In Depth With Zen Resort Bali

Something a bit different this week, folks. Instead of delving into a particular travel market sector, we’re going to be taking a closer look at one specific company in the industry. The operator in question is Zen Resort Bali, one of Bali’s leading holistic health retreats. We’ll be speaking with founder Dr Mahendra Shah, and exploring what lessons we can take away and apply to the industry as a whole.

Here we go.

A bit of background

Before we get started we need some perspective. We need to understand a little about Zen Resort Bali, its purpose and what makes it unique.

The key to that is founder Dr Mahendra Shah. He has dedicated his life to ethical development, holding senior positions at the United Nations and the World Bank while advising governments on sustainability. His central philosophy is that sustainability on a global scale cannot be achieved unless human beings themselves become sustainable.

Zen004_MoonLasso

As he moved into the travel industry, Dr Shah decided to open up a luxury resort in Bali – not solely because it represented a good business opportunity, but because it was also an opportunity of a different kind: a chance to convert and inspire. A way to incorporate holistic wellness and sustainable health into an experience that encouraged global travellers to spread the philosophy far and wide.

Dr Shah admits that health is one of the single biggest challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. We are eating worse, exercising less and losing our sense of connectedness. Travel has long been a tool of inspiration, so why not promote a more sustainable lifestyle through a holistic and wellness sanctuary?

Solving a problem

The first point that we can take from Zen Resort Bali is that it was clearly founded to solve a problem. In this case, the problem is huge in scale. As Dr Shah says, “Why are human beings not sustainable? Simply because all around the world we are adopting or aspiring to adopt modern lifestyles, which comprise little time to prepare and eat nutritionally balanced food, combined with inadequate and regular exercises – physical, psychological and spiritual, stress at work, stress in the home and living in an ever more polluted world… we are left depleted.”

“This cocktail of an unhealthy lifestyle is increasingly recognized as the cause of the emerging worldwide healthcare burden of diabetes, high blood pressure, mental stress, cancer, asthma and many more ailments and debilitating diseases.”

As a result, he says, “We are facing a global, emerging crisis of human health. The scope of this is such that most nations will not have the healthcare resources to confront the ailments and the diseases of modern lifestyles. Modern lifestyles are also resulting in our love of more and more consumerism. This “throwaway” society is the fundamental source of the escalating land and water pollution around the world. This environmental destruction and degradation is the second major challenge facing the world in the 21st century.”

The Yoga Hall, Zen Resort Bali

The Yoga Hall, Zen Resort Bali

So the point is this: Our hectic modern lifestyles require more than just a holiday, because they are symptomatic of much wider problems. If people are going to rise up and solve the enormous challenges we face as a species, they’re going to need to be inspired. The key here is that any global change has to begin on an individual basis. It’s that individual transformation that Zen Resort Bali offers its guests.

What can we learn?

It’s an age-old business strategy for good reason. If you want to be recognised as adding value to the market, you need to be solving a problem (or attempting to solve a problem) that isn’t being taken on elsewhere. In Zen Resort’s case, the problem is huge but approached at the level of the individual.

Visitors can come, experience all the luxury and pampering of a traditional spa break while leaving with something a whole lot more important than a sun tan – the inspiration required to live a more sustainable life, psychology, physically and spiritually.

Standing out from the crowd

sustainable travel at resort bali

On the face of it, Zen Resort Bali might appear to be a luxury wellness resort like any other. But actually, there are several factors helping it stand out from the crowd.

First and foremost is the focus on sustainability. Plenty of getaways can offer luxury, seclusion, spa treatments and breathtaking views. But very few have built a resort with a focus on sustainability and ancient holistic health techniques.

And Zen Resort clearly has an emotive story to tell prospective guests – about themselves, the world and how a trip to Zen can benefit the relationship between the two.

“At Zen Resort we encompass strategies that are socially, economically and ecologically sustainable,” says Dr Shah. “We use solar power to produce hot water and we recycle water in the resort to nourish the landscape as well as irrigation to grow organic vegetables and culinary and medicinal herbs.”

