As a result, the industry is viewing payment technology through an entirely different lens. “Payment solutions are no longer seen as an inevitable cost that hotels must bear,” said Mary Gerdts, chief executive officer and president of POST Integrations, a payment processor specializing in the hotel industry. “Instead, the industry is realizing that the right technology can mitigate staffing shortages, boost revenue, reduce risks and improve guest service.”
Harold Dibler, vice president of technology management at BWH Hotels, agrees. BWH Hotels is a global hospitality network comprised of WorldHotels, Best Western Hotels & Resorts and SureStay Hotels. “Payment technology can streamline the digital guest experience,” he said, noting that the process begins with hotels meeting guests where they are and letting them pay however they want. “Consumer demands are changing, and properties that want to succeed must keep up.”
Following are six trends that industry experts and insiders believe will drive payment technology in the hospitality industry in 2023 and beyond:
#1 UNATTENDED PAYMENTS
Unattended payment terminals, such as self-service kiosks, allow customers to activate transactions without assistance from staff. The technology is increasingly in demand at hotels, casinos and other hospitality venues, particularly in the post-pandemic environment. “The hotel industry is still reeling from staff shortage problems,” said Gerdts, who predicts the challenge will continue. “Unattended payment can help lessen these labor woes.”
Moreover, guests of all ages – and particularly younger consumers – appreciate the convenience that unattended payment technology offers. When it comes to ease and speed of paying, guests are increasingly demanding, Gerdts said. “They don’t want to waste time, whether traveling for business or pleasure.”
Unattended payment terminals are particularly useful at check-in and at grab-and-go outlets, helping fill gaps in hotel staffing and allowing properties to streamline efficiency. One of the obvious benefits is a reduction in overhead costs. Additionally, kiosks can extend check-in hours, speed up the check-in process and reduce wait times for weary travelers. They also can provide upselling opportunities, allowing guests to upgrade rooms, redeem offers and order services with the touch of a button. And kiosks equipped with graphical displays can promote and support revenue-generating services, such as spa and restaurant specials.
According to Gerdts, unattended payment technology is the biggest trend in the industry and one that will continue for the foreseeable future. “Necessity is the mother of invention, and due to the continued shortage of qualified staff, more companies will introduce unattended solutions that address this challenge.”
#2 DIGITAL WALLETS
Digital wallets, which are simply electronic versions of physical wallets, securely store user payment information and passwords and allow consumers to pay for items or services on property, online and within apps. Although digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal and Venmo have been around for a while, their use skyrocketed during the pandemic, and industry experts say that trend will continue.
In fact, according to global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, digital wallet technology has quickly moved into the mainstream, with more than four in five Americans having used some form of digital payment last year. Moreover, mobile wallets as a share of overall purchasing are projected to surpass credit cards within the next few years.
Hotels that don’t offer mobile wallet payment options will be operating at a disadvantage. “The use of digital wallets is growing, and it has been proven that capturing online payments in the case of card-not-present transactions is more secure and convenient for businesses and consumers alike," said John Stojka, co-founder of Sertifi, a hospitality payment and authorization solutions provider.
Pari Sawant, global head of product at Elavon, a leading payment processing company, agrees. "The widespread use of mobile devices has led to an explosion in the adoption of digital wallets," he said, adding that guests today not only want to pay in a frictionless environment but also want to view their bills, rewards and vouchers in a single place. "The digital wallet is quickly becoming the holistic center of the consumer's buying journey."
#3 OMNICHANNEL PAYMENTS
One of the most striking changes in the payments landscape in recent years is the proliferation of payment methods. Whereas physical card transactions were once the norm, guests now use multiple wallets, digital currency and other forms of payment. Omnichannel processing refers to a business's ability to integrate these multiple payment options into a single, consistent and seamless experience. Omnichannel solutions give guests the freedom to choose the channel that works best for them.
Industry experts note that hotels that want to succeed must support the assorted options. And payment providers must offer true omnichannel support that can be embedded within the hotel’s booking and loyalty apps.“
There are so many payment alternatives, and you have to participate in all of them,” Dibler said, noting that as the landscape becomes more complex, managing payments can become overwhelming. As a result, many hotels are collaborating with financial infrastructure platform companies to integrate multiple payment types. Best Western is partnering with Stripe to accept payments, manage the complexities of compliance, and support new markets. "You have to leverage experts in the field. You can’t build everything yourself,” he said.
“We see payments continuing to be omnichannel,” said Rohith Kori, vice president of product strategy at Agilysys, a global provider of hospitality software solutions, including Agilysys Pay, the company’s gateway and processor agnostic payment system. “Consumers today are responding to the unparalleled choice in payment methods, and hotels must provide a greater range of options as part of an omnichannel approach that seamlessly blends their card-present and card-not-present transactions.”
#4 DIGITAL TIPPING
With a shift to contactless and digital payments happening throughout the hospitality industry, it only makes sense that tipping follows suit. Digital tipping technology offers guests a convenient way to reward staff while giving employees the tips they deserve. In fact, the technology is a lifesaver for valets, bellhops and other hotel staff who rely on tips to supplement their paychecks, as many guests no longer carry cash.
Although adding a new income stream might seem like an administrative headache, modern digital tipping solutions manage much of the digital paperwork. Depending on the hotel’s payroll situation, tips can be disbursed directly to employee bank accounts or included on each paycheck. Either way, the system makes distribution simple.
