticipating that most of their North American trips will sell out once again, in line with the 2021 trend of strong interest in US National Parks and luxurious domestic adventures. As this eventful year comes to a close, Backroads is finishing strong and poised to have their biggest year ever in 2022. Backroads’ 2021 year-end highlights include: Backroads had its best year of all time in the US in 2021. Domestic bookings were up 45% compared to 2019, the last pre-pandemic benchmark year, and virtually all US departures sold out. The number of first-time travelers with Backroads nearly doubled over 2019, as people incorporated their newfound passions for walking, hiking and biking into their vacations. Top-selling trips in 2021 included Canyonlands, Yellowstone, Maine, San Juan Islands, Alaska, California Wine Country, Hawaii, Santa Barbara & Ojai, Crater Lake, Vermont and Yosemite in the US, and Croatia, Iceland, Greece, France, Portugal and Spain in Europe. Luxury experiences close to home saw a surge in popularity. Backroads' new Aspen tour (which includes three nights at the iconic Hotel Jerome) sold out immediately, as did the company’s Newfoundland adventure, which features lodging at the famed Fogo Island Inn, and its California Wine Country Walking trip with lodging at luxurious hideaways Montage and Solage. Popular with travelers around the world were Backroads' Dolce Tempo tours. These easygoing walking, multi-adventure and e-biking trips completely sold out in 2021 and are booking quickly in 2022. Adventure travel featuring invigorating activity in wide-open, natural spaces was hugely popular with travelers of all types, including families, couples and solo travelers. Based on advance guest booking and inquiries, Backroads is anticipating the following trends for 2022: More than 30% of guests on multi-adventure and biking trips will opt for e-bikes, which are custom-built for Backroads and included in the trip price. Europe will continue to see pent-up demand manifesting in sky-high bookings, with all the European countries that opened early and were popular in 2021 seeing strong traveler interest. Top-selling countries include Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Greece and Iceland. North America, which had its biggest year ever in 2021, will continue to be popular with travelers looking to stick close to home. US National Park trips will again completely sell out. Demand for travel in all parts of Canada from Banff to Newfoundland is skyrocketing. Family travel is up across all family segments: Teens & Kids, Older Teens & 20s and 20s & Beyond. Bookings for easygoing Dolce Tempo adventures will maintain their threefold increase compared to 2021, as travelers of all fitness levels look to spend active time outdoors. Active River Cruises will book up quickly with Bordeaux, Danube and Portugal’s Douro leading the way. Working in active, outdoor travel continues to appeal, with more than 450 Backroads Trip Leaders and Field Staff returning next season for a 90% retention rate. The company expects to hire close to another 350 additional Trip Leaders from 6,000 applicants for jobs in 2022. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our two years of operating trips during the pandemic, it’s that things change rapidly, Spring, summer, and fall are a long time away when it comes to COVID-19. We’re monitoring government responses to the latest surge and keeping a close eye on border reopenings and local policies.” -Tom Hale, Backroads Founder and President. Regardless of what happens this winter, 2022 is shaping up to be an incredible year for adventure travel. Based on what we saw in the summer 2021 season, we expect travel in Europe to come back strong, with France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Croatia topping the list of travelers everywhere,” said Hale. “People are eager to get back out exploring, and active travel is the way they want to go. Whether it’s on a bike or an e-bike, hiking or walking, with family, friends or solo, we anticipate next year to be Backroads' biggest year ever.”     About Backroads      Backroads was founded in 1979 by Tom Hale and has been a leading innovator in active and adventure travel for over 40 years. The company offers biking, walking & hiking and multi-adventure tours, small ship active cruises, private trips and family trips designed for three distinct age groups: Teens & Kids (typically 9-16), Older Teens & 20s (17+) and 20s & Beyond (adult kids through their late 20s). Backroads hosts thousands of guests each year—75% of whom are repeat guests or referrals from past guests—in hundreds of locations across the globe. For more information, please visit backroads.com, or call 800-462-2848.For more Backroads information, visit: backroads.com

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TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY

