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The Runa Insider: Gift Cards for International Travel Experiences

The Runa Insider: Gift Cards for International Travel Experiences

The Runa Insider is a monthly webinar series where we share updates and demo new products & features to ensure you make the most of Runa. 

Our September 2023 webinar covered Runa's tools to help your business expand globally. Watch the show for:

  • Overview of the Runa Network (01:25)
  • A list of currencies and countries Runa supports (01:54)
  • Value of the Runa Payout Link for end users (02:24)
  • Runa FX (03:35)
  • Special guest Peter Friend covers global travel insights and the value the Global Hotel Card and Global Experiences card brings to end users (05:55)


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Read the full transcript of this webinar below.

Runa Network Changelog: Stay up-to-date on new gift card brands and payout types to the Runa Network.


Brilliant, thank you everyone for joining. I'm going to get started now, so welcome to this edition of the Runa Insider. We're really excited today. We're going to be speaking about Global expansion and how Runa helped you to operate on a global scale and also some upcoming opportunities that we have with international travel and experience gift cards. That's why we're very happy to have today join us Peter Friend, who's the founder of President of Global Hotel Card and the Global Experiences Card. We'll be hearing from Peter a lot later. If you have any questions you can pop them in the Q&A box or at the end, alternatively just drop us an email afterwards. This call is being recorded and we'll share it afterwards, so you won't miss anything.

So, just to cover the agenda, we'll be starting off talking about some of the features that we offer you here at Runa to help you reach your users internationally, what this means for you as a business, and then we'll hear from Peter a little bit more about the global travel and experiences industry and the opportunities for businesses to tap into that.

Firstly, jumping into the product, as we're expanding our Global Network here at Runa, we're working really hard to make sure that you have the kind of best-in-class features to enable you to make the most of that. We are expanding the Runa Network, we're adding new payout types every single week in new countries as well. We currently have about 2,300 options in, you know, across a range of countries and currencies, and this includes gift cards, prepaid cards, subscriptions, cryptocurrencies, donations, and also sustainable payouts.

So in terms of where we're at right now, we can support on the platform 13 different currencies, but we are adding more before the end of this month and more throughout the year as well. So, you know, we're constantly expanding the number of currencies that you that we support your payment in, and at the moment this gives you access to 27 different countries. Again, this list is going to expand, so stay tuned. What's really important to us as well is the end user experience, so making sure that they get a payout that they really care about. So just a reminder that through our platform, you do have the option to send a payout link rather than a fixed gift card or prepaid card or something like that.

With a payout link, you send an open balance, so say you send $100 of digital value worth of digital value, then the recipient has the opportunity to redeem that anywhere on the Runa network, and they don't have to spend it all at the same time and they don't have to spend it all at the same place. So really, it gives them the flexibility to spend it like cash and choose what they want to spend it on. We've seen that almost 100% of Runa payouts are redeemed within 30 days of being spent, over being sent rather, which just goes to show how kind of cash-like it is.

And you know, a real benefit of people being able to choose how they use it. As I've mentioned already, we are adding new options, payout options to our Network every single week, and if you check out the changelog, that's the best place to stay up to date with what's new by country and by month. In order to support that Global Network, we now offer Runa FX, which makes it super easy for our customers to pay in different currencies. We're really excited about it as it's directly embedded into the platform, which means all in one place you can immediately exchange currencies and then spend it anywhere on the Runa Network. So it saves the hassle of managing lots of different either bank accounts or FX platforms and then transferring money over to Runa, you can do it all in one place.

We offer real-time exchange, so currencies can be exchanged and then spent immediately. I know lots of other kind of FX platforms will incur up to three working day wait in order to start using those currencies. So we know that our customers really appreciate being able to use it right away. We have fixed rates to FX, no hidden costs, and we don't charge anything to move funds in and out of your account. So very briefly, if you're not familiar with it already, how it works is it's directly in the balances section of your account. So you just top up there if you don't have anything in there already, you hit exchange, select the currency you want to exchange from and to, you'll be given the amounts and the rates as well for you to review and as soon as you click exchange, that's done instantly. It's processed immediately, and you have the opportunity to review all past transactions and exchanges as well.