Last year, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced a partnership with cashless tipping platform Béné for its U.S. and Canadian franchisees. The solution allows guests to digitally tip housekeepers, wait staff and other frontline employees via mobile device, and the platform accepts multiple forms of payment, including Apple Pay, Google Pay and credit cards. When a hotel opts in and is set up on the platform, guests can recognize and reward team members by scanning a QR code and choosing the amount they want to tip.
According to Scott Strickland, chief information officer at Wyndham, digital tipping should always be personal. So, QR codes are unique to each team member. Housekeepers simply place a business card with their personalized QR code in guestrooms they have cleaned, while other staff give guests a business card that includes their QR code. An image of the employee pops up when the guest scans that person’s code. “This keeps tipping relevant and timely,” he said.
Digital tipping benefits extend to staff and guests. “Digital tipping not only encourages employee engagement and helps hotels retain staff but also improves guest satisfaction,” says Sarah Taveprungsenukul, co-founder and chief executive officer of buku, an enterprise-level digital tipping platform for hospitality businesses.
She says convenience is the number one driver of payment technology and notes that buku’s QR code-based gratuity tool offers a scan-and-tip system that provides an easy experience for guests while giving operators service feedback within seconds. “With the right platform, digital tipping is faster than cash,” she said. “It uses technology that already exists in your phone rather than requiring an app download, and it routes tips to the hotel's bank account along with transaction reporting. We anticipate this technology will change the way tips are transacted in the industry.”
Cryptocurrency, also known as ‘crypto,’ is a digital currency that can circulate without the centralized authority of a bank or government. Many cryptocurrencies are based on blockchain technology, a type of shared database that stores information in blocks linked together via cryptography, making it nearly impossible to counterfeit or doublespend. Well-known cryptocurrencies include Bitcoin, Ethereum and Tether.
A recent survey by Pew Research Center revealed that most adults in the United States have heard of cryptocurrencies, with 16 percent saying they have invested in, traded or otherwise used one. Respondents most likely to have used cryptocurrencies were young adults ages 18 to 29.
Although cryptocurrency has had its ups and downs, including market volatility, scrutiny by investors and regulators, and tightening restrictions – including bans in China – it has become more popular. Online travel agency Travala as well as several luxury hotels now accept the technology, including The Kessler Collection, which in 2021 partnered with BitPay, the world’s largest provider of Bitcoin and cryptocurrency payment services. Additionally, a growing list of destination properties, including Soneva, The Pavilions Hotels & Resorts and FIVE Hotels and Resorts, are embracing virtual currency.
Many industry experts predict that crypto will increase in popularity; and, as a result, payment solutions will have to adapt. “As cryptocurrency continues to be more broadly used for online transactions, payment technology must evolve with it,” said Steve Miles, chief operating officer at b4, a developer of cloud-based tools for taking online payments, including TransForm, the company’s secure online payment portal.
Among the top benefits of cryptocurrency are transactional freedom and security. Crypto payments also tend to be less costly than credit card payments for international travelers. And many forward-thinking businesses are using crypto reward programs to engage new and younger consumers and build brand loyalty.
#6 BIOMETRIC AUTHENTICATION
Although biometric payment solutions have yet to be widely adopted, many industry insiders believe digital authentication may eventually change the way hospitality venues manage payments. Biometric security technology, such as fingerprint and iris recognition, is already showing up in a number of customer-facing applications.
According to Ricardo Amper, founder and chief executive officer of Incode, a provider of identity solutions to a number of industries, including hospitality, organizations are turning to biometrics as a safe and user-friendly identity verification solution. “With a foolproof verification process, biometrics links a customer’s ID and credit or payment card information with individual data like a photo or a fingerprint,” he explained. “Hotels can easily identify guests before they arrive and apply the same profile data at other points throughout their stay.”
Properties can use biometric authentication technology to verify user identity and secure payment information for a variety of guest services, such as in-room tablet apps, premium on-screen entertainment services, high-speed internet service, and access to amenities. And more, digital authentication technology enables hotels to prevent fraud by incorporating transparent verification and authentication steps to confirm that guests are who they say they are.
Facilitating the guest journey
The approach to payments is evolving quickly, and hotels that select the right technology partners will be well positioned to embrace a changing landscape, capture more revenue, and offer guests a streamlined experience.
Nasser Chanda, chief executive officer at Paymerang, developer of a cloud-based B2B payments platform, predicts that the current trends in payment technology will usher in an era of growth and opportunity. “We’re in the early stages of some very exciting things to come,” he said. “Technology is moving quickly and cutting-edge advantages will continue to transform the industry.”
At the end of the day, most hoteliers, hospitality technology vendors and industry experts believe the future of payments technology is about facilitating the guest journey and making it as frictionless as possible. “We’re always looking for ways to address customer and industry pain points,” said Ashley Perkins, global program director for meetings and events products at Onyx, a provider of payment and business intelligence solutions to the hospitality industry.
Daniel Montellano, head of hospitality at Shift4, a leader in payment processing solutions, agrees. “Payments in hospitality – from mobile wallets to kiosk check-in and check-out to mobile-based shopping – will focus on enhancing the guest experience,” he said, adding that hotels and resorts will be able to leverage these technologies to unify commerce and reporting across the entire property.
For Dibler, it all comes down to meeting guest needs. “Consumer expectations are higher than ever and competition is fierce,” he concluded. “Delivering customer-centric experiences, even in payment technology, has never been more important."