New research has revealed 66 percent of travel companies are seeing their profit margins impacted by outdated or complicated payment systems, with 9 in 10 expected to prioritize modernizing their financial operations this year.

In a report released by the global payments and financial platform Airwallex and the travel research company Skift, the travel industry is also being challenged by shifting payment preferences since the COVID-19 pandemic. While revenue from cross-border payments is on the rise, the unprecedented diversity of payment methods in different markets complicates transactions for 70% of travel companies.

Commenting on the research findings, Jack Zhang, CEO of Airwallex, said: “As global travel continues to boom, travel companies increasingly rely on quick and seamless cross-border payments to surpass customer expectations at every touchpoint. However, our latest study shows that slow and outdated payment processes are increasing the cost of moving money internationally, which is eating into their profits — modest at the best of times.”

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Modernizing their financial operations with a unified and scalable payment solution will be critical to reducing the cost and friction associated with managing cross-border transactions, according to the research. For smaller players, this can be what levels the playing field, enabling them to compete with larger, more established counterparts.

The survey included 473 travel executives in April 2024 across seven global markets — Australia, China, Hong Kong, Israel, Singapore, the UK and the US. Respondents confirmed that they make decisions about payment processes and financial operations for a travel company across the sector, including online travel bookings, travel operators, tours and activities and destination management.