Wirex CEO Pavel Matveev discusses why the ever-increasing number of Asians embarking on holidays abroad means the market for mobile-based travel services in the APAC region will be ripe for exploitation.
By Pavel Matveev
The tables are turning for tourism in the APAC region. Despite being conventionally known as the travel destination of the world, more than 90 million Asian families are expected to travel abroad by 2025, fuelled by growing prosperity and the availability of affordable air fares. With an ever-increasing number of Asians embarking on holidays abroad, the market for mobile-based travel services in the region is ripe for exploitation.
Asia’s travellers are already spoilt for choice when it comes to mobile platforms for booking everything from flights to accommodation, airport transfers and tickets to famous tourist attractions. Mobile usage is so entrenched in the modern travel experience that people frequently rely on entirely mobile apps like Google Maps to navigate the world, yet travel payment solutions continue to lag behind – despite the demand.
Roughly half of consumers in APAC use mobile payments for day-to-day purchases, yet long lines of weary travellers in front of money changers are still a common sight in many parts of Asia. In short, conventional currency exchange remains inconvenient, expensive and unrewarding for travellers.
For travel service providers and borderless FinTech players, this presents an incredible opportunity to boost their bottom line, as well as expand their customer base. Likewise, travellers will be empowered to easily manage multiple currencies and carry large denominations of money via mobile payment platforms without being weighed down by heaps of banknotes and coins. Consumers in Asia-Pacific, largely from China, are leading the market for mobile payments usage in daily transactions, and it is reasonable that they expect to be able to use the same payment methods when travelling overseas.
Travel-led payments innovation
Driven by the burgeoning APAC travel market and wider demand for ‘anytime, anywhere’ banking services, platforms that provide access to affordable exchange rates and convenient digital payments during travel are emerging to challenge conventional, bank-based currency exchange and services.
Recognising the power of the Asian travel class, these newcomers are future-proofing payments and blurring the borders between nations.
Wirex is one example of Europe-based borderless payment platforms that is making waves in the Asia-Pacific travel market. Targeting Asian travellers who journey abroad for business or leisure, it recently introduced the Wirex Visa travelcard in Singapore – a multicurrency card that allows customers to spend more than 150 traditional and cryptocurrencies with zero exchange rates for fiat-to-fiat currency exchange.
In addition to its cross-border payment solutions, Wirex is also working closely with established financial institutions to make it easier for customers to use their money wherever they are in the world.
Collaborations of this nature mean that Wirex customers enjoy the benefits of borderless payments combined with the widespread acceptance of established infrastructure providers like Visa. Building upon programmes such as the Visa Ready for Transit programme, which connects travellers with foreign transit networks, this flagship partnership empowers travellers to spend crypto and fiat currencies at more than 56 million locations, vendors and outlets worldwide.
Uncapping potential with trust
As payments data starts accumulating, payments businesses can provide a link between various service providers and customers – sharing individualised offers and rewards while identifying more accurate growth trends in consumer behaviour.
Given the unparalleled convenience of seamless transactions, borderless payment platforms will also provide notable advantages for small and micro travel businesses, including independent tour guides and urban mobility vendors, who wishes to tap into Asia’s growing travel market for their livelihood.
Building trust is a major obstacle for the nascent travel payment space. Travellers and merchants still worry about safety and security when using digital payment systems, particularly while abroad. This is a result of several factors, including the public association of digital payments with fraud and money laundering and an almost-universal institutional and governmental reluctance to implement appropriate regulations governing digital currency and payments.
With a sound and innovative regulatory framework in place, such as those pioneered by China, Japan, and Singapore, travellers can enjoy greater peace-of-mind when it comes to their money. Payment platforms can also leverage their increased focus on customer experience to build trust: real-time customer service, regular operating system maintenance and enhanced security measures are just three pertinent examples of the ways in which ‘challenger’ payments companies have an advantage over conventional financial institutions.
Borderless payment platforms have progressed from mere novelties to vital tools in the arsenal of digital-savvy travellers. If properly implemented and regulated, they can transform a section of the travel industry that currently lags behind in terms of technology – as well as leveraging the burgeoning APAC travel market. Customers and merchants alike will be able to benefit from more convenient, economical and rewarding payments methods. For now and in the future, Asia’s travellers are roaming wider and further than ever before. Digital enterprises have to be prepared to meet them at the gate.