“We financially support local small-scale information and education on sustainable fishing and marine conservation. We facilitate employment and other livelihood opportunities for the local community, develop and market local food, health and beauty products, advise local farmers on crop agronomy – especially medicinal plants. Furthermore, we promote subsidized holiday stays for doctors and the healthcare community willing to give a few days of their holiday for local community health and education services.”

In short, this is a resort with a focus on the ethics and sustainability that many travellers are passionate about, without sacrificing the luxury and wellness that broadly appeals to all.

There is an inescapable consequence of this focus on sustainability. The extraordinary care and attention from the staff and toward the environment leads to guests feeling a renewed energy and zest for life.

What can we learn?

They key to Zen Resort Bali’s success is its diversity. But this isn’t diversity in the sense that it ticks as many boxes as possible. The resort is founded on a handful of ideals that have been honed to perfection. The philosophy behind the resort is clear to see, and though elements such as ‘luxury’ and ‘sustainable’ might appear at odds with each other at first viewing, they work hand in hand here.

For example, as well as offering a complete wellness package that spa and Ayurveda fans will love, community projects, seminars and a holistic focus offer guests a much more rounded experience than they would receive elsewhere.

Targeting two markets at the same time

Zen Bali resort yoga

Zen Resort Bali offers holistic health treatments with sustainability in mind.

In essence, Zen is targeting two markets a the same time: Health & Wellness and ethical tourism. As mentioned above, luxury health treatments and sustainability are not normally two things that travellers see together. But the unique philosophy Zen is founded on brings the two together with ease.

The result is simple: A retreat that manages to appeal to two separate markets, gaining traction and publicity for its work in both.

What we can learn

Being very good at a small number of things is a fast way to gaining a strong footing in whichever travel niche you choose. If you, like Zen Resort Bali, can seamlessly bring together niches that don’t traditionally go together, you’ll be on to a winner.

Zen Resort has also been able to drive traffic to its website by dominating localised search results for these two separate niches.

How Zen Resort Bali diversifies its offering

From reading the above you might think that Zen Resort Bali brings together holistic health, sustainability and luxury. That’s exactly right, but it’s done in practice, not just philosophy. For example, the resort has created its own scuba diving package, Zen Harmony Diving.

“We have the responsibility to increase public awareness and actions towards protecting and conserving the world’s sacred oceanic resource.” – Dr Mahendra Shah, founder, Zen Resort Bali

“Whilst some three billion people in the world live in coastal areas with easy access to the oceans, less than 60 million people have experienced scuba diving and snorkelling,” says Dr Shah.

“Zen Harmony Diving is a unique concept that unites the best of yoga, Ayurveda and scuba diving and enables scuba divers to discover the beauty and amazing diversity of marine life whilst experiencing an exceptional pathway to human health and fitness. This is done through the effective practice of underwater controlled breathing, meditative focus and free flow physical exercise.”

“Our shared vision of Zen Harmony Diving is to co-create and revolutionise the world of diving to substantially increase the community of scuba divers and snorkelers. Through their leadership, we want to enhance wider public awareness of the need to change our interface with all forms of marine life and protect the oceanic world, our largest and most precious natural resource.”

What we can learn

Developing new products is a sure way to grow revenue streams, particularly for travel marketplaces. If you can encourage sellers to bring unique and exclusive packages to your platform, travellers will keep coming back for more.

Zen Resort Bali has created a unique concept that will appeal to a wide range of people, from health and wellness fanatics to water sports enthusiasts.

The importance of leadership

There’s no doubt that Dr Shah’s enormous experience in sustainability and environmental ethics are the key driver behind the Zen Resort project. He wants to create a chain of luxury resorts that spread the philosophies of ethical tourism and holistic health, teaching people to be sustainable humans for the long term in the process.

