Cashless Tourism: A New Trend or Here to Stay?

Societies around the world are increasingly going cashless spurned by the Covid pandemic of 2020 which necessitated a swift and drastic change in how businesses handled monetary transactions. From digital wallets to credit cards, people became increasingly comfortable using and trusting technology to meet daily needs.

Renowned travel expert and #1 Amazon bestselling author of Hospitality from Within Sarah Dandashy spoke to the trend noting “how easy is it to be able to just pay for everything on our credit card and/or on our phones?… and you can even think about it. Maybe the last time you went to your local coffee shop – they probably don’t even accept cash anymore. Everybody is going towards the direction of digital payments and digital currencies.”

An article in the New York Times goes investigates the challenges travelers have spending cash on vacation. “On a recent trip to England, Andrew Dodson, 35, and his wife, Erin, 32, who live in Traverse City, Mich., had an unexpected problem: No matter how hard they tried, they couldn’t spend the 700 British pounds they’d brought along.”

The insights provided in this article concur with Dandashy’s thoughts on the ease of traveling without the need to get local currency. It truly appears that the days of looking for currency exchanges, getting to the bank before it closes, finding an ATM, or relying on traveler’s checks will be a thing of the past sooner rather than later.

Dandashy talked about how many people don’t carry cash often, especially when traveling internationally. “We’re even seeing different companies really experiment and explore, I should say, digital tipping as well. One big leader in the industry eTip, they are leading the charge when it comes to digital and cashless tipping.”

This is just one of the many trends making a splash in the tourism industry including:

  • Digital wallets and BNPL (Buy-Now-Pay-Later) methods
    In the United Kingdom, 65% of payments are made through contactless methods. Mobile wallet options continue to expand with major players such as Google Pay, Apple, and Paypal becoming a more common part of the travel landscape.
  • The rise of travel-related subscription services
    2022 has seen the addition of subscription services to travel company offerings. This helps create stability and some companies are adding a variety or perks for subscribers to keep existing clients and find new ones.
  • Use of cryptocurrencies to book and pay for travel
    Travelers could book travel with cryptocurrencies in 2012, and blockchain technology is continuing to streamline payment processes and procedures. Additional benefits include advanced security features, no currency exchange fees, company access to individual data, and lower travel costs.
  • Importance of creating seamless mobile payment experiences
    “According to Worldpay, 43% of passengers book a flight starting with social media offers, so it’s crucial to ensure the transition between social channels and your mobile website is seamless.”
  • Guest checkout services
    Self-service options continue to be critical for businesses to meet customer expectations and support customer satisfaction. Self-checkouts streamline payment processes and allow travelers to move at their own pace without having to wait on others to process payments and checkouts.

And many businesses abroad will only accept contactless payments as contactless technology has been standard for many counties outside the U.S. for nearly a decade. In fact, the same article notes that “Mastercard reports that half its transactions worldwide are now contactless.” Contactless credit and debit cards can also be used on many public transit systems removing the need for travelers to get location-specific transit cards and figuring out how and where to reload them.

Dandashy noted that these trends are interesting but could “be a little bit more challenging for smaller businesses but at the end of the day, to be able to smooth transactions and to just make it easier for customers of all backgrounds to be able to pay for a service or for an item cashless is definitely the way to go.”

So, are cashless payments a new trend or here to stay? Dandashy certainly believes that all evidence points to cashless tourism being the way of the future. “The industry is certainly evolving in many, many ways but definitely cashless and digital payments are here to stay.”

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