Business Class: Asia’s Outbound Tourism is the Boarding Pass for Enterprises in Today's Digital Economy
Business Class: Asia’s Outbound Tourism is the Boarding Pass for Enterprises in Today's Digital Economy
  • By Pavel Matveev, CEO and Co-Founder of Wirex
  • 승인 2019.11.19 07:50
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Pavel Matveev
Pavel Matveev


As travel destinations go, Asia-Pacific offers some unique multi-cultural experiences that travelers hope for. However, what sometimes goes forgotten is that the Asian market for outbound travel has been increasing apace with economic affluence in the region, and 90 million more Asian households are expected to travel cross-border by 2025. With more and more people throughout Asia-Pacific joining the global traveling class, future-forward enterprises are required to be en route to creating connected solutions to satisfy this growing segment. 

Homo mobilicus -  “mobile native” Asian travelers

Nowadays, mobile usage is entrenched in the modern travel experience that people frequently rely on mobile apps to book their rides to the airport, keep their electronic boarding pass, unlock their accommodation options, and purchase tickets to famous tourist attractions around the world. Asia’s travelers are spoilt for choice when it comes to mobile booking platforms for picking airlines or accommodation, yet payment methods are falling behind in the digital evolution of the travel industry. Long lines of weary travelers in front of money changers are still a common sight in many parts of Asia despite one in two connected consumers in the region leveraging mobile payments for day-to-day purchases. I can book an entire holiday at the tap of a finger, but the present system of currency exchange remains inconvenient, expensive, and unrewarding for travelers — in other words, it is an area primed for disruption and transformation.

For travel service providers and cross-border fintech players, this presents a valuable opportunity to increase both customer satisfaction and financial revenue. The same goes for travelers, as moving money to mobile payment systems allow them to conveniently manage multiple currencies and carry large denominations of money without being weighed down by stacks of banknotes and coins. Consumers in Asia-Pacific, most notably in China, are leading the market for mobile payments use in daily transactions, and it is reasonable that they expect to be able to use the same modes of payment while traveling abroad. 

New roads to walk 

In point of fact, practical financial applications that can digitally-enhance the travel experience is not a distant future. Wirex, for instance, has recently joined the ranks of Europe-based borderless payment platforms who expanded their operations to Asia-Pacific by introducing a multi-currency travelcard in Singapore. Recognizing the power of the Asian travel class, the payments industry is building up its capacity to respond to the growing demand for affordable exchange rates and the convenience of digital payments when journeying to different countries. 

Beyond currency exchange solutions, the digital payment landscape is also starting to work in tandem with established institutions to streamline other aspects of the travel experience. Visa, for example, has been partnering with transit agencies to enable contactless payments at turnstiles and on buses in dozens of countries across the globe. Their Visa Ready for Transit program has simplified a usually complex process for travelers using a foreign mass transit system, and improved the efficiency of ticketing and fare collection across these transit networks. 

Imagine how these initial strides by the borderless payments sector can be replicated to improve other aspects of travel. Connecting different currencies - whether it be the South Korean Won, British Pound, or Bitcoin - into an all-in-one platform can future-proof businesses by giving them access to a wealth of payment options and enable them to acquire tech-savvy consumers traveling overseas. Additionally, as payments data starts accumulating, payments businesses can provide a link between various service providers and customers; offering individualized offers and rewards while identifying more accurate growth trends in consumer behavior. Given the low transaction fees and powerful business service function it provides, borderless payment platforms may be particularly advantageous for small and micro travel businesses, including independent tour guides and transportation service providers. 

Journey’s end?

Opportunities abound as the travel industry becomes increasingly tech-native. Nonetheless, there are hindrances to progress even as enterprises work towards streamlining the travel experience. Travelers and merchants have understandable concerns about safety when using digital payment systems, and will rely on governments, to introduce regulatory guidance to assess these services and their operations. With sound yet innovative regulatory infrastructure in place, as seen in the case of China and Singapore, travelers can feel protected from financial harm while enjoying the full benefits of financial technology. Likewise, the borderless payments platforms must also put in place a trust-building mechanism such as real-time customer support, regular service checks and deployment of security enhancement measures to avoid technical difficulties and security issues, among many others. 

Cross-border payment services are no longer mere novelty, but a necessary tool in the bag of the modern traveler. If properly initiated and implemented, it can transform a section of the travel industry that is lagging behind, and leverage the burgeoning market of outbound tourism in Asia Pacific. Customers and merchants alike will be able to benefit from more convenient, economical and rewarding systems of payment. For now and in the future, Asia’s travelers are roaming wider and further than ever before, and digital enterprises have to be prepared to meet them at the gate. 

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