Trave tops the list of discretionary spend

What does that mean for financial services?

The economic recovery in the US continues and alongside it comes a modest growth in disposable income. As well as savings made during the pandemic, consumers now have more to spend on discretionary purchases; they are also more willing1 to use short term credit to satisfy needs.

And top of their list is international travel. Vacations overseas are as popular as ever, possibly more so.

The numbers continue to trend upwards

According to IATA2, in June 2023 “international [air] traffic climbed 33.7% versus June 2022 with all markets showing robust growth. International Revenue Passenger Kilometers reached 88.2% of June 2019 levels. First half 2023 international traffic was up 58.6% over the first half of 2022.”

Further, “North American carriers saw traffic climb 23.3% in June 2023 versus the 2022 period. Capacity increased 19.5%, and load factor rose 2.7 percentage points to 90.2%, which was the highest [worldwide].”

The same pattern is seen in recent consumer research from Outpayce, highlighted by Theodore Koumelis in Travel Daily News1. Amongst other findings is that 42% of those surveyed said that international travel was their most important discretionary spend – this was 12% more than in the same survey last year.

What does continuing high demand mean for service providers?

Unsurprisingly, airlines, hotels and tour companies are having to adjust capacity to secure their own share of increasing demand.

On the financial side, consumers want to manage their purchases without hassle. This goes far beyond using a credit card for big ticket items. Prices need to be clear, with a minimum of “extras”. Elements such as insurance and travel money should be transparent and realistically priced. The whole process needs to be easy and convenient and, ideally, actionable on a cell phone

So, it’s clear what financial service providers should enable. The big question is how they can do it efficiently and cost effectively. The answer lies in digital.

Seeking an omni channel ecosystem?

Individual services like travel money can be managed extremely well by white label apps (have a look at Essiell’s Money 4 Travel) but, at enterprise scale, credit unions and banks benefit from adopting a complete digital ecosystem which is accessible via many routes, to suit varying customer needs.

This can include everything from bureau point of sale services to online travel money apps; and from remote working facilities to interactive instore solutions that complement existing services and generate additional revenue. Behind the scenes, a comprehensive ecosystem will include reconciliation, audit, and inventory management, for example. The complete suite of services would extend to compliance and anti-money laundering safeguards.

Crucially, transitioning to a digital omni channel approach need not require huge hardware upgrades or system re-structuring. Good quality omni channel solutions usually run in the cloud and sit easily on existing hardware.

Hybrid offerings are changing.

Twenty years ago, the regular credit union or bank offer was conventional and in person, with online banking as extra. Today, the picture has reversed. Consumers expect digital provision first. Branches are still important, but the credit union or bank without an easy-to-use comprehensive digital offering will struggle while others fly.


By Bjorn Larsson, CEO at Essiell Ltd, the power behind Ultrapos and Money 4 Travel.

Essiell is a leading specialist in fintech solutions for retail travel money, financial control, information technology and data security, and compliance. They offer a comprehensive range of digital services for omni channel operations.

Ultrapos is an integrated enterprise point of sale platform for foreign exchange and prepaid cards. It provides a flexible, secure, automated process and a seamless shopping experience for customers alongside back-office support. Click on the link for the brochure.

Money 4 Travel enables customers to order foreign currency directly from a chosen branch, using a personal computer or smartphone. Point of sale processes and inventory management are cost effective and easy-to-use.


1   Travel Daily News, August 3 2023

 IATA Press Release, August 8 2023

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