Darren Blair: Contactless Mobile Payments Can Contribute to Duty of Care in Business Travel

The confidence of both travellers and their employers to return to travel depends on proactively managing the degree of acceptable risk and demonstrably reassuring individuals that it is safe to travel. A reliable contingency service agreed between TMCs and their clients in advance is crucial.

The confidence of both travellers and their employers to return to travel depends on proactively managing the degree of acceptable risk and demonstrably reassuring individuals that it is safe to travel. A reliable contingency service agreed between TMCs and their clients in advance is crucial.

With the number of travellers passing through airport security checkpoints fluctuating as quarantines start to ease, a lot of us are still reluctant to make business travel plans. A new report from Juniper Research forecasts a 4% decline in spend levels, largely due to the reduction in business travel and online travel booking. This contrasts with an 11% increase in the number of virtual payment transactions forecast for the same period. The usage increase is being driven by businesses needing to authorise spend remotely as a result of home working.

The return to travel, particularly in the managed travel space, will be supported by the development of new duty of care protocols. TMCs will have a huge role to play in that. There will be a continual reliance to support businesses with risk management and traveller duty of care programmes. 

Previously the travel industry was providing information, rather than actively supporting the management of critical events. There was no way of capturing activity on trip. Now you can do this by leveraging individual mobile devices.

When it comes to monitoring the wellbeing of your travellers, contactless payment data can tell you if they are transacting, how frequently they’re transacting and crucially, where they’re making payments. This level of insight has typically been the preserve of legacy corporate card providers that have struggled to package it into meaningful insight for travel managers and TMCs.

Businesses have access to powerful real-time insight provided by contactless payment. While it’s important to focus on data feeds about the external risk environment, traveller payment is a much-overlooked area. Contactless payments on mobile devices can now help to manage risk for travellers.

As a response to the pandemic, every stage of the journey from airports to hotels are asking how they can make interactions touchless. Contactless payments infrastructure has expanded quickly across the world with Apple Pay and Google Pay delivering stronger authentication meaning even high value items like plane tickets or hotel rooms can now be paid-for with the tap of a smartphone.

For travellers empowered with the right virtual payment technology it’s now possible to add a virtual commercial card to the e-wallet in a traveller’s smartphone, so that when they make a contactless payment it comes directly from their corporate bank account and automatically updates the expense management process.

Thanks to our work with Visa, their issuing partners can place virtual commercial cards on a mobile device for the first time. These were once payments business travellers made using cash or plastic, but as travel begins again, we expect travel managers to empower their people with the safest, touchless payment experience possible. As we continue to re-evaluate our behaviour considering the pandemic, it has become clear payments are going to move to mobile at an ever-faster rate.

While this was mainly consumer led in the past, the pandemic has made payment consumerization even more prevalent. Visa have recognised that this technology should be made available to business travellers globally. Travellers are used to contactless payments in their daily life, there is no requirement to educate them on the process; on the contrary it is something they expect. The clear outcome of the pandemic is the rapid increase in acceptance of contactless payment methods right around the world.

With all that in mind, how can we respond better during times of crisis? If another spike happens what could we do? With contactless payment, travel managers have the ability to provide dynamic payment to travellers any time.

One of the likely scenarios as corporate travel returns is a higher rate of disruption or many travellers needing to re-book. It could be that local outbreaks in certain destinations mean a traveller is forced to shelter in place and unable to return home until a period of quarantine has occurred.
When the unexpected happens on a large scale, even the very best corporate travel programmes need to empower employees to take decisions on the ground. Perhaps they need to book into a hotel, or at the airport, it makes sense to go ahead and buy the only remaining seat in first class for the last flight out of a hotspot. Mobile payments will help here.
In this scenario, the TMC or travel manager could send emergency funds directly to traveller’s mobile phones in the form of virtual cards to help them cope during a crisis. The flexible nature of virtual payments also means those funds could be accompanied by spend controls, so they’re only redeemable at specific merchants like hotels and airlines, or for categories of spend like travel and food.

Whilst not necessarily obvious at first glance, payments actually form a discreet connection between the traveller and the employer. This connection is always going to be secondary to direct lines of communication via consultants at the TMC, but as mobile payments take off in travel this link will increasingly help savvy travel managers to design new ways of delivering on duty of care obligations.

References

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5VP7sQ290A&t=2s

https://www.juniperresearch.com/press/press-releases/virtual-card-adoption-accelerates-to-over-$5

https://www.pymnts.com/travel-payments/2020/us-air-travel-sinks-4-pct-amid-rising-infections-quarantines/

About Conferma Pay

Conferma Pay is a global financial technology company. We design and integrate virtual payment systems that provides a more efficient, seamless and secure way to pay for for businesses.

Travel Meets Payment

Conferma Pay was born in Manchester in 2005. Since then we have connected over 700 TMCs, and directly integrate with all the major GDSs and OBTs. Our roots lie in corporate travel payment integration.

We enable our payment providers to flow virtual cards into the preferred purchasing process of any business travel buyer. Crucial to this is our network of banking partners, who have issued virtual cards in over 200 countries, in 40 currencies with over 45 commercial banking partners via all major card networks.

Our ecosystem continues to expand to meet the growing requirements of our global customer base.

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