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Travel can be the best of times, and, unfortunately, it can also be the worst of times if a person becomes ill or has a medical emergency.
For Worldwide Rescue & Security (WRS, Inc.), the number one goal is to address that uncertainty and ensure a superior customer experience for the customers of their many partners. The organization supports members of loyalty and rewards programs through the difficulties of travel emergencies through 24/7/365 assistance for those traveling for business or pleasure, anywhere in the world.
Through its Emergency Assistance Plus program, WRS partners with associations and clubs, affinity groups, loyalty groups, professional associations, unions, and a large number of groups in the travel and hospitality market to bring emergency travel assistance benefits and services to their members.
Amy Watts, Vice President of WRS, Inc., says the company is part of AGIA Affinity Services, which has grown from a small insurance agency in the late 1950s to marketing and administering insurance and non-insurance benefit programs for over 100 affinity groups representing over 30 million members.
“Everything that we do is on behalf of our partners,” Watts says. “You won’t really see AGIA or Worldwide Rescue & Security’s names out in the marketplace, but you will see the American Airlines Emergency Assistance Plus Program. Our goal is to help enhance our partners’ value to their members, and in turn, increase their members’ loyalty.
Travel Rescue and Security Services
WRS was carved out of AGIA in 2012 to focus on travel, rescue, and security services for its clients and serves as the program manager for all the products and membership services they offer to large brands that have loyalty, rewards, and member benefit programs.
“As the overall program manager for our emergency travel assistance and security programs, we work to develop valuable services to meet our clients’ needs,” Watts says. We do so by delivering on all aspects of the business, from strategy and program development to marketing execution and member retention. We also perform program administration, sales, and customer service for the programs that we offer.”
The Emergency Assistance Plus (EA+) program is WRS’s flagship service that is available through an annual membership. Watts says EA+ complements — but doesn’t compete with — travel insurance plans so that organizations can add invaluable peace of mind for their members who may experience a medical emergency while away from home.
The plan covers medical evacuation, medical assistance, assistance for companions, and transportation home if needed. Over 100 organizations endorse EA+ for their members, Watts says, including some of the largest and most iconic associations and loyalty programs in the U.S. These organizations are able to provide their members EA+ for 30% off the standard consumer annual fees, which run about $179 for an individual to $209 for a family plan.
Extensive List of Travel Services
What members get is extensive. EA+’s collaborative network includes 61 medical and travel assistance companies, response centers worldwide on six continents, access to over 1,500 air ambulances throughout the world, experienced multi-lingual teams who manage more than 7,000 medical cases a year, and an in-house medical team of doctors and nurses that are qualified in an extensive range of specialties.
Other vital travel assistance available to EA+ members include:
Destination Intelligence regarding weather, travel, health, inoculations, travel restrictions, and special events.
Real-time Security Intelligence in the event a member feels threatened by political unrest, social instability, weather conditions, or health hazards.
Emergency Cash Advance Assistance against a valid credit card if a wallet is lost or stolen.
Lost Luggage Assistance helps track down missing baggage.
Document Replacement Assistance if important documents like a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate are lost or stolen during a trip.
Language Interpretation Assistance to connect a member with an interpreter over the phone if they are traveling in a foreign country and require translation assistance for medical emergencies.
Assistance Making Flight Arrangements, securing visas, and with other logistics if a member decides to leave a threatening situation.
“If members get sick or hurt while traveling and end up in the hospital, they have one number to call, and it’s EA+,” Watts says. “We take care of everything for them from there on out. It’s not an insurance program where they have out of pocket expenses and have to submit claims for reimbursement after the fact. We deliver all of the services, literally coordinating and providing the major benefits, including medical evacuation, medical assistance, transportation home, and assistance for traveling companions. There are no out of pocket costs to our members aside from their annual membership fee.”
Dealing With the Pandemic
Being in the travel space and dealing with COVID has certainly been a challenging endeavor for WRS, Inc. this past year, especially with many of their clients being airlines, where they offer the EA+ program to their loyalty or dividend mileage club members.
Watts says that WRS, Inc. has played a crucial role with many of its travel and association partners in helping them retain existing members while maintaining a steady revenue stream. “The pandemic has forced nearly everyone in the industry to rethink their business strategies,” she points out.
“We’ve really had to pivot from putting new offers out there for a period of time and focus even more on retention and keeping our book intact,” Watts says. “We already placed emphasis on annual renewal of the EA+ membership, which provides a consistent revenue stream to our clients. As travel shut down, we had to rapidly innovate and expand our value proposition to maintain annual renewal subscriptions at a time when people weren’t traveling. We were able to maintain a steady revenue stream to our clients at a time when they didn’t have a lot of new business coming in.”
Looking forward, WRS’s management team has been anticipating what travel may look like in the future and how to adapt their offerings to what customers may need. Watts says they are looking at modifying benefits and understanding what additional services might be more meaningful to travelers, and they have sent surveys to their own members to better determine what’s important to them.
“We’re already working to make some changes, even to what we provide as add-on benefits,” she says. “We’ve always been really nimble in addressing changing consumer needs, and we need to continue doing that. We’re not going to just do the same thing we did before. You have to keep reinventing.”
Part of those new offerings and reinventions will remain focused on helping their client brands build even greater loyalty and customer engagement.
“I like to think that loyalty is like cash in the bank,” Watts says. “When you have this strong customer loyalty and continued interaction, it just puts a little bit more in that bank.”
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