Collinson Group Uses Freshworks to Modernize its Customer Experience and Adapt to New Travel Requirements

collinson group | March 29, 2022

Freshworks Inc. (NASDAQ: FRSH), a software company empowering the people who power business, announced that its customer Collinson Group, a UK travel experiences and insurance company, is using Freshdesk™ to react to fast-changing business and travel requirements caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, servicing a 50% surge in new enquiries. Following the introduction of new travel requirements, Collinson Group pivoted its medical assistance division to offer COVID-19 testing at partner airports and clinics in the UK, USA and APAC regions, setting up facilities in just three weeks. Using Freshdesk, Collinson introduced chatbot-first support and automation into its customer communications to help manage the 50% surge in traffic and queries. The company set up over 120 automated workflows including email triage, automated ticket type routing, and chat bot self-service. Help articles were created to enable the global operation to manage backlogs effectively, run as efficiently as possible, and share work across customer service locations and teams. The Freshdesk ticketing dashboard also helped Collinson to better track customer interactions across disparate communications channels. Using Freshdesk, customer service agents can now view metrics on contact resolution, total time to service, and subject matter of enquiries, and track and respond proactively if a particular subject keeps arising in communications. As a result, Collinson now handles an average of 1,200 testing-related customer enquiries per day, rising to a daily peak of around 10,000 new tickets per day in 2021, 24/7 across multiple global testing locations and service customer teams in English and Indonesian languages. Speaking about the quick deployment, Sacha Puffett, Group Customer Service Director at Collinson Group said, "The Freshdesk implementation has helped to consolidate our customer communications, while ensuring that omnichannel sits at the heart of our strategy. For the first time, we have a unified view of customer interactions in nearly real time, meaning we can see trends emerging and work to mitigate issues quickly. It’s a win-win situation that’s more efficient for both the customer and us.” “Our work with Collinson Group, supported by AWS, enabled its rapid transition during a tumultuous year for the travel industry, The flexibility Freshdesk provided significantly reduced the time taken for major operational pivots, from weeks to days. Freshworks’ omnichannel engagement solution helps agents quickly resolve customer enquiries at a stressful time for travellers, providing visibility to leading companies in the travel industry across channels such as chat, email, and voice through a single unified interface.” -John Crossan, Vice President & General Manager of Europe at Freshworks Ms. Puffett added, "The project manager and technical subject matter expert from Freshworks’ onboarding team were very supportive of our changing needs. Thanks to their guidance, we were able to launch the first iteration of Freshdesk within just three weeks, which was just sensational." In 2019, Freshworks also helped Collinson pivot its business practices to ensure customer service levels were maintained. Through the work with Freshworks and Amazon Web Services (AWS), Collinson Group equipped customer service agents to work from home and migrated 120 phone lines to Amazon Connect, an easy-to-use, highly scalable, and cost-effective omnichannel cloud contact center solution. The migration was completed within a couple of weeks, and it included training time for call centre agents, which can often take months. About Collinson Group Collinson is a global leader in customer benefits and loyalty. We deliver exceptional travel, assistance and insurance products that differentiate value propositions, and loyalty solutions that win deeper, more valuable customer relationships.Our customer benefits products include the original and market-leading airport experiences programme, Priority Pass, as well as travel insurance, identity assistance, flight delay, international health and travel risk management solutions. Our loyalty expertise uniquely combines strategy, award-winning technology and programme management to create greater engagement and experiences for our clients’ customers.For over 30 years, we’ve been chosen by the world’s leading payment networks, 1,400+ banks, 90+ airlines and 20+ hotel groups to craft customer experiences that win competitive edge. This enables them to acquire, engage and retain the most profitable, but most demanding customers. Our clients include Air France KLM, American Express, Cathay Pacific, Chase, Hackett, Mastercard, RSA, Sephora, UnionPay, Vhi and Visa. About Freshworks Freshworks Inc., (NASDAQ: FRSH) makes business software people love to use. Purpose-built for IT, customer support, sales and marketing teams, our products empower the people who power business. Freshworks is fast to onboard, priced affordably, built to delight, yet powerful enough to deliver critical business outcomes. Headquartered in San Mateo, California, Freshworks operates around the world to serve more than 56,000 customers including Bridgestone, Chargebee, DeliveryHero, ITV, Klarna, Multichoice, OfficeMax, TaylorMade and Vice Media. For the freshest company news visit www.freshworks.com and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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COMMERCIAL TRAVEL

As Summer Travel Returns at Record Levels, JetBlue Launches Plan to Reliably Deliver the JetBlue Experience Loved by Customers

