has seen its fair share of changes in the industry –
from the growing power of social media to the penchant for solo travel – all of which massively influence
our behaviour. A recent, somewhat controversial drift has been
making headway in the past decade or so: cashless payments. We gaze
into a future of travel where the need for currency exchange and
scouring for ATMs may no longer be necessary – and this future is
much closer than we think. After all, the cashless economy is
already integrated in everyday life. We use Oyster cards on the
tube and enable Apple Pay on our phones. What’s more, in light of
the current pandemic, some ATM machines are being closed or come
with warnings that advise the public to avoid physical cash to
reduce the spread of the virus. This raises questions around
hygiene and the general cleanliness of using coins and notes which
have been shared by many before – it’s an issue that seems more
pressing now than ever.
The first contactless cards were issued in the UK in 2007 (with
phone-enabled payments following soon after, linking bank cards to
handheld devices), aligning our digital payment infrastructure with
new technologies. Meanwhile, online shopping is more accessible
than ever before. In Sweden in 2018, cash accounted for just two
per cent of transactions, and predictions go that it will drop to
just half a per cent by the end of 2020. There’s a growing market
for cashless travelling, especially among jetsetters who no longer
want to carry much more than their bank card and mobile phone on
their journeys. Travellers can now book an entire trip abroad with
just a few taps on a keyboard – the flights, the accommodation,
even activities. Yet, like many technological advances booming
quicker than we can blink, there are debatable aspects of a
completely cashless society. As we move forward with technologies
that eliminate the need for physical cash in our pockets, some
parts of the travel industry could be hit hard.
The pros and cons of a cashless economy
Put simply: a cashless economy is a little greener. Printing
physical banknotes and manufacturing coins use a great amount of
electricity, energy and materials; by keeping everything digital, a
cashless society would have a positive environmental impact and
helps us protect Mother Earth.
It’s no guarantee that every destination will accept credit
cards and online payments – especially outside metropolitan areas.
Small, local businesses may not be able to afford the added
expenses which come with digital payment systems, thus making it
difficult for them to adapt to the rapid technological changes.
Traditional artisanal stores or handicraft markets, many of which
rely on tourists, may struggle to get on board and therefore suffer
the most from cashless tourism.
It’s won’t come as a surprise for travellers that, in many
countries, the tourist can be the target for pickpockets and
conmen. Having something traceable, redeemable and block-able like
a bank card can be better when it comes to protecting our money.
Meanwhile, advances in face, voice and fingerprint technologies
allow for transactions to arguably be more secure. Some banks and
cards even offer special insurance policies for travelling which
may cover issues with luggage, trip cancellations and accidents as
well as rewards for spending – an added bonus.
A cashless society helps us to bid farewell to confusing mental
equations around exchange rates and having to search for the
nearest ATM machine on Google maps, too. It’s also worth asking
whether anyone actually likes exchanging coins and cents after
their holiday, or spending the last few dollars for the sake of it?
Didn’t think so.
How many times have we logged in our personal information into
an online form? Data collection is an unprecedented issue in
today’s society and it forces us to imagine a life where absolutely
everything is recorded. It may not necessarily be a disastrous
thing – data can be great should we need to keep records of money
spent on trips and the like. Nevertheless, we put a lot of trust in
those little screens. While digital security may protect us from
pickpockets, scammers are also very much online. Controversy also
lies in whether our spending records or online behaviour are used
to target our purchasing power. When we rely so heavily on
technology, we give away some of our control.
Today’s society has made it near impossible to function without
an online presence in banking and monetary transactions. A cashless
travel trend is on the rise as a result of advances in paper-free
payments and online purchases. We need to ask how older generations
and smaller businesses will cope and adapt to these changes in how
we move and spend money. Yet there is a lot to be hopeful for,
including less hassle when travelling and the ability to track our
spendings. While many trends come and go, a cashless society is one
that feels inevitable in our technology-driven future. E-wallets
are here to stay, both at home and abroad.