Being creative with travel recovery – going beyond traditional touchpoints

Interview with Ernst Hemmer

9th September, 2020


How can the travel industry make the most of novel finance and shopping-related activities that have emerged or strengthened over the past six months or so?

This must be assessed as travel brands chart recovery plans, looking at avenues that can trigger a transaction by being present on non-traditional travel marketing touchpoints.

Can a fintech app be a new channel for customer acquisition? How can frequently used superapps remove payment-related friction?

The fact digital activity has risen this year owing to the demand for contactless/ touchfree interactions, and much of it is related to paying for frequent bills, utility buys, personal finance etc., travel companies must look into opportunities that come along with such evolving behavior. A lot is being said about how consumers, especially the Millennials and the GenZ , are saving money, trying out new payment options etc.

“There is a clear redefinition of the retail banking and payment space taking place, where platform apps and neobanks are offering digital-only banking and payment options,” said Singapore-based senior travel industry executive, Ernst Hemmer.

Looking at “painpoints” and capitalizing on them

Hemmer highlighted that consumers are growing increasingly frustrated with legacy banking service providers, and traditional banks are being challenged.

“The new, post-Covid, economy is accelerating this trend toward digital-only payment modes. This provides both opportunities and challenges for travel e-commerce merchants. There are challenges in regulatory requirements to be overcome, and there are opportunities in expanding ways in which travel is purchased and in flexible terms of conditions and payment,” he said.

Consumers have been worried about various aspects of their lives, and even not satisfied with several activities, as Hemmer pointed out. And those companies which are looking at better solutions can be new allies for travel. “Travel e-commerce players need to have a thorough understanding of their (limited) place in the customer’s circle of purchase points around daily needs. Travellers not only buy travel products, but they also need to assistance with paying bills, sending money, buying online, and managing expenses,” mentioned Hemmer. He referred to the role being played by fintech apps and superapps:

  • Fintech apps “have access to this customer data like no other, and are able to respond to this customer demand,” said Hemmer. “Travel e-commerce players can partner with fintech apps by offering complementary products on each other’s platforms, thereby mutually growing customer bases without needing to develop entire platforms,” added Hemmer.  
  • Superapps on the other hand offer full ecosystems of shopping, food, travel, finance, much like China’s Alipay or WeChat pay, India’s PayTM, or Indonesia’s GoJek. They are in an advantageous position of owning the full circle of customer purchase points. Their large customer bases will guarantee them dominant roles in the post-Covid travel end-game, said Hemmer.

Possibility of strategic investment by travel giants

Established online travel players have invested in car hailing and superapps in the past.

So does Hemmer foresee any investment in consumer fintech apps in the near future?

“Investing in new lines of business is a challenging undertaking, even for established online travel players. It requires long-term technological investment, brand development, as well as significant legal efforts and regulatory requirements to be addressed. Fintech apps will face the same challenges as established OTAs do when it comes to introducing new products or services. Organic growth is not for everyone. Instead, those who have the financial strength will likely look down the acquisition path as a way to expand business lines that support further access to the full circle of purchase contacts of their customers, including acquisition of some fintech players,” explained Hemmer.

As for how the fintech apps are expected to approach travel content, he said the likes of buy now pay later specialists can build content such as travel products, and promotions. “There will be opportunities for these apps to expand into travel, however it’s likely this will need to come through partnerships with travel providers and OTA’s, rather than from building travel as a core product,” he said. For example, Grab, Shopback, Rebatemango, have all smartly embarked on this partnerships route, mentioned Hemmer.


Explore payment-related trends at the upcoming Airline Travel Payment Summit - ATPS Virtual Conference 2020

Date: 20 - 22 Oct 2020