Virtual Payments are the Future of Travel

This week’s webinar, “Buyer Discussion: Virtual Payments for the Future of Travel,” featured executives from three different companies sharing their experience with integrating virtual payment systems at their companies: Ryan Pierce, a senior travel manager with Salesforce; Sally Ferrell, a senior manager of Meetings, Events and Global Travel with McDermott International; and Clive Cornelius, the head of travel segment with Visa Business Solutions Europe.


Each panelist noted both the positives and pain points with implementing a virtual payment system, but all agreed that using virtual payments has added efficiencies within each organization’s travel program.


Using virtual payments for job candidates’ hotel bookings when they travel as part of the recruitment process has created a more seamless user experience for the recruits, according to Salesforce’s Ryan Pierce. The issues recruits had at the hotel with credit card authorization, faxed cards not going through, and having to use their personal credit cards and submitting for reimbursement are a sign of the past, according to Pierce. He also noted how virtual payments have simplified the reconciliation process by cutting down on the back-end work of trying to match each job candidate to their hotel bill.


Another benefit, mentioned by Clive Cornelius from Visa Business Solutions Europe, is the increased security and privacy with using virtual cards. Virtual cards generate a distinct card number for each booking, with a specific credit limit and approved merchant, so the opportunity for misuse is limited, and there is no piece of plastic to be stolen.


The panelists were candid about some of the initial struggles with implementing virtual payments – common with starting any new process. According to Sally Ferrell with McDermott International, one of the challenges is getting hotel-level employees to recognize and understand the virtual card process. Because front desk staff often change, McDermott emphasized that constant communication is key: her team regularly talks not just with front desk staff but with the sales managers and other leaders at the hotel to ensure all are aware of how to process the virtual payments. Cornelius added that Visa Business Solutions Europe also provides a one-pager to each traveler, outlining the program in the event they encounter problems at the hotel; the one-pager is a great reference for the traveler and is also something they can hand over to the front desk agent.


What’s Next for Virtual Payments?


While all the panelists’ virtual payment experience was with hotel bookings, they are now looking at how to incorporate the process in other areas, including transportation and meal/incidentals payments.


Cornelius shared Visa’s plans to move entirely away from the fax process by being able to push virtual cards into a virtual wallet that the traveler could use not just for hotel, but for food, taxi, and other travel expenses. While the panelists agreed there is no perfect “silver bullet,” they all praised the virtual card process for bringing efficiencies to their organizations, saying now is the perfect time to look at your processes and programs, and to have conversations across other functions of your organization to see where virtual payments might bring improvements.


For more information on the virtual payment process, check out the GBTA Virtual Payment Toolkit. It’s available to all GBTA members and offers a wealth of information including PCI compliance rules, best practices, Q&A, and more.



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