An integral part of the trip, such as a passport, wallet and handbag, has already bevome the sanitizer and a mask. They will soon be joined by the COVID-19 insurance policy.
This is a new opportunity for insurance companies to create new customer-focused offerings as more and more countries demand mandatory reimbursement of health costs in the event that visitors become infected with the coronavirus.
Most important, however, is knowing how well the traveler is protected from being infected in a foreign country and whether there is a guarantee that he or she will receive proper attention.
ACT, a research and consulting company, inquired about the global epidemic situation, whether Tbilisians are planning a trip and how much they know about the travel insurance conditions in relation to Covid.
The ACT survey found that the majority of respondents (79%) have information that the cost of medical treatment for infection with covid19 is not covered by the usual travel insurance and epidemiological risk is in standard exceptions.
Taking into account the current situation, Georgian insurance companies have developed insurance packages, which specifically removed the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus from the exceptions and offered consumers to reimburse the costs incurred in case of accidental infection with the virus. The assumption of this exception, of course, also affected the cost of insurance due to the high risk, and the cost of one day of insurance increased by an average of 5 times.
"Covid-19 insurance has become mandatory for those entering European countries and the United States, there is a demand, and we, one of the first, offered a travel insurance package to Georgian consumers and partner travel companies, where Covid risk is included in a certain limit that meets international standards." - Tinatin Stambolishvili says, a member of the Vienna Insurance Group and director of communications for the insurance company GPI.
According to Irina Gorashvili, Director of Alternative Channels Development at Imedi L Insurance Company, they also responded quickly to the request and developed a travel insurance package to cover the risks of Covid. However, it is thought that this product is short-lived and soon, with the development of the vaccination process and the cure, the risk of covid19 will decrease and special insurance will no longer be necessary.
Abroad, with rare exceptions, as well as in Georgia, costs related to cash insurance are reimbursed by the state only for citizens and / or persons with permanent residence.
Our first protagonist is a graduate of Business School Salome, she as a responsible citizen, has already been vaccinated twice in the summer. To celebrate graduation, before starting a new phase of life - the first job, the parents handed over a specially designed amount to celebrate this joyful event, and a special surprise - a tourist trip to America, in July 2021. Personally, he had no information about Covid insurance, it seems that no one asked for it and he did not have a problem entering the country at the destination. However, unfortunately, she became infected by Covid during her stay there. Thanks to the vaccination, she got sick with the virus easily and today feels completely healthy, although his travel plans have been turned upside down.
Salome had to stay in isolation for 10 days, where she was required to take a quick test once every 3 days ($ 40 per test), as well as a mandatory PCR test that cost $ 250 on the spot, at her own expense.
It is well known, that while Covid is positively, it's prohibited to travel, than Salome had to extend her travel period, what meant the additional hotel expenses. Also, she had to re-purchase the return ticket as it was impossible to exchange the purchased ticket. In total, the expenses of Salome due to Covid was close to $ 5,000.
The second story is about Sopho, who was also infected in America, found out that he had information from local acquaintances that in case of infection, by calling a special hotline number, the US government would finance the costs related to Covid, and therefore the unpleasant moment during his trip was relatively alleviated. Sopho's fairly comfortable transportation to and from the Covid Hotel, three meals a day during the isolation period, doctor and nurse services, rapid, PCR tests, and other treatment costs were reimbursed by the U.S. government itself. However, America, in this particular case of New York State, is a rare exception that bears the costs of treating and managing a tourist infected with Covid19 on the spot. The main part of other countries of the world imposes the mentioned expenses on the tourist himself.
For the second year in a row, the Covid infection has been raging in the world, and states are fighting it more or less successfully, although the fact is that we are still far from winning over the new virus.
The field of international tourism is one that has suffered the most from the Covid pandemic and is still the most difficult to rehabilitate.
According to the website of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), according to official data, in January-March 2021, compared to 2020, international tourist traffic decreased by 83% due to high travel restrictions and the caution of tourists to protect themselves from infection.