Embrace your humanity and grasp the hand of your neighbour; it’s simple, just show that you care. Very importantly, make that partnership and commitment for sustainable lifestyles, for sustainable development, and to create a world of sustainable human beings – Dr Mahendra Shah

And that’s where Zen manages to differ from conventional resorts. It’s been created from the ground up to be a life-changing experience. That drive comes straight from the top.

What we can learn

We know the importance of leaders in the travel industry. But while they provide the vision (and often the capital) it’s still vital to have an efficient team in place to put into practice those ideals. Read our piece on the importance of building a good team for more information on that.

Gap in the Market Volume 12 – Safari Travel

We’re back with another instalment of our popular ‘Gap in the Market’ series. Each volume addresses a different travel industry niche, as we do our best to bring you insight and inspiration from leading figures who have been there and done it. This week we’re taking a walk on the wild side, delving into the world of safari travel and getting to grips with a travel niche that’s been around for longer than many of its contemporaries.

Although safaris are available all around the world with all sorts of wildlife as the focus, we’ll be concentrating on the original, ever-present and booming African safari scene. As the renowned home of the safari, the tourism scene in Africa heavily relies upon wildlife and a community of travellers who are passionate about the natural world.

Safari Represents Everything We Love About Travel

If for some reason you are unfamiliar with the world of safari travel, let’s quickly explain it before we go any further. A safari is a journey, typically taken in Africa, that takes you through the wild to experience the natural world in all its glory. In years gone by safaris went hand in hand with hunting for big game. But now, with poaching largely illegal and conservation at the forefront of people’s minds, a safari is now about observation and appreciation.

More than anything, safaris are a celebration of the natural world and a way for people to witness first hand what they might have seen on TV or in wildlife documentaries. Thrilling, educational and inspiring in equal measure, safaris represent everything we love about travel. A safari is the epitome of getting out there and experiencing something new, of satisfying the innate curiosity that we all hold about lands far away.

How the Safari Market is Shaping Up

If we look at global travel industry trends, the conditions are perfect for a booming safari sector: a rise in disposable income; cheaper air fares; an increase in demand for more ‘genuine’ trips; the growing influence of social media. Although there isn’t much data as we would like available on the numbers of tourists visiting African destinations year on year, the safari trend appears to be a positive one.

To take an example from one or two countries, Travel Market Report states that: “The Kenya Tourism Board reports that 730,000 people visited the country in the first nine months of 2016, up 16% from the same period in 2015, with American tourists making up the fastest-growing large market. Other popular African countries, like South Africa, report similar growth.”

This growth is largely down to an increased demand for ‘experiential’ travel among all demographics. The name is the giveaway – experiential travel is all about the experience, it’s about being immersed in something, whether that’s a culture, an environment or both. Many tourists complain of having visited a place but not really ‘felt’ it, of having landed at a destination and jumped on a plane back home without connecting with their destination on a deeper level.

The key to safaris is this sense of participation. The kind of experiential travel growing in demand offers everything you get from a good safari: an experience that’s unhurried, authentic and deeply emotive.

Read more: Travel Industry Takes a Stand Against Wildlife Trafficking

Safari Travel is More Important Than Many Realise

Few travel industry sectors can rival the symbolic significance of the safari. Threats to our natural world are in plentiful supply, and the disconnect between humans and nature has arguably never been greater. The importance of a travel sector dedicated to reversing that worrying trend cannot be underestimated.

First we have the focus on conservation. Entire habitats and species are at risk as a result of climate change, industrialisation and illegal poaching. Safaris are both a facilitator and a result of conservation efforts. On the one hand, safari projects can help to fund large areas of conservation, enabling national parks and wildlife reserves to sustain themselves off the back of ethical tourism. On the other, governments across Africa have set up areas of protected land in an effort to preserve land and species – opening them up to safari trips and creating refuges for both tourists and the wildlife they want to see.

Second, safaris play an important role in raising awareness of important conservations issues. By inspiring travellers and giving thousands of tourists an immersive experience in the wild, these tours essentially create ambassadors for the natural world.

