Insights, Travel

Why real-time is so vital for the travel industry

Agustin Fiori By Agustin Fiori on 21 June 2022   •   4 mins read

It’s easy to think of real-time (involving instant or near-instant transactions, as well as instant push notifications to apps, emails or SMS triggered by that transaction) as a ‘nice to have’. After all, we’ve all seen some changes in the travel industry in the last few years and it’s tempting to think of that time as just being unusual. And that the demand for real-time notifications and transactions was a result of the unprecedented circumstances.

But I believe that they’re far more than that. That they’re an absolutely vital part of building trust and great experiences. And the last two years didn’t create that demand – they just showed how important real-time is for travel. We shouldn’t be hoping for a ‘return to normal’ over the next few years. If anything, we’ve just got started on the transformation journey

Real-time for customers

The move to digital transactions has certainly sped up over the last few years (even more than anyone would have predicted just five years ago). While this has led to some great advances for customers, it’s also created some new problems.

Customers of all ages are seeing more digital fraud than ever, so any transaction can be fraught in a way that it wasn’t before. And it’s important to remember that travel carries with it an emotional component – family holidays can be expensive things, and something people have saved up for and want to get right. That can make a stressful combination.

So, avoiding any delays in processing and being able to send confirmations and receipts in real-time is a great response to that stress. Customers don’t want to send cash and then wait for responses. They want that immediate, real-time confirmation that the money has gone through and it’s gone through to the right place, so they can stop worrying and start planning their itinerary. 52% say they sometimes or often see delayed (or non-existent) notifications that their payments have gone through. And 43% think ‘a great payment experience’ looks like instant notifications. This is something that is fixable.

Real-time for partners

Real-time is also great for your partners, suppliers and vendors, because it means real-time payments as well as notifications. Let’s face it – nobody likes waiting for batch payments, and matching up invoices, even if you’ve got that down to a fine art. Automating that process means unlocking the power of real-time settlement of funds by adding real-time notifications. Generating instant invoices, receipts and confirmations makes it easier to make those payments, receive them and reconcile them. On top of that, it also makes it easier to match payments to individual customer accounts, making it easier to follow individual payments back and forth if there are any issues.

And one thing about making reconciliation better is that it makes refund processes easier.

Real-time refunds

While we know that refunds are a tricky area, it’s also an area that can turn problems into great customer experiences. We’ve all had the experience of refunds being awkward processes in the past, and at this point, it’s also likely we’ve all had surprisingly good experiences as well. And 82% of customers say that, since the start of the pandemic, they are looking more closely at refund and cancellation policies. 78% say that they’re sticking to trusted travel providers they’ve used before, showing just how important that trust is too.

But that involves risk for someone in the chain of payments. Because the refund is often made before reconciliation (after all, all those payments that have gone out have to be traced, tracked and reversed), which can be time consuming.

This is why we believe that the travel industry, as a whole, needs to embrace real-time. Because once it’s an end-to-end ecosystem, then all of those cascading payments back and forward between customers, OTAs and suppliers can be automated, tracked and more easily reconciled and, if necessary, reversed.

And, on top of this, it makes it easier to create short-term deals to replace last-minute cancellations, as the type of webhooks that set up real-time notifications can be built to create automatic processes as well. Part of this also involves Open Banking, allowing for more complex automation when it comes to processing payments (both in and out of customer accounts).

We also think it’ll be a popular move. When we asked customers across Europe, 71% said they’d use a new payment method to book travel if it meant they could get a quicker refund in future.

This is a move the industry needs to commit to. It’ll be good for customers, good for suppliers and, the more widespread it becomes, good for the industry.

Agustin Fiori is European Sales Director at Modulr, focusing on the travel industry. To find out more about how real-time payments and notifications can help you, check out our travel page . If you're going to Phocuswright in Amsterdam (27-29 June), you can book an in-person meeting with one of our team .