If the current crisis is, as many believe, going to drive automation in travel, then B2B payments is one area seen as ripe for change.
The Open Payment Alliance was formed about four years ago by a group, including hotel distribution trade organizations HEDNA and HTNG and payments specialists Voxel Group and Onyx CenterSource, to remove friction from B2B payments but still allow for payment flexibility via a standard.
Technology specifications have now been released, and it is believed COVID-19 will act as a catalyst for the adoption of the standard.
Xavier Ginesta, chairman of Voxel group and co-chair of OPA, says there is often a long transaction chain in travel with an online travel agency buying from a bedbank, who then buys from a hotel chain.
Ginesta says that problems arise when different parts of the chain have different payment terms, and COVID-19 has brought the issue into the spotlight.
While the industry has traditionally worked with credit insurance companies to remove the risk of failure of any element in the chain, the pandemic has increased the risk, and, says Ginesta, insurance companies have been less willing to provide credit.
He adds that the situation has led to a collapse of trust in the industry.
At the heart of the OPA is a Payment Manager, which separates the payment element from the distribution element and is likened to how a channel manager works.
Voxel Group has been involved in developing the proof of concept for the Payment Manager via its baVel platform.
Ginesta says that payment hub receives payment instructions from one end and interconnects with the property management system and/or reservation system of the hotel at the other.
Focus groups are now being created to get pilots off the ground, and an Early Adopters’ program has been formed by Voxel and Mastercard, with the latter sponsoring the integration costs of the first companies to join the program.
Voxel says that more than a dozen companies have now joined the OPA including Melia, World2Meet, Logitravel, Abreu and Prestige.
Ginesta believes that in five years, the bulk travel industry will be using a Payment Manager.
“When we look back we will see that the industry was operating in such an archaic way and it made no sense.”