Despite the allure of plastic, cash for travel money is thriving.

According to IATA1, international air travel in 2022 climbed 152.7% versus 2021, reaching 62.2% of 2019 levels. International traffic in December 2022 was 80.2% up on December 2021, at 75.1% of the level in December 2019. The same press release shows figures for North American air travel as 130.2% up in 2022 compared to 2021.

Travel is back

With more travel comes demand for all the services required by the traveller. Foreign currency as cash is still a priority.

This phenomenon is carefully described by Sorin-Andrei Dojan, writing in Electronic Payments International2. He attributes much of the traffic growth to leisure travellers making up for not travelling in the pandemic. Plus, it’s not just aviation revealing the trend. Cross-border traffic, including road and rail, has also increased, something very noticeable in Europe with its many separate nations.

According to data quoted by Dojan, in 2022 Spain saw the most international arrivals (58,872,000). France followed with 56,591,000 and the US with 47,775,000. For 2023, as Asian destinations welcome back more tourists, we should expect similar growth, maybe with countries such as Thailand and Indonesia taking the top spot. Time, perhaps, for credit unions and banks to stock up on Baht and Rupiah as well as Euros and Dollars. Other currencies to consider will be the Turkish Lira, the UAE Dirham, and the Mexican Peso.

Why cash for travel?

Although many people’s domestic spend is via a card, cash remains an essential commodity for travellers. So many transactions require cash – taxis, tips, coffee, – that it’s foolish to be without.

Also, multi-currency payment cards are still surprisingly specific. Currently there is no single global network to support them all. Even within destinations, the ability to tap or swipe may be limited and your card may not work in your exact location. Cash is the obvious solution.

Making travel cash easy

Credit unions and banks need to find a way of tapping into this market. For many customers, the channel of choice will be digital, so digital services like Essiell’s Money 4 Travel will continue to grow. Simplicity and convenience are key. If the customer can order cash on their mobile and collect it in-branch, and if the supplier can process this easily at the point of sale, everyone wins. In every respect, this is good news for the retail travel money industry.

By Bjorn Larsson, CEO at Essiell Ltd.


1 IATA, 6th February 2023

2 You can read Sorin-Andrei Dojan’s article by following this link to Electronic Payments International.


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