JetBlue | April 27, 2022

JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) announced a series of investments that will set up the airline to reliably deliver the JetBlue experience during what is expected to be a record-breaking summer. JetBlue’s broad and comprehensive plan includes a reduction of its summer schedule, focus on hiring and training, efforts to reduce customer support call volume and hold times, proactive aircraft maintenance efforts, and facilities/infrastructure readiness. “We want customers who love the JetBlue experience to have confidence we will deliver it to them this summer,We let our crewmembers and our customers down in April, and we must perform better. The investments we’re making will help reduce delays and cancellations during the busiest travel period.” -Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. As the aviation industry has rebounded from the historic impact of COVID-19, airlines have faced ongoing challenges this year from the Omicron wave, staffing ramp up, attrition, weather events, and air traffic control delays. JetBlue’s plan builds more flexibility into its schedule and crew staffing to recover from these events, and ensures its facilities and technology are equipped to handle increased demand, especially in New York where the airline is growing nearly 50 percent as part of its Northeast Alliance (NEA) with American Airlines. Reduced schedule offers more buffer and flexibility to recover from disruptions Even though the industry continues to forecast robust demand, JetBlue is taking steps to reduce its flight schedule for increased reliability. A reduced schedule will add more buffer room throughout the day to make up for operational disruptions and put less stress on its crew resources. JetBlue originally planned to grow capacity this year by 11 to 15 percent compared to 2019. Now, with its reduced schedule, JetBlue’s capacity will grow zero to five percent compared to 2019. Most importantly, JetBlue is reducing its summer schedule by more than 10 percent from its original plan, and scheduled aircraft utilization will be down 10 to 15 percent compared to 2019. JetBlue is a growth airline, and we want nothing more than to bring our unique combination of low fares and award-winning service to more customers, Geraghty said. However, by taking a more conservative approach to growth, we can bring resiliency to our operation and ensure our crewmembers – who are the best in the industry – come to work each day set up for success. JetBlue’s capacity cuts take into account the impact of higher-priced fuel and are distributed throughout its network. Even with the reductions, JetBlue will grow significantly in New York’s three major airports as part of the NEA – from 200 flights a day in 2019 to nearly 300 flights a day. JetBlue has trimmed some of its growth at Newark to ease congestion and ensure the terminal facilities can accommodate its schedule until construction is completed on the new Terminal A. Accelerating staffing and training to support the schedule Like many businesses across a range of industries, staffing resources have pressured airlines as customers returned. Even though it’s pulling down some flying, JetBlue is moving forward with hiring efforts to staff up for the summer, including 5,000 new crewmembers in New York. The airline’s recently expanded training facility in Orlando is operating at maximum capacity. We are well aware of the staffing challenges that many companies are facing, but it’s been incredible to see how many job seekers want to work at JetBlue,” Geraghty said. “Our differentiated brand and culture continue to attract the best talent, and we have expanded our training facilities to get our new hires on the job as soon as possible. In addition to general staffing, JetBlue is working through a backlog of pilot training and re-certification flights after delays from Omicron. Volatile pilot attrition is also creating a need for additional recruiting and training capacity. JetBlue has increased its pilot training team and simulator capacity to meet this demand. “Ensuring we have a strong pipeline of pilots remains a focus, and we are expanding our innovative JetBlue Gateways program this year to support that effort, We are having incredible success attracting a diverse set of candidates to join our Gateway Select program, which trains individuals with little or no flight experience, and we launched new pathways for current crewmembers and their families to become JetBlue pilots.” -Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. Addressing customer call volume and hold times Recent operational disruptions have led to a record number of calls into JetBlue’s customer support center and extended wait times. These disruptions, coupled with the greater number of customers taking advantage of ticket flexibility and calls regarding other COVID-related questions, have taxed customer service teams across the industry. Since the fall, JetBlue has brought on board more than 1,100 new hires into customer support and continues to increase hiring and training while bringing on outside support to help manage call volume. By this summer, JetBlue expects to have its largest-ever customer support team ready to support customers as many embark on their first vacation or travel experience since the pandemic. JetBlue is continuing to strengthen staffing for its suite of digital tools to help customers avoid waiting on hold, including online chat capabilities and support via iMessage. In addition, JetBlue is improving self-service capabilities on its website to offer customers additional options to make changes without calling. The best way to reduce long hold times is to eliminate the need to call us in the first place, and a more reliable schedule with fewer delays and last-minute cancellations will help improve that,” Geraghty said. “For those customers who do need individual support, we continue hire a record number of customer support crewmembers and are using technology to make it easier to chat with us. Long hold times are not unique to JetBlue, but they are simply not acceptable. JetBlue is also working to proactively cancel flights on days when bad weather is forecasted or if it anticipates air traffic control delays due to congestion or air traffic control center staffing shortages. The dynamic nature of spring and summer weather, including thunderstorms, sometimes prevents this, but the airline is working to provide cancellation well in advance of arriving to the airport so customers have time to adjust their plans. Reducing disruptions due to maintenance The reduced schedule frees up aircraft time to give the airline additional opportunities to get ahead of planned maintenance programs. JetBlue is investing in additional preventative maintenance as well as reserving more aircraft as spares this summer to reduce the impact of maintenance-related cancellations and delays. With COVID-19 supply chain challenges continuing, JetBlue has pre-purchased long lead parts, tools, and equipment as well as added additional inventory of frequently used parts, to mitigate potential delays. Handling a record summer at JFK This summer, JetBlue will operate approximately 190 daily flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) as it continues to expand its footprint as part of the NEA. With its heavy concentration in the Northeast and major operation at JFK, ensuring that JFK runs smoothly is essential for the entire network. In addition to hiring across workgroups, JetBlue is making a number of investments at JFK’s Terminal 5: Redeveloping a portion of the lobby to add more kiosks and open additional space for customer throughput. Retiming flights for the busiest international markets to ensure enough lobby space is available for COVID documentation checks. Smoothing out some of the peaks in the schedule to ease congestion in the lobby, TSA checkpoint, and gates. Dedicating ground staffing crews at gates across Terminal 5 and adding ground equipment. While summer reliability continues to be the focus, JetBlue will also see a significant improvement in its airport facilities across focus cities this fall, as new terminals and space become available to support the airline’s growth. JetBlue will be consolidating or opening new or renovated terminal spaces in LaGuardia, Newark, and Orlando. Many customers have been waiting for two years to travel again, and our goal this summer is to offer an incredible experience, Geraghty said. Unfortunately, weather and air traffic control delays will always be part of air travel, and we are doing everything we can to manage them better for our crewmembers and customers. Our plan makes responsible investments to prepare us for these challenges and restore trust in JetBlue. About JetBlue Airways JetBlue is New York's Hometown Airline®, and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Juan. JetBlue carries customers across the United States, Caribbean and Latin America and London. For more information, visit jetblue.com.