Third, safaris are the bedrock of tourism for many African countries. Tourism, in turn, is vital for local economies in many of these fast-developing nations.

So there you have it: safaris are more vital to Africa and the natural world in general than you might think.

Read more: Gap in the Market Volume 7 – Food Tourism

A View From the Inside

&Beyond safari travel

&Beyond is best known for creating unforgettable tailor-made African safaris, South Asia and South America tours.

We spoke with Kasia Sliwa, PR Manager for safari experts &BEYOND.

She pointed out that many of the challenges faced in the industry are beyond the control of safari operators. “Safari travel has become far more mainstream in the past decade or two,” she said.

“That being said, accessibility still remains somewhat of an issue, especially in places like Botswana or East Africa, where the easiest way to reach most of the peak safari areas is by air. While this poses certain challenges in terms of cost and logistics, it does also ensure a truly untouched and authentic safari experience. Another challenge is the effect that adverse effect posed by changing or extreme weather patterns such as drought or flooding.”

And what about future trends in the world of safari travel?

As with many forms of tourism, Sliwa admits that authenticity is what travellers are increasingly looking for.

“Travellers are increasingly looking for authentic, immersive safari experiences. Guests are looking to become more involved as active participants and want to learn and grow through their holiday experiences,” she said.

“This has led &Beyond to offer our guests the opportunity to become involved in the wildlife management and conservation experiences that we carry out at our reserves, such as rhino notching and elephant collaring.”

“Another growing trend is for multi-generational travel. Families are taking advantage of their holiday time to travel together and to strengthen their bond through sharing extraordinary safari experiences. As a result, &Beyond has significantly grown our family offering, with family suites and even private villas now available at the vast majority of destinations where we operate.”

Tourism in Africa is Catching Up With the Connected Traveller

All evidence points to the fact that the African tourism industry – particularly when we’re talking about online presence and mobile bookings – is catching up with its European, Asian and American counterparts. Eye for Travel gives the example of HotelOga, which was set up in Nigeria in 2016 with backing from a Polish venture capital service. Established to help African hotels maximise their online presence, it already has over 500 hotels signed up to its online booking engine.

Founder Marek Zmysłowski has suggested that, as mobile internet penetration continues to rise, the African travel and hospitality industry is beginning to catch up with the new mobile consumer and all the expectations modern travellers have.

“Trends are changing rapidly, booking habits are switching to online, hotels will be more active in setting up hotel rates like airlines, with more online payments. The question really is, how fast we can make that shift happen,” Zmysłowski told AppsAfrica.com.

“The African travel sector is one of the fastest growing in the world. Technology is changing travel at an increasing pace, this is why building a travel technology company in Africa and beyond is so exciting,” he added.

It’s thought that about a third of the African population have internet access, but this number is expected to rise to 50% by 2025, powered largely by 360 million smartphone owners. So it’s clear that there’s plenty of scope for a steady rise in online travel booking within Africa.

The Challenges Facing Safari Tourism in Africa

The African safari industry has its fair share of challenges. Aside from being a beacon of conservation and appreciation of the natural world, there are plenty of controversies that threaten to put off even the most enthusiastic travellers.

First of all, while safaris, protected reserves and international tourism are important weapons in the fight against illegal poaching, criminal activities still occur. For example, it’s estimated that elephant poaching is costing African nations millions in lost tourism revenue. A study published in the journal Nature Communications concluded that the illegal wildlife trade responsible for dwindling numbers of elephants in the wild is causing a drop in the number of tourists.

africa safari elephant - want to build your own safari marketplace?

Safaris are having to adapt to changing traveller views on the treatment of elephants.

Researchers compared visitor and elephant data across 25 African countries and concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. In the majority of countries, the amount of revenue lost is higher than the cost of stronger anti-poaching measures.

Speaking to The Guardian, Dr Robin Naidoo, the paper’s lead author and senior conservation wildlife scientist at WWF, said “The takeaway message is that the return on investment in elephant conservation is positive across much of their range in Africa. In addition to all the other good reasons for their conservation, there is a compelling economic one too.”

