By Dean Farley, Global Business Development Manager – Travel & Hospitality – GSV @ Worldline
The hospitality and travel industry suffered considerably from the COVID-19 pandemic and with only 55% occupancy rates for UK hotels, PwC reported the ‘bleakest outlook since benchmarking began’. Of course, as the vaccination roll-out continues, the demand for travel will pick up, however it is still likely that many vacations will remain ‘staycations’ because of many popular travel destinations being behind the UK in vaccination roll-out.
With the hospitality, travel and tourism economy being the fourth largest employer in the UK, it is unlikely that the sector will see a full economic recovery for up to four years. Some of the changes brought on by the pandemic may be permanent, with the long-term adoption of home working resulting in business travel being cut by as much as 20%.
Furthermore, much of the industry have found that systems put in place as a necessity during the hight of the pandemic, such as app-based ordering and self-service kiosks in the restaurant industry, are being embraced by customers and saving businesses money. Therefore, the hospitality sector needs to be doing everything it can to streamline and drive efficiencies, and payments play a significant role in this. The very best systems do not just save travel and tourism companies processing fees for transactions, they enable more customers to pay securely and in the way that suits them.
Enhancing customer experiences
Now that tourism is returning, the sector is facing new challenges. It is already widely digitalised, with most bookings now completed online and digital check-ins via kiosks or mobile apps are available at many hotels. However, while technology to use these digital methods now widely exists, they are still not a standard operation within many hospitality outlets.
These digitalised payment methods will not only free up staff time but offer a much more hygienic service – being able to present hotels as safe from infection will be key in helping customers get over their reticence to travel. Similarly, the pandemic has driven the adoption of alternative payment methods (APMs) as contactless payments became more common. Being able to accept payments from eWallets is crucial in allowing tourists to pay for services in the way that they want.
The travel and hospitality industry could also become revolutionised by data. For example, an individual leaves hundreds of data points during their time in a hotel, and these can be utilised to make changes, large or small, that drive profits. Having a modern payments system in place will allow data to be linked from other sections of the business directly to the company’s bottom line.
An omnichannel solution to enhance customer experiences
Following the emerging consumer trends within the hospitality and travel industry that has emerged because of the pandemic, there is a clear need for merchants to create a new, omnichannel experience for their consumers.
Although it is impossible to know what the pandemic will change in the long run, one thing for certain is that everyday life is being more digitised and connected. Travel and hospitality have already taken great strides in this, and when faced with a difficult economic terrain for the next few years they should be building upon the structures that are already there, particularly around payments, to ensure that they keep up with the wave of digitisation sweeping other industries.
To learn more, visit: www.worldline.com/hospitality-suite