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“Developments in the travel industry over the next five years” With Ross Thompson

I have always looked at what I do as helping someone during what may very well be the worst day or time of their life, From A kidnapping to contracting a deadly and contagions disease far from home like COVID-19. What we do is show up with the right knowledge, resources and experience when all […]

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I have always looked at what I do as helping someone during what may very well be the worst day or time of their life, From A kidnapping to contracting a deadly and contagions disease far from home like COVID-19. What we do is show up with the right knowledge, resources and experience when all seems impossible.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ross Thompson, Founder and CEO of COVAC GLOBAL.

Mr. Thompson has been deeply involved in intelligence, security and crisis management since 2006. Ross has a proven operational background, having led teams to accomplish highly-sensitive international intelligence gathering/collection operations for both government and corporate entities. Ross has worked closely with clients in the private sector as a senior security consultant with Investigative Management Group and senior manager for a global specialist crisis response group. Ross went on be a co-founder and managing director of Classified Worldwide, LLC, a global security, intelligence and crisis management firm specializing in frontier and emerging markets.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was 14 years old on 9/11 and living in New York City. I saw AA Flight 11 fly over midtown Manhattan and the ensuing black smoke that arose after it hit the North Tower. It was a day I will never forget, and my father took me down to ground zero that week to show me what terrorism looked like. I went to the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University and have been involved in overseas intelligence, security and crisis response since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I have so many, some I can talk about and many others I cannot. One though stands out as it was one that defined the my first company Classified Worldwide. Hurricane Maria had just hit the Caribbean and devastated Puerto Rico. Since we were based in Miami and were known as Latin American experts we got a call from a risk response company in London that needed us to got and locate a senior manager of a US Pharmaceuticals company in Mayaguez, PR and deliver her Cash and Satellite phones so she could contact her bosses and let them know he was OK. My partner and I Horacio (who was a former instructor for the Argentine Special Forces) flew from Miami to Santo Domingo, DR with the sat phones where we linked up with a good contact of ours who was a Major in the Dominican Air Force. He arranged a Sikorky-76 helicopter for us piloted by some other former DR military pilots. We didn’t know where we were going to land and Mayaguez had been hit hard but we knew there were some parking lots and hospital with a heli-pad (didn’t know the condition) and that was about it. We got in the helicopter and flew over. We had the woman’s last know address but no ground transport as that part of the island had a total black out of communications ( no cell phones-hence us bringing the sat phones.) We flew low over Mayaguez — a place that had no water or electricity for more than a week. Needless to say when we felw over in that big helicopter we woke up the whole town. We looked for a place to land which ended up being a group of baseball field that they had also used to lock up the local horses in- So our pilots had to deal with horses running round as they tried to land. The fields were not in the best part of town and dozens if not a few hundred people started coming out to see what was happening. Aging-these people had not seen help for more than a week. It stared to look like this may be a bad situation. I honestly thought there was a good chance we were going to robbed, shot or worse when we landed. Our pilots were getting a bit nervous too and relayed to us that we would have only 10 mikes (minutes) on the ground before they would get out of there! We landed, opened the doors, got out of the helicopter to a confused crowd — this did not look for feel good. A slim man with long white hair and cut-off jean shorts emerged from the crowd and ask what we were here to do? We responded that we were here to do a well-fare check and see if someone was ok? He simply asked if we had some gas for his car and if we did he would gladly take us to the address. The point here is if you do things you are not very comfortable with you sometimes find kind people along the way and good outcomes. We since gained a reputation for doing things others cant or wont.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

Surround yourself with the right people. By that I mean people that are more experienced, knowledgeable and patient than you and find a mentor or two or three.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have had a lot of great mentors along the way, My longtime partner Horacio who got out of the helicopter with me PR was certainly one of them. Two other of note are Tom Cash who was the former head of the DEA’s Miami Office and Jack Cloonan who is probably the one of the top two experts in the secretive Kidnap for Ransom industry. Jack was an FBI Special Agent in New York and was heavily involved with interviewing terrorists in the middle east. He was the antithesis of the CIA’s now criticized interrogation methods. Jack would be kind and genuinely interested in their lives and their families. I recall one story about how he even took one swimming in the sea. I could go on about both Tom and Jack and many others.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

During the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak I was traveling often to our offices in Mexico City. Once Covid-19 got back and we couldn’t travel I knew this would be with us for a while. Having worked closely with the global insurance and assistance market I started looking for a product that would bring me home if I got covid in Mexico or anywhere else outside the US. Nothing existed and nobody wanted to touch it. So we began the complex process to developing COVAC GLOBAL, the first fully indemnified membership program that will arrange and pay for repatriation back home should you get covid-19 while traveling. We do not require there to be a hospitalization or a medical necessity to be brought back home.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

I guess the simple fact that nobody, not insurance or other medical companies will cover an evacuation back home if you get COVID-19 while traveling.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

Its going to make everyone in the industry take a good hard look at the value they are bringing to the market for far too long insurance and memebrhsip companies would provide cheap and sometimes expensive solutions that really covered nothing. Or the client would have to have so many things wring with them for the provider to do anything meaningful.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

This goes back to my previous answer. There will have to be a good hard look at what value you are providing. An potential customers are going to want products with teeth that can deliver if things go bad like getting covid.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

My wife and 2 and half year old son would say the Four Seasons at Walt Disney World. I would probably say the Four Seasons anywhere with them!

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have always looked at what I do as helping someone during what may very well be the worst day or time of their life, From A kidnapping to contracting a deadly and contagions disease far from home like COVID-19. What we do is show up with the right knowledge, resources and experience when all seems impossible.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a Christian and follower of Jesus Christ. I think if we can just step back and look at each person or situation through his eyes I think there will be a whole lot more compassion and tolerance in this world, he never turned anyone and look a risk to love those who needed it the most. Be kind and take the risk to love — even those you may not agree with — listen and love.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Ross Thompson Twitter https://www.linkedin.com/in/ross-thompson-20881a82/

COVAC GLOBAL Instagram https://www.instagram.com/covacglobal/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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