A look ahead at the travel payments space – interview with FareHarbor

Thursday 1 April 2021 09:09 CET | Editor: Raluca Constantinescu | Interview

We interviewed Zack Powers, the Director of Payments Strategy at FareHarbor, to learn more about consumer behaviours and payments expectations in the travel sector post-COVID-19

How did FareHarbor come into existence, and what are the needs that your company aims to address and the key developments in its path since its launch? 

Founded in Hawaii in 2013, FareHarbor creates powerful tools that help tour and activity operators run their business with ease and efficiency. With over 15,000 clients worldwide, we are shaping the future of tourism experiences. In 2018, Booking Holdings, one of the world’s largest travel companies, acquired FareHarbor. Later that year, I joined FareHarbor from the payment team. Today, FareHarbor partners with activity operators around the world, including the US, Canada, across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Since the inception of FareHarbor, digital payments capabilities for all clients have been a key feature on our software. 

Tourism plays a major role in Europe’s economy and it was severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. What are your views on how and when the industry will bounce back? 

With so many different perspectives on the future of COVID-19, I will avoid giving another speculation. Nevertheless, I do think that travel is fundamental to the nature of humanity, and while it may take some time to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, people will inevitably want to experience the world again. Furthermore, I think FareHarbor has and will continue to play an important role in making travel easier and safer for travellers in the future. FareHarbor software enables travellers to pay online ahead of arriving at the activity, which can help provide a contactless, more distanced booking experience than perhaps paying cash in person. Our software can also help support other safety measures, for example, limiting the number of bookers per activity, registering name and contact information for contact tracing, and helping activity providers establish health and safety policies. 

When it comes to the travel sector, how did consumer behaviours and expectations change recently, and what do you notice in terms of payment preferences in the regions with which you are familiar? 

In the activity space, many bookers previously preferred to book last-minute at the location of the activity (especially in Europe compared to the US) or to make a reservation by calling or emailing. However, I could picture a trend with an increased share of online booking with advance payment. As I mentioned, pre-booking can support other safety measures, such as limiting the number of bookers per activity and possibly contact tracing. Additionally, pre-bookings can help better secure revenue to activity operators. Even ‘after’ the pandemic, this customer behaviour to book online in advance for tourism activities could continue. 

Additionally, omnichannel (both online and in-person) payments capabilities could arise. For example, FareHarbor’s omnichannel payment offerings can be seen when an activity operator uses the same software to accept online bookings on their website AND in-person digital payment on location. These omnichannel solutions allow operators to manage bookings and payments in a more seamless matter. These omnichannel solutions also create ‘stickiness’ for software providers or platforms by adding hardware to their technology ecosystem. 

Together with other Bookings Holdings companies, we are focused on bringing our partners the tools and tailored insights they need to effectively respond to the evolving travel environment, capture demand, and rebuild their business. 

For the travel industry, how relevant is it to optimise the checkout page according to your customers’ preferences, and what do you do at FareHarbor to meet their expectations? 

The checkout experience that we can provide can vary per region or country. Customers want to book with confidence, which often means via their preferred payment method. These payment methods are often specific per region or country. Therefore, the options for local payment methods (LPMs) per region can change. For example, a Dutch checkout experience would likely include the local payment iDEAL. On the other hand, a German checkout experience could include LPMs, such as SOFORT. Other changes not related to payments could consist of language varying per region. 

What were the challenges FareHarbor encountered while preparing for PSD2/SCA? 

PSD2 and SCA have been among the most discussed European payments topics in the last couple of years. Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) is a requirement by the EU’s Revised Payment Services Directive (PSD2). In short, it often requires additional customer verification, for example, two-factor authentication (2FA), to make a digital payment in Europe. Luckily, FareHarbor has awesome product and tech teams that worked hard to make it so that our clients are ready for these regulatory changes. If you are an activity provider thinking about using FareHarbor software, we have you covered so you can run your business seamlessly without the operational worry of complying PSD2/SCA. We take the security and privacy of customer data extremely seriously and are continuously innovating our processes and systems to protect and support our customers and partners. 

How can travel merchants cut through the complexity of handling the existing wide range of alternative payment methods? Any pointers on this? 

There are different opinions on how many and which local payment methods (LPMs) to offer. It can be a difficult balance between too many and too little LPMs. Fortunately for tourism activity operators, FareHarbor can help them assess which LPM to offer on their website and seamlessly set them up. 

About Zack Powers 

Zack is the Director of Payments Strategy at FareHarbor, based in Amsterdam. He has 10+ years of experience in payments and fintech. Prior to FareHarbor, Zack worked at, at American Express, and in strategy consulting. In his role, he is the global leader of the Payments and Software Partnerships departments, reporting to FareHarbor’s COO. Under Zack’s leadership, FareHarbor’s software has successfully expanded its product offerings to dozens of new countries, reduced costs, and realised a more seamless payments experience for activity operators and travellers around the world. 

About FareHarbor B.V. 

Founded in Hawaii in 2013, FareHarbor’s technology allows tour and activity operators to connect with customers online through software that facilitates an easy, seamless booking experience for 15,000 clients worldwide. In 2018, Booking Holdings (NASDAQ: BNKG), one of the world’s largest travel companies, acquired FareHarbor. FareHarbor partners with activity operators around the world, including the US, Canada, across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean, and Latin America.

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Keywords: travel payments, payment methods, COVID-19, PSD2, local payment method, digital payments, SCA, FareHarbor
Categories: Payments & Commerce | Online Payments
Countries: World
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