The pandemic kickstarted a second payment revolution, and by 2025 travelers were in even more control of how they booked their trips and spent their money during their wanderings.
In January 2021 we released our annual travel industry trends forecast, Skift Megatrends
. Because of the havoc that the pandemic triggered, we wrote Skift Travel Megatrends 2025 as a vision of how travel industry dynamics could play out five years from now. You can read about each of the trends on Skift, or download a copy here.
Superapps, social media, and cryptocurrencies collided in 2025, with established travel technology players and a new wave of payment service integrators nearly stripping out the last remnants of friction for many consumers.
The superapp concept spread well beyond Asia. Large swathes of the population were stuck in their homes during the 2020 pandemic, and that necessity of shopping online, and ordering takeaways, caused mobile payments to soar.
Inspired by WeChat Pay, more social media firms designed their own currencies. Facebook’s Diem cryptocurrency spurred a new market of Instagram influencers selling directly on the platform, boosted by livestream marketing.
Smartphone makers and operating systems grew in the payments field, too. Apple Pay accounted for 5 percent of all card transactions worldwide in 2020, and doubled that over the next five years. Also working in the smartphone’s favor was biometric recognition, with features like retina scanning giving mobile wallets heightened levels of authentication.
Another pandemic byproduct was the growth in contactless payments. A Skift and Oracle Hospitality survey back during the pandemic found that contactless payments, followed by digital room keys, and then digital messaging services were the top factors making travelers feel more comfortable when staying in a hotel, as they allowed for easier social distancing.
For the business travel sector, the combination of virtual payment cards and mobile wallets gained further ground in 2025.
As a result, these changes pressed the travel industry into accepting a range of emerging mobile wallet payments. And brands that tapped into this prospered.
Global distribution systems stepped up. As airlines took more control of their own direct retailing, the distribution systems built upon their technology and experience to rapidly grow their presence in financial services.
Airlines and hotels also came up against the demand for mobile payments. “Fifteen to 20 percent of customers will leave the booking experience if their preferred payment method is not accepted, whether it’s credit cards or alternative forms of payment,” said Kristian Gjerding, CEO of CellPoint Digital, back when helping to integrate Apple Pay into Southwest Airlines’ services.
It was only going to go one way, as foretold five years earlier. The year 2020 “is the year that alternative payments will surpass cash and cards for travel industry transactions,” said Bart Tompkins, managing director of payments at Amadeus.
By 2025, travel companies had upped their game to accept a level of alternative payments, via mobile wallets, they’d never imagined in 2020.
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Photo Credit: Mobile payments using Alipay's iOS app. Alipay