It’s my pleasure to pick up the baton from my colleague Alex Makowski, as we continue to unpack our latest report for travel payments leaders – ‘A Future to Bank On’.
Over the last few months, I’ve digested the three reports that have formed our #trustlytravelinsights series. Based on the wealth of comparative data and insights my key takeaways are centered around two particular topics.
First is the hype of disruption.
As with most recent macro-level crises, the pandemic and its profound ripple effects have been accompanied by predictions and pronouncements of significant, seismic change. Things ‘never returning’ to normal. The emergence of a ‘new normal’, in which aspects of society’s behaviour will shift, both radically and permanently.
COVID-19 has inevitably provided a new, and indeed incredibly difficult, context to how travel companies operate (or don’t). It’s accelerated certain things – particularly around technology – for both consumers and merchants.
But we shouldn’t confuse context with fundamentals. Many of the pressures and concerns raised by payments executives in our surveys were not new, or created by the pandemic.
In ‘The new (old) normal’ (pp 10-12), Sofia Alexus, Trustly’s Director of Business Area Operations, discusses this idea and posits what it means for payments executives. And the dashboard which follows goes on to analyse the data, contrasting airlines vs. OTAs, as well as country variances. Definitely worth a read as we emerge into the not-so-new.
Second is uncertainty.
For me, uncertainty has been the byword of the pandemic. For all of us, and in many different ways. For travel merchants in particular, the uncertainty regarding fund flows, settlement, reserve requirements, refunding and cash flow has been pronounced – painful for most, and sadly fatal for others.
This uncertainty is only set to continue. Even when restrictions have all but faded into a memory, traditional card payments are unlikely to provide the reassurance or predictability that CFOs and boards are pressing for. The travel and aviation sector has always been considered higher risk by acquirers – now even more so. The issues I mention above – punitive rolling reserve requirements, extended settlement delays, processing fees and administrative penalties – will likely only become a greater challenge as we move through this year and into and hopefully more robust 2022.
On this topic, one of my favourite articles in this report is ‘Nine questions’ (pp 40-41). As the title suggests, it poses nine questions, centred around three topics: (i) the political, legal and regulatory landscape; (ii) the financial outlook and the economics of payments; and (iii) travellers and technology.
Such questions cannot eliminate much of the uncertainty which has plagued the sector during COVID-19, but they’re a great place to start.
I hope you find these articles (and the overall report) useful. If you’ve not already received a copy of the report, you can download yours here. And if you missed Alex Makowski’s blog with his perspectives on the report, you can find it here. Coming next, my colleague Simon Eve’s blog on what most caught his eye.