You have been established since 1987 – how dramatically has the industry changed in that time?
Our travel industry has changed dramatically for different historical reasons: worldwide events like 11 September in 2001 and the pandemic of 2020 made travellers realise that nothing is under their control and that something can certainly happen when travelling abroad. Also, inflation in medical costs have impacted travel expenses, giving the customer a sense that it’s important to travel with protection to avoid economic losses.
Big Tree has operations in more than 150 countries presently – how important is the expansion of your international network and what are your plans for the future?
The expansion of the international network is vital because many of our corporate clients from Latin America or the US have global presence even in countries less popular than the ones that are visited for leisure. Yet some of them need coverage within those countries where governments grant tax-free policies and promote the creation of branches for multinational companies. Our responsibility is to be present where and when our clients need us.
You work with many Third Party Adminstrators (TPAs). How have you chosen who to work with and what are the main considerations when looking to choose a partner?
We’ve worked historically with other TPAs that complement our offer to our clients. Those TPAs are partners with whom we’ve shared businesses before and create a special and long-lasting relationship. This business is great when you have confidence in who’s coming up with a solution. Our goodwill and corporate image relies on the fact that our own operations team, TPAs, or case handlers solve our needs in a timely and professional manner. Part of our sales proposition is to deliver a prompt solution to any traveller in need of assistance and that’s why we consistently check the quality of the network.
All businesses are struggling to retain staff in the current climate. How is Big Tree responding to such a challenge?
Industry growth has brought more opportunities in different fields of the industry not only in the assistance arena but in the administrative areas such as IT, providers, quality, invoicing, collection, marketing and sales. Big Tree is taking advantage of our new businesses coming from the expansion in Latin America through Terrawind Global Protection, our natural partner. This is being complemented with the corresponding corporate structure supporting the employee in things that matter – such as home offices for some positions, or training to reduce staff stress. Besides, new positions in the medical field are now needed to reinforce the operations area and give the assistance agents more tools to do a more efficient triage for every case.
As an established company, what advantages do you have over younger firms, and how do you see the future of travel assistance?
The travel assistance business is expanding every day. It’s very common to meet with colleagues that come from other companies and who open their own office to use their experience. This helps to make this industry bigger than ever. The culture of protection can’t be created with only two or three players. In Latin America there are roughly 30 more new distributors of travel assistance services using white labels. There are two ways to look at this market behaviour: on the one hand, it’s beneficial because it helps to grow awareness for this product faster, but on the other hand, some do not honour the responsibility with the client and fail their financial obligations with their providers. In the long run, only the serious propositions will prevail, but in the meantime some markets have to face this reality.