Euro-Center Thailand seeing rapid growth

Stomach ache, fatigue and dog bites. That is part of the everyday life at the Euro-Center Thailand office, which is the representative office of six independent insurance companies in the Nordic countries, Germany and The Netherlands. The companies have different products but are all a part of European Travel Insurance Group – known as “Europæiske” in Denmark.
     “The customer’s needs are in focus here, where we can offer assistance on the spot. We know the customers contact us when they are in need of assistance or advice. Quick action and empathy is essential for our service; and good communication skills too,” Ytt Prabha says, and adds that the ten employees at Euro-Center all together speaks 11 different languages.
     Ytt Prabha is the Managing Director of Euro-Center Thailand. Despite her name she is Danish of origin.
     “My first name is from the Nordic mythology, and I have got the family name from my long-time marriage with a Thai architect and businessman,” she explains.
     Euro-Center Thailand is growing rapidly. From approximately 4-500 cases in the start in 1989, Euro-Center Thailand handled 9,000 cases in 2003. Most common illnesses are stomach ache and fatigue. On the more serious side there are around 20 fatal motorcycle accidents in a year – especially at Phuket, Koh Samui and Bali.
     “The number of theft cases has decreased. The travellers have learnt to take better care of their belongings. You almost have to be more careful in Scandinavia than you have to be here”, Ytt Prabha says.
     Until recently Euro-Center’s customers were tourists and long-term travellers, but in recent years the number of expatriate cases has increased. This is another kind of clients.
     “The business people are more independent, so they handle the matters themselves and claim the cost later.”
     The expansion of business cases in China is the reason why Euro-Center Thailand half a year ago opened a satellite office in Peking. In the future it will be an independent Euro-Center.
     “It is important for us to be abreast of trends. There are big cultural and language barriers in China. The Peking office is managed by a Dane who speaks Chinese fluently, and that is a big advantage. As a funny side note I can remark that a large number of Scandinavian children are now born in China. Euro-Center Thailand can now call ourselves experts on the where and how’s of deliveries,” Ytt Prabha says with a laugh.
     “SARS was the big issue last year. We had many enquiries from companies and policy holders, so we were really busy. And we could feel a big drop in the numbers of travellers. Now the situation is back to normal again. Unlike SARS the bird flu crisis did not seem to bother people,” Ytt Prabha tells.
     She adds that today travellers are very well prepared and often have obtained information at the internet to maximize their stay abroad.
     “In the beginning of Euro-Center’s existence we were pestered by many swindle cases. It could be a man who had send in a bogus insurance claim for a broken leg. Often I showed up in person to find him sitting in a bar with a beer in his hand and in perfect health. We still receive false hospital bills, but we systematically check if they are real. It is incredible how genuine the bogus hospital bills look, but we have learned the cheaters’ tricks,” Ytt Prabha says.
     Ytt Prabha estimates Euro-Center handles 40 swindle cases per year. Euro-Center’s high moral standards dictate “the benefit of the doubt always go to the customer.”
     “That is why I am proud to represent the company. We always assist the customers first and ask questions later,” Ytt Prabha says.
     Euro-Center Thailand was the brainchild of former CEO of Europæiske Rejseforsikring in Denmark, Leif Poulsen. It opened its doors in 1989 as the first overseas Euro-Center. Ytt Prabha was the chief from day one.
     Previously Ytt Prabha worked in SAS and the travel trade. She has had good use of her experiences from the travel business.
     “Pre-Euro-Center SAS was part of the assistance network for European Travel Insurance. Therefore you would often see the SAS offices packed with backpackers seeking on-the-spot assistance, which SAS found a bit problematic since they were introducing a new service for business travellers. Somehow the two concepts hardly matched,” Ytt Prabha tells.
     The first years Euro-Center shared office space with SAS at Siam Square, but after six years Euro-Center moved to the present area. Since June last year the office was relocated to 318 Phyathai Road – very centrally in Bangkok and just a few minutes from Asia Hotel and Ratchatevi Skytrain station.
     “The locality of a Euro-Center is very important. We have many walk-in clients, and every taxi and tuk-tuk driver know Asia Hotel,” Ytt Prabha says.
     In the beginning Euro-Center Thailand mainly covered Thailand. Now Euro-Center Thailand covers 19 countries in Asia – from Japan in east and China in north to Pakistan in west and Indonesia in south.
     80 percent of our cases are from Nordic policy holders, and many of them travel individually with Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar as the most popular destinations.
     Euro-Center Thailand is open during ordinary opening hours. When the office in Thailand is closed, calls are directed to either Euro-Alarm in Copenhagen, SOS International in Amsterdam or Mercur Assistance in Munich, which are all open 24 hours per day.

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