Olympic visitor surge and Zika virus will test assistance providers, thinks APRIL

The combination of a surge of visitors from overseas to the 2016 Brazil Olympics, plus concerns over the Zika virus will test international travel and medical insurers and their assistance providers to the limit this summer, thinks APRIL Assistance.

The Brazil Olympics will be the biggest sporting event since the 2014 Fifa World Cup, as more than 10,500 athletes from 206 countries compete for 306 sets of medals across 28 Olympic sports. A total of 7.5 million tickets will be sold, of which 2.25 million are earmarked for visitors from abroad.

Demand for assistance services could therefore be high, as Brazil is home to both a large working expatriate population and a high profile tourist destination. The numbers of expatriates living in Brazil is very hard to measure accurately, given the lack of accurate data and the size of the illegal immigrant market, but estimates provided by oestrangeiro.org, an organisation which looks at immigration flows into Brazil, suggests that there are some 1 million expatiates living in the country, with the vast majority coming from Portugal, Japan, Italy and Spain.

On top of this, estimates provided by the World Bank point to Brazil regularly attracting over 5 million tourists each year, a figure which rose to a new high of 6.14 million during the 2014 Fifa World Cup.

This surge of humanity will, thinks APRIL Assistance, test insurers and their assistance companies and in particular will expose those who do not have a robust infrastructure capable of expanding to meet a suddenly increasing demand.

Data provided by APRIL suggests that for every million tourists holding travel insurance, around 10,000 to 20,000 might call upon their insurer for help of some kind.  Amongst the same group, those needing medical insurance support is likely to be around 1000 to 2000 per million.

However, factor in at least a 50% rise in tourists visiting the Olympics and the media interest in the Zika virus which has hit Brazil this summer and these figures could change radically. Rio de Janeiro, which will host the Olympic Games between 5 and 21 August, is the second hardest hit region by the Zika virus.

Grégoire Ezanno, business development director of APRIL Assistance which has a global network of integrated 24/7 contact centres in 3 continents, comments, “We believe this summer will prove to be a very busy period for both travel insurers and their assistance providers in Brazil. Organisations such as ours, which has a well-diversified and robust network is well positioned to handle the expected jump in traffic, as tourists come to grips with lost luggage and delays during the Olympics.” We are especially well positioned with our own 24/7 contact centre based in Sao Paulo that is specialised in travel and expatriates assistance services, able to cope with seasonality variations.

Ezanno continues, “Ordinarily, we might expect the total number of calls for travel related assistance to jump to anything up to 40,000 during the peak summer period, allowing for the fact that not everyone will have bought insurance. With many Olympic tickets having been sold before the Zika virus outbreak was announced in the media, however, a significantly increased  minority might start to use their medical assistance to check symptoms of illnesses and seek adviceScience Articles, so we will be gearing up for an increase in medical assistance traffic due to Zika.”

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