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Comment: Travelling with confidence in a post-pandemic environment

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Flexibility and clear terms and conditions are key to rebuilding consumer confidence, says John Harris, vice-president travel at emerchantpay

The travel industry is experiencing the advent of a new age of travel. While the devastating effects of Covid-19 are still being felt in parts of the world, we are already seeing certain regions take to the skies as a result of vaccination rollouts. In fact, research by McKinsey & Company reveals that travelling will be the second most desired activity among global respondents this year.

With countries like the US and UK cautiously opening their borders for travellers, it is imperative for the travel industry to understand what travelling will look like in a post-pandemic environment. For example, travellers worldwide have never looked at terms and conditions and travel and cancellation policies as closely as they have now due to 18 months of volatility within the travel industry.

As such, having a thorough understanding of travel terms and conditions when booking a holiday, either domestic or international, and keeping up to date with travel updates is key in helping build back consumer confidence.

Making travel policy, terms and conditions clear for an evolving market

Prior to the pandemic, travellers were not accustomed to regular holiday cancellations or flight delays. It was often viewed as less important to have an in-depth understanding of travel requirements and payment options. Now, travel merchants have had to make terms and conditions explicitly clear as consumers are increasingly in tune with the risk of travelling than ever before.

With government guidelines and industry body information being sent out daily as a result of the pandemic, travellers are researching their destination and booking guidelines to ensure that they are not at risk of losing their money. This has led to consumers having more flexible and cheaper options for refunds and changes.

For travel merchants, having clear terms means consumers have more trust in getting a refund or booking amendment in preparation for potential Covid restrictions. Additionally, businesses would do well in creating specific insurance offerings (such as Covid insurance) that guarantee protection over your customer’s payment.

With the excitement that comes with the ability to travel once more, consumers are also booking their holidays with a shorter time to departure. Research shows that travel-related searches including keywords such as ‘tonight’ and ‘today’ have increased more than 519% in the past five years alone. This suggests that travel merchants should be more inclined to enable customers to have the freedom to change or alter their booking at any time.

Easyjet, for example, does just this. Its terms and conditions explain that if a trip is impacted by a lockdown travel ban or mandatory hotel quarantine, customers can transfer their flight for free to a later date, up to two hours before departure. Conditions like this are key in promoting customer loyalty, as it creates cost-saving solutions for the consumer.

A predicted rise in travel agent bookings

While we are seeing more travel merchants create solutions to ensure their customers’ payments are protected, the volatility created by the pandemic has resulted in the increase in travel agent bookings. This, in part, is due to the fact that it is simply more convenient to have a third-party company manage your bookings.

By doing so, travel agents will be the ones responsible, should something go wrong. Having diverse payment offerings that cater to evolving consumer needs and demands is key. This enables travellers anywhere in the world to use a local payment method that they prefer are most comfortable with, in order to book a holiday.

By working with a payments provider that acts as an integrated partner and shares insights and expertise to increase payments performance, travel merchants will be given the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive.

Optimising the payment experience

Maintaining flexibility and adopting new, preferred payment options is essential in a post-pandemic environment. Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) for example, has the potential to help tourism soar by making holidays and travel more affordable for consumers. The opportunity to travel using BNPL methods allows consumers to better manage their cash flow and salary.

An example of this can be seen in Malaysia Airlines’ partnership with Fly Now Pay Later, a UK company offering UK travellers the option to book their trip now and pay in instalments. According to Global Data’s UK Sentiment Tracker tool, consumers are looking to save more over the next six months compared to pre-pandemic levels in early 2020.

As such, BNPL provides merchants with the opportunity to tap into the expected resurgence in travel as Covid restrictions continue to ease. Consumers are more aware than ever of the policies, terms and conditions surrounding their booking. They know what they want, and they require clarity from travel merchants.

Working closely with a payment service provider that knows the industry and has a global acquiring network can connect travel agencies, OTAs, hotel chains and tour operators to travellers anywhere, by offering them their preferred payment methods. This, in turn, allows travel merchants to focus on creating the best possible planning experience, all while knowing that their customers are completing the booking process with a tailored payment experience that helps them travel with confidence.

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