Over the past 12 months all sectors and communities have been united in a global call to action to address the impact of Covid-19. While vulnerabilities have been exposed and exacerbated across all walks of life, many would acknowledge that virus containment measures have hit the travel and tourism sector harder than any other.
2020 saw an unprecedented fall in tourism. Latest figures from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) indicates that the sector saw further setbacks in 2021, with a fall of 87 percent of international tourist arrivals in January compared to the previous year. Throughout this time, we have come together as an industry to support each other, architecting new business models and accelerating innovations that can fast-track recovery and growth.
While it has certainly been a challenging period, immunization roll out across the globe offer a more positive outlook. Widespread vaccinations will provide governments with the assurance to open borders, businesses with the ability to plan ahead and consumers with the confidence to put travel plans into action.
Over the past twelve months, innovations and solutions have needed to deliver and prove strategic value more than ever. One digital payment solution that had steady uptake across the travel landscape pre-covid is virtual cards, they already had a market size of $148 billion in 2018 and are well placed to better address legacy B2B travel payment challenges exacerbated recently.
The Mastercard Wholesale Program (MWP), which leverages virtual card technology, was already supporting over 360,000 travel providers, across 200 counties and multiple currencies before the global pandemic hit. Since the crisis the MWP has been working harder than ever to ensure that the flexible pricing structure at its core is delivering essential payment flexibility and transaction protection for travel buyers and suppliers across the sector.
For airlines, incremental sales are now a priority. More than ever it is essential that they work with travel intermediaries and agencies to capture as many sales opportunities as possible. Working together to develop and launch consumer confidence campaigns that turn travel planning into action and drive future bookings. Virtual cards give travel agencies payment guarantee, meaning that they have increased confidence when selling experiences.
Unprecedented instability across the travel sector means that airlines must ensure that they are not negatively impacted by third party bankruptcy. They need confidence that they will receive payment for sales processed by travel agencies and intermediaries, which virtual card payment guarantees deliver.
As the travel landscape continues to evolve, so does the way we need to approach solutions, implementations and ideas which is why a stronger future for travel requires a collaborative commitment and innovative mindset. Mastercard is partnering with organisations across the travel industry, architecting and implementing digital payment solution that provide essential transaction protection and support pathways to enhanced sales as well as minimizing operational cost.
Ultimately it’s now our opportunity and responsibility to encourage travel organizations, large and small, to come together more than ever before in order to realize a more resilient future for all.