According to a recent survey by a panel of experts organized by the UNWTO, with the intensification of the vaccination process, industry confidence has slowly increased in the May-August 2021 period. Particularly noteworthy is the EU Digital Green Certificate, which provides a common electronic database on coronavirus vaccination and immunity, which aims to promote free and safe travel to the EU during a pandemic. The certificate will operate successfully in 27 EU member states and 16 non-member countries, including Ukraine, Israel, Turkey, etc.
At this stage, Georgia is still in the red zone, which is a specific obstacle for visitors, however, for Georgian tourists who want to travel and are fully vaccinated, a Covid card is issued, on the basis of which the so-called travel abroad is made - "Apostille", which confirms the authenticity and validity of the document. For this, it is necessary for the interested person to apply to the House of Justice with a relevant request.
However, it should also be noted that due to the current pandemic and the rise of new strains, uncertainty is still high, travel restrictions still exist and this is facilitated by the uneven pace of vaccination in different countries.
According to the ACT survey, given the current situation, every fifth Tbilisian still plans to travel abroad, although the share of those wishing to travel abroad decreases with age. This trend is explained by the fact that relatively old people are a risk group for Covid-19 and therefore refrain from traveling, while young people who traveled more actively before the pandemic are now planning to become tourists despite the high risk.
When traveling, to enjoy the news and adventures, health and financial security are paramount. That is why coveted insurance is no longer a luxury and it is a necessary item for travel and a guarantee of peace of mind.
Author: Ana Ivanishvili
Leadership in Marketing and Communications, ACT
Adapting to covid-reality has become a necessity of the present. People have to learn to live with it, and countries have to determine the consequences of a pandemic and work actively on it. The sphere of education did not lag behind this covid chaos. This sphere received a rather strong blow. First the learning process was stopped everywhere and then, all over the world had to continue the learning path in a new format.
The World Bank released a special report in 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on higher education. As a result of the situational analysis of Europe and Asia, the report identified several important problems that affected the higher education institutions of these two continents as a result of the pandemic. It has been found that the problem of internet delivery is equally troubling to people on different continents - low speeds fail to provide a dynamic online learning process, and better quality service is an expensive pleasure for many of them. In addition, access to personal computers was a problem. Added to all this was the fact that the higher education institutions themselves did not have the necessary infrastructure for online teaching, which would have been targeted at a large number of users, nor were members of the academic team ready to fully digitize the lectures. In addition, the World Bank report also states that distance learning is not always effective, especially during activities such as discussions, interactive group work, and more. That is, everything that helps the student to develop the necessary skills. The report also noted that the focus on cognitive skills was often at the expense of socio-emotional skills, which is also a significant challenge.
According to international studies, the pandemic has affected the lives of more than 200 million people worldwide, including more than 157,000 Georgian students. Along with the main actors in the field of higher education - students, members of the academic and administrative teams of universities also found themselves in this whirlpool of uncertainty. Following in the footsteps of the transformed learning process, at ACT we decided to find out how ordinary Tbilisians value online learning and what they consider to be the biggest problem. As the results of the survey conducted in June show, in general, taking into account all the factors, the surveyed Tbilisians evaluate negatively online learning [out of a maximum of 10 points, this impact is assessed at 4.1 points]. Assessing the specific impact it has had on our country's higher education, the answer is even more negative [3.3 points out of a maximum of 10 points].
We asked our respondents what the difficulties were / are related to the transition of universities to online education due to the pandemic. 18% said that not everyone had / does not have access to the Internet; The other 18% cited the lack of the necessary material and technical base for online learning as the main difficulty, which combines the lack of a personal computer, lack of workspace and other technical problems. Among these difficulties, unequal access to the Internet was named as the "most problematic" for 19%.
Chart # 1. Difficulties Faced with Higher Education Institutions Switching to Online Education Due to Pandemic
At the end of last year, we conducted a survey for the United Nations Population Fund to assess the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on young people, and it is interesting to note that similar views and problems were identified with young people directly related to online learning. Young people living in Tbilisi, Imereti, Kakheti, Kvemo Kartli and Samtskhe-Javakheti participated in the study. Difficulties with online learning were cited as low readiness and technical problems for students and academic staff in online learning: low access to the Internet and lack of the necessary material and technical base for online learning. The latter problem was particularly acute in families with several members having to study and work online.
