The hospitality industry and the future of travel payments
Innovation in the hospitality industry has taken centre stage as customer preferences and expectations continue to evolve. Two insightful sessions during Worldline’s Rise Travel event shed light on how the guest experience is transforming and how the payment landscape is adapting to meet these changes.
Liyana Khan, Key Account Manager APAC, talked to Devinda Sooriyabandara and Barton Jackson from AMAN Group, while Laurie Gablehouse, Head of Global Travel Solutions spoke to David Cabreza from XanderPay, Heidi George from Australia’s TFE Hotels and Dhruv Sisodia from Hopper.
A Guest-Centric Approach
AMAN Group, known for luxury and exceptional service, is focusing on enhancing the guest experience from booking to departure.
The Group consists of 34 high-end properties that are known for their serene and idyllic locations, from remote hideaways in exotic destinations to urban sanctuaries in vibrant cities. AMAN Group properties pride themselves on delivering impeccable service, world-class amenities, and a deep appreciation for local culture and heritage.
For these reasons, personalisation and customisation stand as the cornerstone for crafting unforgettable guest experiences. As Devinda Sooriyabandara and Barton Jackson explain, AMAN Group uses data analytics and guest preferences to deliver bespoke services that align precisely with the individual tastes and preferences of each guest.
“It's no longer just about a hotel stay but about creating immersive experiences and offering destination activities tailored to each guest,” explained Barton adding that despite digital advancements, the human touch remains crucial in delivering a memorable guest experience. Engaging with guests from the first point of contact i.e., reservation is essential.
Discussing post-covid trends, Barton said they saw a rise in villa bookings. Guests sought more cherished moments with friends and family without being around other people. This led to increased focus on villas that offer personal butlers and chefs to minimise the need to leave the property. They also found that many guests now prefer smaller properties with open spaces.
Enhancing the overall guest experience through technology innovations has also become an essential aspect of modern hospitality management. “Technology plays a vital role in safeguarding privacy for our guests. Compliance with legislation such as PCI and GDPR is crucial, and tokenization is facilitating a seamless and secure payment experience,” said Devinda.
AMAN Group believes in continuous Innovation and is continually asking, "What's next?" and how to simplify operations. Listening to customers and asking the right questions are the key drivers of innovation for this ultra luxury segment.
For TFE Hotels’ Director of Operational Excellence, Heidi George, the focus is on achieving seamless, exceptional guest experiences and personalisation experiences for guests while also dealing with the worldwide challenge of optimising resources to enhance efficiency. “While hotels have embraced an array of technologies to empower their teams, there remains room for improvement in harnessing these resources to their full potential in driving operational efficiency,” she said.
Evolving Payment in the Hotel Industry
For David Cabreza of XanderPay, the evolving role of payment as a strategic component within the hotel industry is fascinating. This shift represents a novel approach where hotels must consider how guests prefer to make payments, including considerations related to currency. It is a captivating moment in time where two industries, hotels and travel, find themselves at the crossroads, striving to catch up with the rapidly advancing payments sector, he said, adding that in the coming year, we can anticipate witnessing intriguing developments and innovations that will further enhance the guest experience in the realm of hospitality and travel.
Embracing Flexibility in the Post-COVID Era
All the participants agreed that the hospitality industry must adapt and become more flexible, a transformation catalysed by the impact of COVID-19. This newfound flexibility is reflected in the industry's willingness to explore innovative payment methods like Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), even if not yet fully integrated.
Heidi emphasised the changing landscape, where rigid non-refundable and non-cancellable policies are giving way to a more guest-centric and flexible approach. This adaptability is essential in a post-pandemic world.
Regarding BNPL, she mentioned a strategic partnership with ZIP in Australia, illustrating how Syndney-based TFE Hotels are exploring new payment options to enhance the guest experience and reach wider audiences through marketing initiatives.
Dhruv Sisodia from Hopper underscored the importance of flexibility and accessibility, particularly in reaching diverse user groups and target markets. The flexibility in payment methods becomes a valuable asset in accommodating various traveller preferences.
David offered insights into the challenges the hotel industry faces in adopting new payment technologies. He acknowledges that hotels have historically lagged behind other industries due to various complexities, including ownership models and the time lag between booking and payment. However, he notes a shift towards centralising payment processes at the corporate level, which signals a more strategic approach to payments within hotel companies.
Additionally, the importance of partnerships, even at the corporate level, is highlighted as a key factor in navigating the evolving payments landscape.
Challenges and Strategies
Looking to the future, participants express concerns about dealing with tightening regulations and the increasing complexity of global payment systems. Managing regulatory compliance can be especially challenging for hotels with legacy systems and processes.
As for the challenges expected in the next 12 months, Heidi mentions the importance of accommodating China's outbound travellers by accepting popular payment methods like WeChat and Alipay, reflecting the industry's ongoing efforts to cater to diverse international guests.
In summary, the hospitality industry is embracing innovation in both guest experiences and payment methods, emphasising personalisation, digitalisation, security, and flexibility. Balancing customer demands with operational efficiency and regulatory compliance is key to success. Adapting to new trends and technologies will be essential for competitiveness in the evolving industry.
Navigating the Future of Travel Payments: Insights for Hospitality Merchants and Innovating the Guest Experience: A Fireside Discussion with Global Luxury Hotel Brand AMAN were just some of the thought-provoking topics discussed at the Worldline-hosted travel industry event, Rise Travel 2023. For more insights and valuable presentations from leading players in the travel, hospitality, and airline industry, visit our event page https://worldline.com/rise-travel