The safari industry is also having to adapt to the times. One sure way to put of ethically-minded travellers is to be found guilty of animal mistreatment on an enormous scale. This issue has come to light in Botswana and South Africa, where immersive safaris involving close contact with ‘wild’ animals has been questioned by animal rights activists. Now, operators across the continent are gradually phasing out any trips that involve ‘trained’ wild animals, such as personable lions and elephants you can ride, as the focus shifts to more genuine safaris where nature is respected from a distance.

Speaking with Skift, Giltedge Travel group managing director Sean Kritzinger said: “For our groups and incentives we would normally offer elephant-back rides as one of the activities. However, with the recent change in attitudes and mindset of travellers towards these kinds of activities we have stopped offering them completely.”

Travelshift can help you build an epic safari marketplace

Passionate about safari travel? Have contacts in the industry? Don’t know where to start but raring to go anyway? We feel there’s a definite opportunity for a travel marketplace in the world of safari tourism. As we’ve mentioned, Africa remains behind many popular destinations in terms of online bookings and overall connectivity. But instead of being a weakness, this factor represents a huge opportunity for ambitious platforms to bring together the continent’s many individual safari offerings.

The community-driven nature of our marketplace software solution also stands to help travellers choose the right destination and safari for them. Less guesswork for tourists, more informed opinions and an easy way to scour all of the different safari offerings – what’s not to love? Get in touch with us today if you’d like to find out how Travelshift can help you build a safari marketplace.

Prepaid Travel Cards Offer Agencies a Lucrative Revenue Stream

Prepaid cards of one sort or another are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around for decades, and have long had something of a controversial reputation among consumers. It’s only in recent years that travellers have started to benefit from their presence.

On the face of it, prepaid travel cards solve a number of common travel problems. For that reason, it’s no surprise that travel agencies have got on board and started to work travel cards into their traditional offerings. Not only are they generating ongoing revenue with an added extra at the point of sale, they are providing travellers with an easy, cost-effective solution to the problem of spending money abroad. Everyone’s a winner, right?

We spoke with Rob Darby, who’s head of travel partnerships at Tuxedo Money Solutions. In case you didn’t know, Tuxedo is one of the UK’s leading prepaid service providers, delivering payment technology for businesses around the world.

The specific offering that will come up a lot in this article is Tuxedo’s ‘Escape’ card, which Tuxedo offers to travel agents to resell to customers or preload and offer for sales and marketing promotions. Tuxedo claims to offer agents the chance to earn “attractive commission payments for the life of the card”, too.

Tuxedo prepaid travel card

Escape Travel Card from Tuxedo

Why do prepaid travel cards exist?

Prepaid travel cards are the result of necessity. On the one hand, travellers have slowly grown frustrated about having to carry huge amounts of foreign currency with them on trips abroad. Nobody wants to hold wads of cash when they are 1.) in an unfamiliar place and 2.) supposed to be having a relaxing holiday.

The traditional method of crossing borders armed with a stuffed envelope of freshly exchanged currency is outdated and risky. Not only could you lose all of your spending money, it also makes tourists a target for pickpockets and thieves.

The convenience of topping up a card before you leave the country is ideal. No longer do travellers have to carry huge amounts of cash. Instead, instant access to their spending money is available through the card. These cards are often linked to online accounts or applications, meaning that they can be topped up on the go, too.

On top of that, many prepaid travel cards help tourists avoid expensive withdrawals in foreign countries. ATM machines can do real damage to travellers’ bank accounts, and free, easy access to their cash abroad is something that tourists have been wanting for years.

There’s also the saving aspect. Typically families will put money aside for a holiday in a separate account, but travel cards allow you to stash away spending money directly onto the card that you will be spending with – a small touch, but convenient nonetheless.

Additionally, offerings such as the Escape card outlined above provide customers with ongoing support just as an ordinary bank would. A 24-hour lost and stolen helpline is a strong selling point for travellers who want to feel looked after.

