Payments using mobile devices are set to take around five years to become widely used in the corporate travel world, according to experts in the sector.

This was the consensus view during a panel discussion about new forms of travel payment held at the first Business Travel Show’s hosted buyer conference at London’s Hilton Olympia yesterday (February 4).

Mario Zorn, product manager for mobile payments at Airplus, said that travel managers would eventually benefit from the move to mobile payments as they would produce better quality data about their travellers’ activities.

“There are lots of advantages to mobile payments as the higher quality data they produce will give new ways to analyse things such as travel compliance and also provide a new basis for price negotiations,” he said.

“They could also feed into travel expenses and become used for the reimbursement of these expenses.

“It will not happen overnight – it will take four to five years. It will really start later this year or maybe even next year. It will grow slowly – four to five years is a realistic time frame.”

Zorn said that Airplus had created a prototype app which used a Blackberry and also included near field communication (NFC) for contactless payment.

He added that once this technology was rolled out to business travellers, smartphones and tablets could be used for paying extra airline charges such as excess baggage and paying hotel bills at the end of their stay.

Simon Barker, CEO at payment specialist Conferma, said: “This will be a profound change. It’s going to make a big difference and will have a significant effect over the next four to five years.”

Barker also said that single-use virtual credit cards would become more prevalent in the next few years because they were more secure and efficient in feeding data back to travel managers than existing solutions such as lodge cards.

“With lodge cards you don’t always know which booking goes with which payment. Single-use virtual cards make that happen much more easily because they are one depositary for all payment and travel information,” he added.

Zorn said that virtual cards would eventually “go together with mobile payments because they give you much more data, security and the possibility to manage and control spending behaviour”.

Brian Merry, director of ancillary products at HRG, said the developments around mobile technology were “very exciting” but agreed that it would take at least five years to become widely used.

“You could build the whole travel portfolio around that little piece of equipment,” he said.

But Merry added that take-up would depend on the technology available in particular countries and the quality of their telecoms systems.







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