As we finalise preparations for the upcoming ITIC Global conference in Madrid, we have been catching up with the ITIC Global committee, and are pleased to share their views on the return of international travel ahead of the conference. We recently spoke with Jane Hegeler, ITIC committee member and international medical assistance industry veteran, about the importance of medical provider networks and why online conferences will never replace face-to-face meetings
Where in the world have you been based throughout the pandemic, and how has the country coped?
I left the UK in April 2020 to move to Germany, during which time only essential travel was permitted. Last year, Germany was relatively relaxed with mask-wearing inside an establishment and keeping a social distance, but everywhere remained open. Each state at the time decided on its own restrictions and then the federal government overruled them and restaurants, gyms and non-essential outlets closed at the end of November until around May 2021 as infection rates rose and schools/nurseries frequently changed their operating hours and conditions for who is entitled to ‘emergency’ schooling. I think Germany handled the situation as well as could be expected.
Do you think the medical assistance industry has learned anything from its experiences in the last 18 months, whether about networks or using avenues for evacuation and repatriation that would not previously have been considered acceptable?
I think a lot of valuable lessons have been learnt, especially when it comes to the extent and strength of your networks and provider relationships. There has never been a higher demand for local knowledge and intelligence as well as on the ground support. Even the simple straightforward medical assistance cases were faced with additional hurdles and limitations because of the situation. It has also shone light and reminded us of the important role we play and the fact that the people in this industry can manoeuvre and operate with any challenge they are faced with, to provide the best and safest outcomes for the client.
Are you seeing travellers start to regain confidence in the market again?
I think that many are desperate to travel and will travel, but I believe we are seeing a slight shift in the demographics. I think it’s too early to say as there is confidence to travel, but with the limitations and government restrictions on travel changing frequently from country to country, many are opting for staycations and in-country travel for 2021.
What have you missed most about travelling, and where are you going to first?
Everything! I have never in my whole life spent as much time in the same country, let alone town as I have over the past 18months. I plan to return to Thailand to spend time with my family and friends there and of course the UK. ITIC Global in Madrid is on the list and I look forward to a real holiday in some idiotic location.
In-person business meetings and conferences are now back on the agenda; have you missed being able to reconnect with colleagues in the industry?
Absolutely, despite the advantages of technology, there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting with both clients and colleagues. I still have colleagues that I have never physically met so I do look forward to the day we meet. Conferences online have been great and worked well given the situation, however you do not get the same experience and value from being physically present and having open discussions – it’s just not the same online!
Are there any particular sessions at ITIC you are looking forward to?
I am interested to hear what others have learnt over the last 18months and to discuss what we would all do differently going forwards. As always, it’s the whole atmosphere of meeting old and new industry friends and forging stronger, better working relationships.
Jane Hegeler – Business Development Director, Charles Taylor
Jane has held senior positions within health and travel assistance for over 15 years and has extensive experience setting-up and managing multi-cultural teams and offices and developing global networks. She thrives in challenging situations where lean and change management practises can be applied to create a sustainable working environment along with creating a happy and productive work culture.
Successes include process improvement and optimisation for service enhancement and cost efficiency, business development for growth and global recognition, tech initiatives and implementation for streamlining operations and optimising consumer experience.
ITIC Global is an annual gathering of the travel and health insurance community. It’s where you can connect with partners and colleagues, hear from insightful speakers and join discussions that shape the future of our industry. ITIC Global 2021 is taking place in Madrid, Spain 31 October – 4 November, and marks our return to face-to-face business networking after an 18-month hiatus.
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