How 'Digital' is Helping you Travel Light As per a report of eMarketer, global digital travel was a roughly $ 565 billion market in 2016, with sales expected to top $817 billion by 2020

By Vinay Kalantri

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Digital currency has become the buzz word of the day, in every sphere of life and travel perhaps is one of the sectors that bask in the glory now. Travellers especially the outbound tourists have been using digital modes of payment for a long time now. But, now it has caught their fancy more than ever before. This digital mode of payment, which started gathering steam since the demonetization of strategic bank notes in November last has been gaining in size and scale as economy moves on.

The Arrival of Digital Currency

For the sake of brevity, digital currency is a payment method which exists only in electronic form and not in tangible form. Digital currencies, also known as digital money or cyber-cash that can be used to purchase goods and services like paper money and can be restricted, thus bringing it under the organized monetary system. More, the instrument also reflects its underlying value like paper currency and its status is controlled by the central banks of the respective nations. If the current thinking in the government and the market is anything to go by, digital payment systems have finally arrived at the Indian financial firmament. This has been evident from the spike in digital mode of payments covering even rural India during the months that followed demonetization.

The bright spot in the making of digital India is the fact that electronic payments through established channels and certified technology back-bones remained at the elevated level even after the RBI has closed the remonetization exercise completely months back. If this trend persists and government's efforts to remove minor irritants fructify, India will become a fully digitalized economy sooner than later, though pockets of islands depending on paper money may persists. This is because of the sheer size of the country and other structural rigidities in rolling out the digital payment infrastructure in one go.

How it Eases Travel

A major positive of digital currency is that it makes travel easier and the travel and tourism industry will be the major beneficiary. Anybody who travels across the world for business and leisure with a digital wallet can forget about the hassles of currency exchange since most of such instruments can be pre-loaded with multiple currencies with pre-set budget, thus putting a cap on spending. It works like a network neutral telephone which allows anybody who travels anywhere to use and be reachable on the same number in any country. There are no hassles in using the same SIM on a different network; just switch on the phone and it automatically selects the network and you are accessible from any part of the world.

Similarly, the coming of age of digital currency coincides with the rapid changes in the financial landscape. It is same like the fashion season in Paris in the olden days. The digital financial system around the globe is making it easy for the customers / travelers to make digital payments. Going forward digital wallets will be the most favoured transaction instrument for all types of goods and services.

Going Digital has its Own Benefits

As per a report of eMarketer, global digital travel was a roughly $ 565 billion market in 2016, with sales expected to top $817 billion by 2020. Companies in the travel sector will capture a much bigger market share if they partner now with cashless solution providers. Similarly, the mobile manufacturers too can partner with these companies and launch already loaded devices in the market. The cashless and mobile economy space is incremental if the tracks are laid down now. The transformation to cashless mode will happen at a much faster pace

There is a growing chorus of opinion that for the digital currencies to gain further ground, payment companies need to come together and collaborate with common benchmarks and `network neutral' approach or service provider agnostic technology. Here comes the express need to develop a well-conceived, calibrated and structured system to enable seamless payments faster with strict regulatory oversight.

This is a critical moment in business and technology, and world is looking to India and China to gauge the opportunity not to left behind in the race. It is high time that the digital payments must go beyond day-to-day transactions and open up new opportunities in the ever evolving and expanding business eco-system.

Vinay Kalantri

Founder and Managing Director, tmw

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