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Is the increasing regularity of political, economic, and violent disruptions worldwide shifting how and where people travel? The answer is yes and no.
Jeff Rutledge, President and CEO of AIG Travel, says that travelers are more conscious of safety and security today, but at the same time, most people in free society believe they have a right to travel wherever they want. Skift spoke with Rutledge about the rise of permanxiety in the global travel industry, and how that’s shifting customer behaviors and expectations.
Skift: How significantly have negative geopolitical events in recent years influenced travel behavior?
Rutledge: How consumers think about travel risk depends on the market, but in the U.S., it’s traditionally been focused on medical-related concerns and trip cancellations. Now, the concept of individual security, which wasn’t top of mind for the individual consumer just a couple of years ago, is now at the forefront. They’re asking questions. They’re wondering what’s next. And the frequency of events is especially heightening awareness around safety and risk management.
Skift: Are more leisure and business travelers shying away from specific destinations in the long term?
Rutledge: After a terrorist event, we see downturns to the big cities for a short period of time, as travelers shift from one destination to the other. The numbers bear that out. In the U.S., most people feel an innate desire and right to travel. So I don’t think that there are going to be long-term impacts in that sense. We’re certainly not seeing it in our business.
Skift: Companies and organizations are developing educational platforms to inform their employees and members about risk mitigation. How do you see that evolving?
Rutledge: Many are just starting to educate themselves more on what they need to do. They’re becoming tougher, more resilient, just like we’ve learned to walk, dream, live, and go through more in-depth security in a post 9/11 world. They’re also looking at the tools necessary to track employees at any point in time. Others are taking it to the next step to develop immediate crisis response plans and processes.
Skift: With the heightened focus on travel safety, are companies like yours unbundling services so customers can customize coverage, and better understand what they’re buying?
Rutledge: Yes, absolutely. Companies and individuals are telling us, “These are the specific things that we’re concerned about.” So for us, it’s a mix of understanding those concerns and making sure we can customize insurance options.
Skift: What keeps you up at night?
Rutledge: My challenge and call to my peers, competitors, and suppliers is: We shouldn’t be viewing security delivery as, “Hey something happened. We need to react now.” I would much rather see how we can work together to enable stronger connections between first responder networks and travelers, who don’t always know how to contact local responders effectively. Security infrastructure is where we have to come together as an industry and scale up to be able to handle individual incidents seamlessly.
This content was created collaboratively by AIG and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.