Assist Card: A Leader In The Travel Industry Offering Travel Assistance Globally

Sandeep Bangara, President DirectorHave you ever planned a travel or tour? Well, one can hardly deny that it is quite a hectic task, as it always takes a certain amount of preparation, including searching for the best ticket (cost vs. convenience) and accommodations (proximity to attractions, on-site amenities), and more. But not so, anymore, as the digitalization of services has significantly overhauled the travel & tourism industry too.

Today, traveling has largely evolved, and as a wide industry encompasses a range of facilities for the traveler, right from hospitality and travel services, restaurants, foreign exchange facilities, and transportation, to collaboration with local travel guides. Furthermore, the travel industry is also doing its bit to connect tourism with insurance to provide travelers with better tourism facilities and assistance. While travel assistance is a great way to avail for medical services, today the industry is proficiently offering insurance coverage for even the smallest of trips to customers.

According to an IMARC Group study, the global travel insurance market size reached $15.9 Billion in 2022 and looking forward, it is expected to reach $33.7 Billion by 2028. Amongst many, one company that is largely contributing to driving the travel industry through travel assistance is Assist Card-the outcome of a business leader’s (Sandeep Bangara, President Director) passion for traveling.

Established in 1972, Assist Card is one of the world’s leading companies in comprehensive travel assistance. The company has been a member of the Starr Companies Group since 2011. As a pioneer in developing the concept of assisting people on trips, it not only offers them immediate service in case of an event anywhere in the world 24/7, but it also provides this assistance in their own language without the need to disperse any money.

Since its inception, Assist Card is known to adapt to the constantly changing requirements and travel trends and thus has expanded its services through the years to provide solutions that meet expectations and satisfy customer needs. Today, Assist Card manages the world’s largest global network of providers with high-quality standards, and with the ability to effectively solve from the simplest to the most complex problems through a single contact, either by telephone or through the website, or from any mobile device with the Assist Card application. The services it specifically leverages include Medical Assistance, Luggage Tracking, Health Repatriation, Concierge Services, Dental Emergencies, and Travel Companion for Minors.

The Differential Aspect
“Since almost the end of COVID, there’s been a lot of travel, which has resulted in the growth of the market by almost 30 to 40 percent. In the past, where people would only take travel assistance, purely because it was needed by particular embassies or for countries where medical expenses are probably very high, but now, people just take it even for small trips.
So, there’s a big awareness that has happened and people are taking travel assistance products. Ours is an over 50 years old company, while in the past, we actually used to issue cards, but over time as technology seeped in and COVID hit, we have kind of evolved and gone totally digital.

So, all our products are sent via email instantly to the customer, and likewise, our assistant services are all digital through the app. And, of course, sometimes we do have to go manual, to provide for some particular customers, but I can say again, 80-90 percent of our services have turned completely digital”, shares Sandeep Bangara, President Director, Assist Card.

The key factor, especially for a product like Assist Card is it provides customers the ability to have a cashless medical payment mode. Most insurance companies have a third-party administrator who only helps in the administration but it’s not able to guarantee payments. But, when it’s about Assist Card it assures guaranteed payment and that implies if the patient or the customer goes to the hospital and gets their treatment, they don’t pay, instead, they come out and then the insurance company settles with the hospital. It is one of the most important factors that play a key role in its product. It provides cashless services to about 95 percent of demography worldwide.

What differentiates the company from the others is, it sells and manages its own product. Unlike other people who depend on a third-party administrator, it administers its products on its own which means, its own products are being sold and serviced by itself, as it is a hands-on company. Providing, travel assistance is its core business. “The various advantages one can derive from Assist Card are, it’s totally cashless, provides medical assistance, and can be accessed through the mobile application.

So, if the customers are using Assist Card’s mobile app to contact our alarm center, the alarm center will Geotag them through the mobile app, so we know where they are. And, again, since I mentioned that we sell and service our own product, the turnaround time is almost instant, unlike others, where you have to get approval from the insurer, and then come back. Normally there’s a delay of about three to four hours in the whole process, but here, it’s instant. So, if a person needs assistance, he will be given assistance on the spot”, adds Sandeep.

The Company Adds & Growth Ahead
Globally, Assist Card is a team of over 2000 people, and its head office is in Argentina where its operations are also centralized. Its alarm centers for South America and Argentina are in Peru and Colombia, and for Europe, it’s in Spain, and in Asia, it’s in South Korea and in China. Assist Card works with a couple of giants like Visa, MasterCard, and a couple of airlines, and it has exclusive agreements with them.

As Visa has been its client since 2006, and it services clubs for about seven million card holders, MasterCard has been its client since 2006, with teams of two million card holders. While in Asia, it has Bank of China, Hong Kong, since 2018, with over 200,000 card holders. To give an overview of Assist Card, it serves close to over 20 million customers every year. Basically, it has 74 branches across the world, with 26 countries covered by a sales network. So, that’s how big it is.

The company has grown to adapt to what the market needs in terms of technology, and more, and has also introduced other travel-related services like pre-travel advice, which no one does

Well, the numbers speak for themselves, and it is clear how the company has grown from a traditional travel assistance company to a totally digital company. Moreover, it has extensive backing from Starr Companies Group, which has about 20.3 billion in assets, best rated with ‘A’, and a gross written premium of about 4.4 billion. Over the period, the company has grown to adapt to what the market needs in terms of technology, and more. Additionally, it has also introduced other travel-related services like pre-travel advice, which no one does.

“Well, it’s COVID that caused the delay In India. Here, we are just starting, and there’s a complete restructuring happening as we are still in discussion with the underwriters. Right now the key is to find a good local partner because a product comes under the purview of IRDA, hence, we are in the process of finding the right partner and then launching a product in India. We will soon present here full-fledged”, concludes Sandeep.