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COMMERCIAL TRAVEL

Sabre SafePoint adds travel restriction tracking capability

Sabre | January 13, 2022

Sabre Corporation (NASDAQ: SABR), the leading software and technology provider that powers the global travel industry, announces the expansion of SafePoint, a travel risk management product, to include global travel restriction tracking. Whilst the solution is not limited to a singular event, it provides information regarding the spread of COVID 19 and new variants as well as destination entry restrictions imposed by countries including masks, vaccinations, health documentation and quarantine requirements. SafePoint monitors world events in near real-time, 24/7. It utilizes hundreds of data sources for events and restrictions that may impact travel arrangements and/or traveler safety. It helps Sabre's travel agencies and corporate customers make more informed decisions and enhance the safety of their travelers by alerting them to restrictions that may impact their itinerary. Travelers will then be able to use the information to take action at any stage of their trip. the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been signs of recovery in the travel industry. Sabre is committed to support this safe return of travel by providing our customers solutions that allow duty-of-care and traveler safety now and into the future. "As travel rebounds, we believe a duty-of-care and crisis alerting solution is imperative to any travel business, especially in a world where travel advisories can change rapidly. SafePoint is designed to keep travelers and corporate travel managers apprised of critical events in a fast-moving world, We are delighted to work with customers to provide them duty-of-care products to better service their travelers". -Saunvit Pandya, Senior Director of Product Management, Sabre In the current travel landscape, having instant access to travel restriction information is critical to making the right travel-related decisions. Sabre's SafePoint provides us timely information to help us better serve our customers. It is a trusted source of information from a trusted partner," said Anna McGurk, Operations Director, Norad Travel UK.While travel has been significantly impacted by About Sabre Corporation Sabre Corporation is a leading software and technology company that powers the global travel industry, serving a wide range of travel companies including airlines, hoteliers, travel agencies and other suppliers. The company provides retailing, distribution and fulfilment solutions that help its customers operate more efficiently, drive revenue and offer personalized traveler experiences. Through its leading travel marketplace, Sabre connects travel suppliers with buyers from around the globe. Sabre's technology platform manages more than $260B worth of global travel spend annually. Headquartered in Southlake, Texas, USA, Sabre serves customers in more than 160 countries around the world. For more information visit www.sabre.com.

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Spotlight

The right policy and investment decisions are only made with empirical evidence. For over 25 years, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has been providing this evidence, quantifying the economic and employment impact of Travel & Tourism.

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