The travel industry is experiencing a significant rebound after a relatively slow last few years. But although people are traveling again, they aren’t necessarily doing so in the ways they did before COVID-19.
Indeed, online payments, fintech products, and greater worldwide connectivity are changing and evolving the travel industry in more ways than one. Today, let’s break down how fintech products and online services are shifting the travel experience for millions of people around the globe.
Pay From Anywhere
Perhaps the most visible evolution of the travel industry is the ability for consumers to pay from practically everywhere. These days, travelers are used to seamless, contactless payments from digital and e-commerce services. For example, it’s now possible to pay for rideshares or rent someone’s car from anywhere using a mobile app on a smartphone.
The same is true for travelers who need to make online bookings. No longer do travelers expect to have to fork over cash for travel accommodations, food, or even tours through important areas and landmarks. Instead, they expect to be able to pay for these luxuries and services from anywhere in the world.
On the plus side, this makes travel much more flexible and accommodating for variable schedules. It’s now possible, for instance, for travelers to change their upcoming tour by paying for a new one from afar just an hour or even less in advance. This trend ties into the next major evolution of the travel industry…
Multiple Payment Methods
The rise of multiple payment methods is never going away – it’s simply too convenient for travelers to ignore! These days, it’s common for even rural shops and services to offer several ways to pay, ranging from cash to credit and debit card payments to e-wallets and payments using services.
These multiple payment methods are phenomenal for traveler flexibility and convenience. But they are also good for tourist-heavy businesses and locations. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the more ways a business offers to pay, the more money they make and the more money they have to set aside to grow their business.
This is certainly true in the travel industry. For example, the Travel Payments Guide indicates that more travelers are electing to pay for their digital travel expenses using alternative methods such as e-wallets instead of cash or debit cards. These methods account for about 51% of total e-commerce spending around the globe.
Travelers no longer need to worry about having the right currency in their pockets to pay for food, accommodations, and other expenditures.
Easier Currency Exchange
That said, fintech products and platforms also make exchanging one currency for the other easier than ever. Since online exchanges can happen instantaneously, it’s possible for a traveler to:
- Have American dollars in their account
- Need euros to pay for a croissant from a French café
- Switch the dollars to euros via their account
- Then pay for the croissant using euros, all with a contactless, seamless digital payment system
This indicates that travelers won’t have to plan ahead when it comes to carrying cash on their persons. In fact, fewer people are carrying cash now than ever before. When you can have almost any worldwide currency on your device, why would you bother having limiting paper or coin currencies in your pocket?
This touches on another big online payment trend that’s heavily affecting the travel industry: cryptocurrencies!
Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are as popular as ever. More importantly, many businesses now accept Bitcoin and similar crypto tokens as legal tender. This has opened up the true, decentralized possibilities of the blockchain financial system.
Crypto payments are often advantageous for travelers because:
- The coins aren’t limited to national borders. For example, it’s quite possible to pay for something in Bitcoin in both America and Saudi Arabia. You don’t need to worry about exchanges using crypto tokens, provided the place you are patronizing accepts the tokens.
- Crypto payments are almost instantaneous. When you pay for something with a crypto token, the transaction passes in microseconds, and the ledger is updated shortly after.
- Crypto payments are also totally secure. Even if your device gets stolen, the thief may not necessarily have access to your crypto wallet without the appropriate password. Vendors also benefit from increased security; they can accept crypto tokens as an earnings stream from travelers and tourists without worrying about being scammed.
All of these benefits will likely improve as crypto becomes more accepted worldwide. It truly is the worldwide currency solution, so it’s a natural fit for modern, fintech-oriented travelers!
Lesser Chances of Theft
As touched on several times above, fintech products like contactless and wireless payments, online e-wallets, and crypto tokens minimize travelers’ likelihood of dealing with theft. Previously, one had to be careful when carrying cash in some of the more dangerous parts of the world, plus take care not to stray too far from tourist-approved neighborhoods/districts.
While these are still wise ideas, travelers don’t have to worry nearly as much about losing their entire travel nest egg from a mugging incident. Gone are the days of having to hide bills of a nation’s local currency in your shoe. Now you can keep all of your currency on your device or in the cloud.
This lower chance of theft may cause some travelers to be more adventurous with their expeditions.
Online Travel Booking
According to Business Insider, just under 40% of travel is booked either completely or partially online. Indeed, online travel booking sites are helpful for travelers because they:
- Allow travelers to book flights or other travel accommodations quickly and easily from anywhere in the world
- Often net travelers fantastic deals or savings, especially in terms of airfare
Given the financial constraints over the last few years, many people still want to travel but can’t do it at the levels they enjoyed before. Online booking sites may allow travelers to continue to take to the skies by finding affordable, budget-conscious redeye flights or travel accommodations.
Since online travel booking has been so successful, this trend will probably continue for years to come. Travel agents and phone-based booking services, once staples of the industry, are now considered unnecessary at best and a waste of money at worst.
Book Now Pay Later Travel Purchases
In addition to these other trends, the “buy now, pay later,” or BNPL trend is spreading across the retail and travel industries. In a nutshell, this trend means that companies allow patrons – local or traveling tourists – to purchase products on credit and then pay over time, similar to financing furniture.
However, this payment plan system is very convenient for worldwide travelers thanks to the many ways to pay. Travel merchants are frequently using the BNPL method to upsell products. For example, imagine a hotel service that a traveling couple approaches.
The hotel runs a credit check on the couple and finds that their credit is excellent. They then offer various ancillary services or luxuries with the couple’s chosen hotel room, like a massage or an upgrade for travel insurance. Since they aren’t paying at the moment anyway, the couple agrees to the up charges.
The BNPL travel purchase trend is, in many ways, a reversion back to the credit-heavy shopping sprees of the 80s and 90s. Time will tell whether it sticks around or if it is a short-term blip partly driven by the COVID-19 pandemic of the last two years.
In the end, online payments and fintech products will continue to evolve the travel industry and the behaviors of tourists. As the world becomes more interconnected and crypto decentralizes currency, the travel industry will have to evolve with shifting consumer tastes and preferences.
Fortunately, the fintech industry is up to the challenge. New apps, platforms, and services crop up each month. We’re looking forward to seeing how the convenience and flexibility of modern travel improve even further in the years to come!
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