5 minute read

How businesses are welcoming back Canadian tourists with digital payments

Monday, May 02, 2022

5 minute read

With breathtaking attractions from the Great Lakes to the Rockies, Canada is one of the world's most attractive tourist destinations. It's no wonder that 2% of its GDP comes from the tourism industry.

Now, two years after the onset of the pandemic, Canadian tourism is projected to pick back up, but travelers won't be the same. Years of pandemic living, remote shopping, and touch-free curbside pickups have accelerated traveler preferences for digital visitor experiences. Travelers now want a smoother, more seamless, cash-free payment experience.

As a small business working in the Canadian tourism sector, you can court these tech-savvy tourists by accepting contactless payments and capitalizing on other digital solutions such as online bookings, text messaging, and accepting digital wallets.

Canadian tourism on the rebound

With a gradual lifting of restrictions and the economy opening up again, we anticipate a dramatic uptake in travel. Destination Canada, which advocates for the Canadian tourism sector, predicted a rally in tourism revenues around 85% this year, assuming ideal travel conditions. These included a fast resumption of inter-provincial travel and a reopening of the US border, both of which have happened. Conditions are favorable for a full recovery by 2023, and projections show a slight increase in Canadian tourism over 2019 levels by 2025.

A number of factors are driving the resurgence of Canadian travel:

  1. Tourists have cash to spend. Canadians have accrued over $150 billion in savings on average (that's $5,800 per household), while US residents have amassed $1,600 billion in extra savings overall. These adventure-starved travelers are eager to spend their savings on travel after two years of constraints.
  2. Provinces and the tourism sector have been creative in encouraging the resumption of travel. Ontario announced a 'staycation tax credit' that offers a 20% return on accommodation expenses for those booking overnight stays in the province during 2022. In another example, Visa partnered with Air Canada in April 2022 to bring a buy now, pay later solution to eligible travelers, enabling them to pay for trips in installments to reduce the financial burden of traveling.
  3. In-person events are slated to return. American Express found that 56% of respondents delayed travel for major entertainment events in 2021, but they plan to return to these events in person this year.

How to create a seamless travel experience

As Canadians prepare to embark on travel this year, they'll have a different set of expectations you'll need to meet, and it centers around one theme: digital. It may seem daunting at first, but innovations in payments can help you create a seamless, digital experience that will make travelers feel more comfortable—before they arrive to after they have returned home.

Offer easy ways to book and pay

Online payment options make it easier for tourists to take care of payments when booking their trips. You can add value here by including currency conversion at the checkout, which makes it simple for them to calculate the cost of their visit. You can also capture more sales and better serve international visitors by supporting the payment methods they're most comfortable using in their home countries.

"Online payments make bookings easier for the travel business and the customer," explains Bonnie Poon, director of operations at the historic Queens Hotel in New Westminster, BC. The hotel, which had a single payment terminal pre-pandemic, began using the Global Payments ecommerce platform in January 2021.

"Now, when guests book rooms online, their payment is processed directly, instead of us having to process the charge on our terminal," she says. "That helped simplify the booking [and check in] process for our customers. It's a huge benefit for a hotel."

Offer contactless payment methods

Continue that convenience after travelers arrive by offering various digital payment options at the point of sale. Contactless payment technologies such as tap-to-pay cards and digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay enable guests to pay without fumbling for cash or even touching a PIN pad.

See how some industries are better serving customers with contactless technology:

RESTAURANT: The restaurant industry has been innovative in its pursuit of contact-free dining experiences to draw diners back in person. From QR-code menus to apps that connect diners digitally with their servers, they've taken every measure to put in-person visitors at ease.

TRANSPORTATION: Getting between venues during visits is easier now, thanks to taxis and ride-sharing services that offer contactless payments in-vehicle, in-app, and online.

EVENTS: Offering online sales for admittance to events, shows, and other entertainment experiences results in fewer lines and less frustration. Satisfied customers will come back for future purchases and may bring more new customers the next time they return.

Give loyalty to get loyalty

Continue the positive experience after travelers leave by staying connected with them even when they've returned home. Digital loyalty programs should focus on delivering a personalized experience through apps, text messaging, and emails while foregoing traditional paper and plastic loyalty cards. And, since experiences are what customers revere, reward them by providing redemption options like unique events or VIP experiences.

Combine it with a gift card program that will make it easier for visitors to offer your tourism experience to friends and family.

Analytics will help you identify trends

Integrating payments with your point-of-sale and business management software will help you build a 360-degree view of the customer. This view provides valuable data that will help you better segment and target your customers. You'll better understand:

  • Broader trends in customer behavior.
  • How to manage and predict revenue and demand.
  • How to make more informed decisions for your business.
  • How to identify your target audience and cater to them.
  • Purchase patterns influenced by seasonality, weather, and more.

Make it a monthly priority and note how much you can learn about your customers just by analyzing your data. Then, put in place what you've learned to optimize for future success.

The traveler experience has changed over the past two years. Travelers now demand a seamless, digital experience that makes their lives easier and more convenient, while ensuring their safety. Get in touch with us to learn how our digital solutions can help you supercharge your customer experience.