Hotel payments can be bewildering. The hospitality sector is beset by acquirers, terminal suppliers, online payment gateways and dynamic currency conversion providers. With no easy way of tracking transactions across the board, it is rarely cost-efficient. "What they need is a centralised, end-to-end solution," says Worldline’s Chris Lanckbeen. "There aren’t many suppliers in the world who can offer that, but we’re one of them." His company supports 175 currencies, enabling more than 200 payment methods and over 40 local acquiring bank connections across every continent.

In short, a Worldline customer does not need to rely on third parties for any service regarding payments and transactions. Since 2015, the company, part of the Atos Group, has managed AccorHotels’ reservation system (TARS), which handles an average of 40 million queries and 120,000 bookings a day. It’s only in the past year, however, that Worldline has reached the position from which it believes it can truly impact the travel industry.

Specialist knowledge

"We already had hospitality customers in our portfolio," explains Lanckbeen, "but we didn’t have a dedicated vertical until last year. It took a huge investment in time, knowledge and people to launch it. We have the know-how and the knowledge and like to share this with our customers."

At the same time, a number of strategic acquisitions, most notably of Digital River World Payments, have enabled Worldline to work on a truly global scale. In fact the acquisition of Six Payments, a strong European acquirer, makes that Worldline becomes the Europe’s largest full end to end payment service provider.

Worldline has been able to partner with Availpro Fastbooking to improve their reservation channel manager, which distributes availability data for 11,500 hotels across more than 300 sales channels. Until they joined with Worldline, Availpro could only manage pre-authorisations. "Pre-authorisations have a low value and put hotels in a weak position regarding the certainty of reservation, as the hospitality industry is facing a lot of no-show situations," says Lanckbeen.

Pre-authorisation can be an expensive process. The fact that Visa and MasterCard only pre-authorise cards for a very limited time undermines hoteliers while exposing them to possible misuse fees, and the latter charges extra for the privilege. Differences between the pre-authorised amount and the final bill can lead to extra charges, as can currency and card changes. Booking engines can sometimes misindentify fake cards, and often pile on extra expenses by creating virtual ones. "But working with AvailPro Fastbooking, and thanks to its ‘PSP Connect’ system we’re able to charge customers for their bookings immediately," explains Lanckbeen. What’s more, Worldline’s end-to-end service means they can facilitate it without asking for anything extra from hotels.

"This is a strategy-changer for the hospitality world," he continues. "Often, if you buy goods online you need to pay immediately. I haven’t heard a real explanation for why it should be different for hotels. Almost all customers think they’ve already paid when they arrive, so what is there to lose by simplifying the process?

By charging the card you’re verifying it immediately: "You’re preventing no-shows as well as chargebacks, and minimising transactional costs," Lanckbeen adds.

We have the know-how and the knowledge, and like to share this with our customers.

The skyline is the limit

At London’s 2018 World Travel Market, Worldline announced its collaboration with HotelsPro, the world’s leading hospitality marketplace, and payment platform Paytrek. HotelsPro now resells Worldline payment terminals and acquiring services across its network of more than 600,000 hotels and 34,000 travel agencies. Furthermore, HotelsPro customers are now able to pay using Worldline’s dynamic currency conversion tool, helping hoteliers expand into new markets. Mustafa Korkmaz, managing director of HotelsPro, said the partnership provides customers with a "complete omnichannel payment platform that is seamless, secure and cost-effective".

As Lanckbeen sees it, this is just the start of an omnichannel digital transformation in the hospitality sector. With its connected hotel solution, the company is on track to feed a digital transformation. This provides the possibility to make a reservation, payment, speed up check-in and check-out, ordering services and open doors with the smartkey solution. This technology can also allow the finetuning of room temperature.

If visitors don’t like the Barcelona skyline, they can put their rooms in New York, or, if they don’t like any skylines, an aquarium. Altogether, this promises the customers a seamless and unforgettable experience in the hotel, and make any task easy for the hotel staff.