Another result of our survey is interesting - according to one in ten Tbilisians surveyed, the transition to online education has turned out to be quite negative for a certain group of society, which is associated with asociality and related stress. 11% of respondents named the lack of socialization as a serious problem, which in the future may create mental health problems for both young people and people of different generations. Incidentally, this challenge was also named as one of the topical problems in the above-mentioned survey conducted for the UN Population Fund.
It is true that online learning has been and still is associated with many difficulties, however, this method also has its advantages. We asked Tbilisians what they think is the positive effect of online learning. One in ten respondents found it difficult to assess this (12%), and 21% do not think that switching to online learning can have any positive effect at all. However, when talking about the benefits of online learning, the majority of respondents identified two important factors - saving time by 21% and protecting against the spread of the virus in a pandemic, or safety by 20%.
Graph # 2. Positive effects of online learning
As it turns out, online learning directly for young people also has its positive effects - in addition to saving time and financial resources, it allows students to easily combine learning for other jobs. These positive aspects of online learning were revealed by a survey of young people at the end of last year. The same study then also showed that because of the advantages listed, the transition to a hybrid learning model was considered important by young people.
Talking about the positive aspects of online learning, young people mentioned one more thing - the introduction of this new format has increased the opportunity and made it accessible to both Georgian and international online training courses. This is an important and strong argument for those who want to learn and develop.
Teaching format in postpandemic reality
Respondents were also asked what they thought the university teaching format should look like after the pandemic ended. It was found that the majority of Tbilisians surveyed (57%) support the idea of only offline (audit) teaching. However, the hybrid learning format also has enough proponents - 39%.
Graph # 3. What should be the format of university teaching after the end of the pandemic
Despite the difficulties associated with online learning, the idea of hybrid learning is uniquely welcomed by young people. Because the main positive effect - "combining learning with other things" turned out to be quite a weighty argument for them. That is why it is quite natural that young people will be happy to meet the existence of a hybrid learning format in the post-covid reality.
However, despite the positive attitudes of young people towards hybrid education, the transition to such a model of the Georgian university system may be premature. At this stage, the mixed model of teaching in universities is a forced response to the challenge and not a new format of teaching, which was developed to create an effective university education system.
According to the World Health Organization, the pandemic will not only be defeated, but will regain strength by the fall, and there is a high probability that distance learning and work will become an inevitable reality in the near future. That is why, with regard to the future prospects of online learning, the European Commission has developed the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) for the coming years, which outlines the priorities to be focused on outcome-oriented learning. Conducting more digital specialists, as well as creating user-friendly mechanisms and secure platforms that adhere to e-privacy and ethical standards.
Naturally, all these issues will be relevant for Georgia as well, and we can confidently assume that distance learning will become an essential component of higher education. Only time will tell how our country will be able to cope with this challenge and provide quality education for future generations. However, one thing is clear - the need to switch to forced online learning will at least help increase the digital competencies of both students and academics, enhance digital capabilities by universities, improve software, and create quality content for e-learning. It undoubtedly has the advantages that can be used effectively and boldly in the post-pandemic reality of education.
 Farnell, T., et al., 2021. The impact of COVID-19 on higher education: a review of emerging evidence. Analytical report. European Commission. EU Publications.
Author: Keso Esebua
Senior Consultant, Development Consulting
You have probably asked yourself this question many times for yourself and those gathered with friends, you have often talked to yourself - when will we be able to travel? We check the list of co-safe countries on the Internet and read, "Are we on the list of countries with red or orange status now?" On the street we are watching for a small groups of tourists and we surprised of their courage.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020, everyday life around the world has changed radically. Among the affected sectors, tourism has been named as one of the most "dangerous" activities, and if we borrow the OECD study, in 2020, even about 80% decline in international tourism worldwide was expected. But tourism is one of the important sources of economic growth in Georgia. If we look at the numbers, we will see that the revenues from this sector increased from 5% to 18% of GDP during 2010-2019, which significantly increased the budget. One is the budget, and the other is the people, who have found a source of income in this sector.