With all these benefits laid out, it’s easy to see why travel agencies would want to offer prepaid cards such as this to clients. And that’s before the notion of commission is involved. As Tuxedo says, its Escape Card allows operators to “provide a better customer experience whilst increasing revenue.” – What’s not to love about that?

Prepaid Travel Cards: The Numbers Game

Speaking with Rob Darby, head of travel partnerships at Tuxedo, we asked for his take on the appeal for prepaid travel cards. Why is it that travel agencies are looking to Tuxedo and other prepaid card providers for these solutions?

“UK residents spent £39 billion during trips overseas in 2015, the highest amount recorded by the UPS and a 9.8 percent increase from 2014”, he said. On top of that, “the global prepaid card market is anticipated to reach $3,653 billion by 2022, with Europe dominating in terms of revenue, accounting for more than 49.1 percent share of the global market. This presents agents with an opportunity to capitalise on this lucrative market, whilst providing their customers with a safe, simple and cost-effective way to manage their spending money abroad.”

It’s perhaps a reflection on the current state of the industry that travel agents are looking for additional products to boost revenues. “At Tuxedo,” says Darby, “we’ve witnessed a marked increase in demand for our Escape Travel Money Prepaid Mastercard, as travel agents look for long-term revenue rewards on easy-sell products.”

It’s clear that prepaid travel cards allow travellers to plan ahead and keep a check on their spending abroad. The moment that personal credit or debit cards, often with fixed fees on withdrawals and transactions, come out to play, travellers enter dangerous financial territory.

The timing of conversion from one currency into another is also important. “Travel cards that are loaded in the holder’s currency with conversion made at the time of use ensures holidaymakers are getting the most up-to-date exchange rate,” said Darby. “Furthermore, with this type of card, they will not be charged for unloading money not spent nor will they face further exchange rate charges for converting into another currency should they travel abroad to another country later in the year.”

Financial safety is also as important as physical safety. “In addition to the cost savings, and perhaps more importantly, is the benefit of being safe, with no connection to customers’ bank accounts. With a Travel Money card, travellers are offered a convenient and safe alternative to carrying cash or their bank cards abroad. They also offer much greater flexibility while ensuring they get the most bang for their buck, each and every time.”

Prepaid card users can also avoid a range of fees that many travellers are unaware of. “Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) is also a little-known charge on foreign transactions that is still catching holidaymakers out but luckily there is a rule of thumb that is easy to go by. When a consumer pays a bill abroad using a credit, debit or prepaid card, they may be given the option to pay in the local currency or in their own currency. If they choose their own currency they could be hit with hidden charges because the retailer or ATM will apply their own conversion rate – and this can be vastly different from that of their card issuer.”

By opting to pay in the local currency, the holidaymaker’s card issuer will convert the money at a rate that many will publish in advance. For those customers who have already loaded a prepaid card in the local currency opting to pay in that currency saves them from a second conversion fee. By always opting to pay in local currency, holidaymakers could save themselves money at every transaction.

Travel cards changing the modern traveller’s experience

Darby suggests that the prepaid travel card industry is “continually evolving in line with consumer demand and technology improvements.” For example, he says that “a prepaid Travel Card allows travellers to budget by providing a separate ‘travel wallet’, which can be used as a savings account between booking and travelling. The ability for cards to be managed easily, on the go, online and via SMS is a key benefit for the modern traveller, who often demands instantaneous results. Furthermore, providing one ‘pot of money’ means customers can have multiple cards, allowing them to access and share funds without needing to be present 24/7.”

How travel agencies can benefit from relationships with prepaid card suppliers

“Tuxedo’s Escape Travel Money Prepaid MasterCard has been designed to deliver significant income potential for partners,” said Darby. “Escape enables distributing partners to earn attractive commission payments for the three-year life of the card. This new offering boasts numerous benefits for both partners and cardholders, setting it apart from competitors.

