Virtual Pay for Hotels

The Future is Virtual

May 8, 2017 1:36 pm Published by
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Implementing Virtual Pay for Hotels

We’ve talked about the benefits of Virtual Payment technologies before. But it bears repeating.

So to clarify the benefits of Virtual Pay and the process involved in implementing it, we’ve put together the major takeaways from the process. Consider this a focus feature on one client’s experience of the process.

First Thing’s First: What is it?

Virtual Payment generates a unique card number for each reservation, specific to the individual traveler name and the dates of travel and the hotel property.

At this time, World Travel, Inc. is prepared to support Virtual Pay for hotel payments in either Apollo or Sabre systems. A recent GBTA task force has not validated the technology or security of using virtual payment for air, rail, or car payments.

Second Thing’s Second: Why use it?

Why consider implementing Virtual Pay?

Well, for the same two reasons you make most travel decisions: convenience and security.

Convenience

Virtual Pay streamlines the booking on the back-end, eliminating the need for your agents to spend time following up on hotel credit card faxes. (Non-essential side-note: how it is 2017 and the most secure way to send credit card numbers is via fax machine, well, it’s beyond us.)

It’s also, importantly, a great way to provide hotel payments for employees who don’t have corporate credit cards without asking them to use personal cards. It allows your company to pay for your travelers’ corporate travel expenses, quickly and easily.

And, for you expense gurus, it’s much easier to reconcile payments on a Virtual card back to a central billing account. It’s a single-use card, so you know exactly what the payment was for, every time.

Security

You see data breaches in the headlines, constantly. Whether you’re worried about how the credit card gets to the hotel in the first place (being spoken aloud over the phone or written out), or you keep an eye on the number of data security “oops” moments that major hoteliers keep having, it’s safer to have a Virtual Pay plan that assigns a specific card for only a specific vendor for specific dates and a specific amount. Not to mention, Conferma is PCI-compliant.

As one of our Senior Project Managers said, “no one is going to take this credit card number to the apple store and go crazy. It’s a one-time use virtual card, and it’s good for John Doe on May 16th to May 18th, for the Marriott Downtown Boston, and that’s it.”

Getting Started

There are several hurdles you need to clear before you can implement virtual pay.

If you’re considering it, the first thing you need to do is start a dialogue with your financial institution to open a separate line of credit. Your preferred financial institution will talk you through different elements to consider (ie: geography, currency, technology, etc.). This process can take around eight weeks, depending on who your financial institution is, and on your relationship with them.

Once the financial institution says yes and processes your application, they’ll come back to you with a card pool. Depending on your requirements, this could be 100 cards or 100,000 cards.

Next, the virtual payment provider – in this instance, we’re using Conferma, a leader in virtual payment technology development – will need some time to process the build, before they reach out to us (your TMC) with the credentials to begin programming your account.

Our World Travel, Inc. team customizes code for each client, and then takes time to vigorously test the process. We’ll try purposefully to fail and to pass the trials, in order to find any issues or discrepancies. The programming is slightly different for agent-booked reservations than for OBT reservations.

All told, you’re looking at a minimum of two months from when you get your card pool from your financial institution.

Five Steps

Lights, Camera, ACTION

Once you’ve completed the implementation process, the virtual payment process is seamless, but works a little differently for agent-bookings versus OBT bookings.

Agent-Booked Reservations

Our technicians will program account specifics within Conferma to integrate with Travelport’s Smartpoint functions of the “hotel sell”. In the hotel sell, the agent can check a box to indicate that the payment is not pre-paid – it’s a Conferma virtual payment.

(Didn’t quite understand all that? Call us – we’ll explain what it all means!)

OBT-Booked Reservations

For an OBT booking, our programmers can turn on Conferma based on account number, specific traveler names, or another custom unique data field. Or, if you already have a hotel guarantee card set in your travelers’ profiles, the system can be programmed to recognize that card number and automatically replace it with a virtual card.

And then…

After the booking is made, a message request goes directly to web pay, Conferma’s deployment tool, which pulls a virtual card out of the pool and brings it back to the PNR. A second message is then sent to the hotel via electronic fax, containing the guest name, check-in/out dates, and hotel daily rate. The card is unique to this transaction only. It is a one-time-use card and can only be applied to this booking.

Flow Chart

What the Traveler Doesn’t See

There’s a lot going on that the traveler doesn’t ever see. Connection pathways are made, banking institutions have to connect with Conferma, and Conferma has to connect with the GDS and with the OBT. It’s a pretty complex process that makes travel simple. The complexity is why we run all those tests when we’re implementing. The simplicity is the benefit your travelers experience once we’re done.

Show Me the Data

As Karen Kuhar, one of our senior Project Managers, said, “Conferma has a very healthy reporting system. That’s huge for a lot of clients. The Web-based reporting helps account administrators pull reports on custom data fields, as well as individual travelers and trip specifics. It’s self-managed reporting for the client to use.” Access to data is one of the driving decision factors when our clients consider a virtual pay option.

There’s an App for ThatMobile Features

We’ve all been there. You roll up to the check-in desk, and the hotel receptionist says, “I don’t have any payment on file for that room. How would you like to pay.” Even when you triple check ahead of time, sometimes the hotel doesn’t have its act together. But don’t worry, Conferma offers an App for that. And it’s free. Travelers can download the app and receive an image copy of the front and back of each virtual card used to pay for their stays. They can pull up the card on their phone and show the receptionist. And if they won’t accept the screen image, the traveler can re-trigger the electronic fax confirmation, right from their phone.

“This is a great just-in-case contingency plan. A lot of these “what-if” situations can be alleviated with your travelers knowing about this app and downloading it. Your trips are on their, you can open the specific trip and access the card, and you can trigger a fax from the app to the hotel. It really reassures the traveler, so they feel better prepared to face whatever they’re going to face at the hotel.”

 

Why Virtual?

Virtual Pay is replacing P-Log as an industry-wide tool. Hotels have a particularly high employee turnover rate, so while it’s sometimes difficult to keep staff up to date with this latest technology, the fact remains, Virtual Pay is the way of the future.

As Karen says, “Conferma is a great tool that has the potential to change how the travel industry handles payments.”

Want to Learn More?

Great! We’d love to talk with you! Contact your Account Manager or your World Travel, Inc. Sales Representative to learn more about Conferma Virtual Pay and the industry-changing technology that could improve the security and convenience of your hotel payments.

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This post was written by Chesley Turner

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