A new programme has been launched to help Caribbean countries go cashless, financial technology giant Mastercard has announced, optimistic that it will boost tourism’s earning potential and help Governments pay citizens directly through smart identification cards.
The Smart Islands programme is also intended to help faster recovery for the region following a natural disaster, Mastercard said.
Director of Market Development for Mastercard Caribbean, Jimena Elia, said the new programme was designed to help develop smarter islands and cashless societies to strengthen regional economies.
She said: “Innovation is in Mastercard’s DNA. We are excited to reveal this multi-layered technology that can help expand the tourism industry’s earning potential and build the Caribbean’s resilience to natural disasters by developing smarter islands built on cashless societies.”
Smart Islands, which was created in association with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), is to begin in the Bahamas, and is to be adopted primarily by Governments and destination marketing organizations.
It is expected to provide anonymous data and tourism insight that will help them “define a country’s ideal tourist, enabling more efficient marketing investments with higher return on investment”.
Smart Islands can also help Governments implement smart identification cards with payment functionality to streamline Government disbursements and help to facilitate immediate assistance when necessary, even in the most adverse conditions, the company explained in a statement today.
Mastercard said: “Smart IDs with payment functionality included (Driver Licence, Fiscal ID, National ID) can also be used as an instrument to financially include the unbanked population.
“Mastercard can help Governments smartly leverage data analytics to enable destination marketing organizations by leading with tourism insights and value case models to reach the ‘ideal’ tourist and maximize return on investments, provide advisors services to manage targeted campaigns and results and use economic dashboards to monitor and measure results.”
While micro and small enterprises (MSEs) have been playing a critical role in the revenue gains from tourism over the past decade, only a tiny portion of firm in the region accepted electronic payments, it said.
Adding that tourists were more likely to spend money where making payments was convenient and secure, Mastercard said: “Opening card acceptance among MSEs expands tourist dollar reach beyond the traditional tourist centres, democratizing the industry, fostering financial inclusion, and spreading wealth.
“Today, out of the total of 1.4 million merchants in the region, only ten per cent of those are accepting electronic payments.”
In addition, it said a lack of data and identification “are key factors prohibiting fast recovery” after the impact of a natural disaster.
The fintech company explained: “High informality – lack of data and identification – adds to a more significant challenge in providing emergency support during and after impact.
“Providing the elements necessary to facilitate more rapid recovery in a humanitarian crisis is essential to preserve investments and business sustainability.”
Marcelo Tangioni, Mastercard’s Caribbean Division president declared his company’s commitment to transformational advancement, saying it was “steadfast in its goal of expanding its footprint throughout the Caribbean.
Said Tangioni: “Advances in technology like the Smart Islands program can help to strengthen economies, foster stronger relationships with MSEs, and increase financial inclusion.
“The Caribbean has strong digital momentum, and that momentum is the key to future digital evolution.”