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Meaningful experiences, wellness as key pillars of the return of travel: Mastercard’s Mayank Dutt

Mastercard’s cardholders in its affluent portfolio can access wellness programs on the go.

Want to try mixing your own gin in a gin distillery? How about securing a table at a Michelin star restaurant even on a short notice? All of these are unique experiences now at the fingertips of Mastercard World and World Elite cardholders, under the new service proposition created by the payments platform in order to meet with travelers’ changed priorities.

“One of the big things that came out of the report was that people are actually looking for meaningful experiences. So we looked back at what our platform offers to bring priceless experiences to the fore,” Mayank Dutt, Head of Marketing and Communications, South East Asia, Mastercard, said in an interview with Asian Banking & Finance

With countries finally reopening borders and relaxing travel regulations, global travel is finally headed for a recovery. Approximately 1.5 billion more passengers are expected to travel in 2022 compared to the year prior, the Mastercard Economic Institute estimated in May.

“Travel is one of the biggest indicators of the post pandemic recovery happening. Everybody, be it for leisure or business,are traveling a lot,” Dutt noted.

Priorities, however, have transformed. The nearly two years of travel restrictions, coupled with health fears arising from the pandemic, led to two big seismic shifts of people putting emotional and physical well-being as being critical, and digitalisation. These two factors also influence what travelers now seek to find from their home aways: that is, meaningful experiences, and improved health and wellness. 

Wellness as a pillar
It was no longer just about deals and discounts anymore.

“There was a huge shift towards wellness. That's why, we kind of look back and say, ‘If consumers are looking at self improvement, wellness and health being more important to them going forward, our benefits need to be at par with that if not exceeded,” he explained.

In the last two to three years alone, the entire wellness market has increased rapidly, and is now an industry topping $1.5t, Dutt noted. “It's not a fad, it's not just a trend, it is something which is real. Consumers feel that emotional and physical wellbeing is very important. We have to be responsive.” 

This has led Mastercard to embark on partnerships in order to make health and wellness a central pillar of their travel offerings. For example, the card payments platform teamed up with Chris Hemsworth’s holistic wellness and fitness brand Centr, granting Mastercard World and World Elite cardholders a complimentary Centr membership for a year. With this, cardholders now have access to a coach and a team of coaches who will guide them to a “lifestyle reboot”, amongst other perks.

Mastercard also tied up with MyDoc, a telemedicine consulting service, as a means of adapting to what the company believes are new health needs that their customers developed during the pandemic.

“Consumers, who went through the pandemic, did use telemedicine and it's here to stay. It's very quick, it's very responsive, and at the same time you can do it on the go. So even though the pandemic recovery phase has begun, people will still stick to telemedicine,” Dutt said.

Travel, Sports
Apart from building health and wellness, which may be the new pillars borne from the pandemic, Mastercard also shifted their services to strengthen two other key pillars of post-pandemic travel: travel, and sports and lifestyle. 

“A lot of our benefits started catering to travel coming back as well,” Dutt said, sharing that they’ve rolled out many services such as airport concierge, limo services, and data roaming. For the latter, they partnered with Flexi roam to offer data roaming services to Mastercard World and World Elite cardholders. 

Mastercard also has something in store for the fervent golf fans, with Dutt observing how a big passion point for the affluent portfolio is golf. Mastercard’s Southeast Asia golf program–built and run by the payments platform–gives cardholders discounted or complimentary access throughout the region to play golf on the go.

Ultimately, Dutt said that meeting the ever-changing needs of their affluent consumers goes beyond simply offering or even replicating the deals, discounts, and product features currently available in the market–a mindset that Mastercard seeks to embody.

“We want to be responsive, not reactionary. We want to make sure that we put things in there that are really, really relevant. It's not about [offering] a discount, it's about making sure you put your mental wellness and your physical wellness right in the center of what you do. This is not about getting people to spend more, this is about protecting your information,” he added.

“So that's the reason why it was important that we refresh the value proposition so that it's relevant to today's time and is driven by the consumer need, and not by what we think is important for them. It's what they are telling us is important. That's pretty much the summary of what we wanted to do,” Dutt concluded.

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