And there are several options for agencies that want to distribute cards on behalf of Tuxedo, from an “off the shelf” solution that can be up and running in as little as 14 days to co-branded or fully white label options. “With these options,” says Darby, “the card and customer communications become a branded travel essential that will remain front of wallet for holidays now and in the future.”

Tuxedo’s solution offers a “generous” commission rate to distributing partners, paid over the life of the card for all loads, not just the initial load. These cards can also be used for promotions, and can be given away preloaded and used (and earned on) for years to come.

The Future of Prepaid Cards: Do Travellers Want Something Different?

It’s only natural to assume that the way we pay for things is going to change dramatically in the coming years. Travellers also tend to be a forward-looking bunch, and are bound to be among the early adopters for new payment technologies. With that in mind, how much longer can travel agents rely on prepaid cards for a welcome boost to revenues?

If more disruptive technologies start to emerge, will the role of travel agents in currency matters become further diminished?

At one end of this scale we have smarter, more flexible money management platforms like Revolut. At the other, we have the emerging yet slightly futuristic technologies that use a combination of biometrics and smart devices to handle our finances and payments.

Let’s take a closer look at Revolut– Could this be the new kid on the block for the prepaid travel card industry?

There are a few things that travellers find frustrating when it comes to money management:

1. Exchanging currency: Getting a decent rate is almost impossible. Whether it’s withdrawing cash from your prepaid card abroad, at your local supermarket or inside the airport, it always seems as though someone is making a profit from the exchange. As a result, the traveller is not getting the best possible deal.

How new money platforms like Revolut solve this problem: Revolut offers instant currency exchange at inter-bank rates. Travellers can make an exchange through the app, whether they are currency trading or preparing for a trip.

2. Accessing money when abroad: Prepaid travel cards are great for safety, security and budgeting, but they can leave travellers feeling separated from their cash. For globetrotters who work on the road, this is far from ideal.

Revolut global money app

Revolut

How Revolut solves the problem: The Revolut app allows travellers to transfer money to and from external accounts, send money to friends in other countries in whatever currency you like, pay bills, track expenses and exchange currencies – free.

3. It’s not free to spend money abroad: Travellers don’t like to feel short-changed. In a modern, connected world, should banks really be charging for international withdrawals and transactions abroad?

How Revolut solves the problem: With a Revolut card, spending money is free. Simple as that.

4. People can feel separated from the normal help banks offer when travelling

You get the idea by now: An in-app chat gives Revolut users instant access to help when they need it. The travel industry is ideal for instant messaging – more on that here.

It seems clear that disruptive startups like Revolut are going to change the way travellers handle their money in the years to come. Prepaid cards have already taken giant leaps forward and made handling travel money far easier than it used to be.

Now there looks to be few new kids on the block. Whether travel agencies will be able to become as intertwined with these global money apps remains to be seen.

We spoke with Revolut’s Grace Stuart. She pointed out that many prepaid cards “tend to add a markup to the exchange rate or charge fees to spend your money around the globe.”

“Ultimately,” she said, “Revolut is more than a prepaid travel card. We’re building a21st-centuryy banking alternative designed for your global lifestyle. Customers can transfer 23 currencies to any bank around the world; see a categorised breakdown of their daily spending; split bills instantly with their phone contacts; and block or unblock their card at any time.”

But the bad news for travel agencies making commission from prepaid card sales: Revolut has no such affiliate program in place. “We do not have an affiliate program,” confirmed Stuart. “We have gained over half a million customers primarily through word-of-mouth referrals. The ease of sending and requesting money from friends or family via the Revolut app has also allowed our user base to grow organically.

“It seems likely that consumers will increasingly turn to prepaid cards to spend, save and manage their money. FinTech’s, like Revolut, are much faster than banks when it comes to delivering the functionality that consumers are looking for.”

For example, Revolut users can now apply for a personal loan from the app in 3 minutes and receive the money instantly in their account. The same process with major UK banks could take a week and cost you double.”