The tourism during Covid 19 like swinging on the waves - a reduction in regulations is often followed by an increase in the number of flights, overcrowded hotels, which seems to revive it. However, each new wave of pandemics detected from time to time makes today's fragile environment even more unreliable and puts the country back in a state of uncertainty. What solution remains when the environment is so volatile and the tourism sector is completely dependent on it?
The general answer to this question might be to adapt, to adapt tourism to the existing reality. However, today, traveling as a tourist does not sound very attractive. The reason for this is the feeling of insecurity, the constantly changing rate of the covid-infected, the risks of closing the borders again in a foreign country, and so on. It is at this time that domestic tourism becomes relatively promising, which avoids certain risks and allows for short-term travel.
Based on the data of the National Statistics Office of Georgia in recent years (2016-2020), it can be said that about half of the residents aged 15 and older travel within the country primarily to visit friends and relatives. It lags far behind the number of travelers for other reasons (shopping, treatment, etc.). And even 10% of our citizens do not travel locally for leisure and entertainment. It is true that this number almost doubles during the summer, but the fact is that travel in own country for leisure and fun remains a very unpopular topic. Anyway, it was like that before the pandemic and it is like that now, even in the first quarter of 2021. As expected, Tbilisi, Imereti and Adjara A / R are among the most actively visited places. By the way, in the conditions of the pandemic, compared to previous years, the number of people wishing to spend their vacation in cottages has almost doubled (up to 16%).
"I remember being proud and enjoying my lifestyle, constant travels and adventures: Berlin, Paris, Dhaka, New Delhi, Kerala ... different countries, cultures and news," said Salome, who traveled abroad quite often before the pandemic. - "Once, a friend came from Bangladesh and called me to meet him for a while. The whole evening, he was talking about Racha, Svaneti and even some lakes in astonishment. He was asking me with round eyes - what? You don't know it?. A few months after the start of the pandemic, I realized that now was the time for me to get to know my country. I have a plan - I have to visit all the national parks of Georgia this year! Reserves, see lakes. I have already been to Tskaltubo, to Kazbegi. In Samtskhe-Javakheti I also saw birds of strange beauty sitting on the lakes and I know, that now I am planning go at Chiatura. "
The survey showed that 28% of the population aged 18+ have no plans to leave the capital at all in the summer. 9% of them refused to leave Tbilisi this year because of the pandemic, citing the risks of safe vacations and declining incomes as the main reasons. 12% of respondents have not yet decided whether to rest, which is mainly attributed to the job or lack of finances.
Most of the respondents, at least 60%, consider traveling in the summer, although very few of them plan to spend the summer abroad (6%). The research showed that those who want to leave the city in summer are mostly under 54-year-olds from Tbilisi. Among them, young people under the age of 34 are mainly going to spend the holidays at the sea or in the mountains, while the population aged 35-54 is equally desirable to spend the holidays at the sea and at the family / relative's cottage.
It should come as no surprise that due to the pandemic, more than half of the population is quite confused about summer plans, which is related to the selected vacation spot, duration and, most of all, budget. One-fifth (20%) of the respondents had to change their vacation location, mostly people who had visited both sea and mountain resorts before the pandemic and / or were actively traveling abroad. It was also revealed that due to the complicated economic situation due to the pandemic and the lack of desire to stay in a foreign environment for a long time, a large proportion of travelers prefer short-term travel to long-term vacation.
Although the creation of the vaccine has raised positive expectations in the society, the problem in the tourism sector is still relevant for Georgia and the world. Moreover, the OECD predicts that in 2021 we will have to live in "survival mode" again and return to the usual mode of tourism, will remain a matter of the future. Against this background, the importance of such factors as the availability of vaccines, the increase in the number of vaccinated people, the removal of restrictions in the face of mitigated pandemic waves, etc. is becoming increasingly important. All this is directly related to the activation of tourism processes, which is vital for a country like Georgia. For a country for which tourism is one of the most important ways to deal with unemployment.
* A survey was conducted in June 2021, by random sampling, with 411 adult residents of Tbilisi. Method used - telephone interview. The statistical error of the data does not exceed 4.9%.
Author: Keti Mamadashvili
Analyst, ACT Research