So what does this mean for you? It means you can access quick and easy FX and top-ups 24/7, you can avoid the long processing times or delays that you often get from Banks or other FX providers. We do offer lower fees than a lot of our competitors and as I mentioned before no hidden costs or fees baked into that. Really what we want this to do is streamline it all for you so you can exchange currencies and use them all in one place without having to manage lots of different accounts and ultimately be able to use your reach your users wherever they are or indeed access new users and tap into new Revenue opportunities. So enough about the Runa platform for now, we'd love to talk to Peter now who's a total expert on Global Travel and experiences.

You know, we have seen that travel gift cards really are on demand and help our recipients with their travel plans, you know, especially with the economic situation as it is with people trying to save money, you know, I think there are a huge proportion of people who are still prioritizing travel and travel gift cards as a reward or an incentive or a gift is a great way to kind of create a memorable experience and a meaningful kind of reward or payout to that individual. But I'd love to hand over to you, Peter. It would be great if you could give an introduction to yourself and the global Hotel card and Global experiences card as well.

Yeah, thank you very much, and thanks everybody for joining. So I'm Peter Friend. I founded the global Hotel card in 2005 and was fortunate enough to be one of the early partners of Runa about seven - eight years ago. And our purpose in forming the company was to become the first gift card powered by an online travel agency for hotels, and at that time 2005, 2006, the gift card industry was really very early on, and the incentive industry was early on, and so we had the Good Fortune of joining both of those in terms of their scaling.

And one of the things that we do, I see that you're involved with many countries and many currencies. In 2008, as we became The Merchant of record, we now have 30 currencies and we're involved in about 200 countries for our hotel product, Global Hotel card which is powered by Expedia and our experiences product has 350,000 things to do in 150 countries. So what we like to do is live in the employee recognition programs, people come to companies like Runa, choose us from their catalog, exchange their points for our localized currency, so because we're in different currencies, when people come to redeem at our website, they will see the cost of the hotel or the cost of their experience in local currency, and they can also change and see the product descriptions and supplier descriptions of things to do in local currency.

So we consider ourselves to be one of really one of the few digital gift cards that allows people to book across the world and provides them with the choice of the largest inventory of hotels. We're directly connected to the Expedia website, and I think and hope you all know about Expedia being one of the largest if not the largest inventory of hotels in the incentive industry, which is great and they've provided us with a tremendous amount of support which we appreciate. And then Viator, which is owned by TripAdvisor, equally has the largest inventory of things to do across the world, and Viator is more than triple the largest amount of things to do versus any of their competitors. Historically, most of the experienced providers have been in a country-by-country basis, which is fine, but if you're living in one country, Germany, and you want to go to New York and do something, we enable you to do that. So it doesn't matter where you live or the currency that you get your hotel card in or your experienced card in, you can redeem it across the world.

And we really have enjoyed a transition from Group Travel, which was when we founded probably 70 or 80 percent of the type of incentive industry in 2005, 2006, to now individual incent travel. And um, if some of you are curious about why we think travel is such an important category to have in your reward program, it's always rated as one of the highest if not the highest aspirational reward. So it may not be the highest proportion of redemption inside of your catalog, but we believe it's a category that should be represented. And if you allow us to be one of the reward choices, for example, in hotels, Expedia provides us with Hotel inventory from 350 of the largest hotel chains in the world, and likewise, Viator has the largest aggregation. So with our card, people can have the kind of choice and representation of whether they want to go to a budget hotel, a five-star hotel, a chain hotel, a bed and breakfast, and all the other good choices that individuals should be able to make, family-friendly hotels, and things of that nature.

And travel as a category is huge and post-COVID, of course, people are really enjoying the opportunity to travel again and travel as a category is probably over a trillion dollars a year. Airlines are the largest but very very few cards are involved and we do not do Airline cards, we're just hotels and experiences but airlines are about 60 percent of that trillion, and then hotels is the second with about a 30 market share, and then experiences has about 10 of the market share. So even though it's only 10 percent of the travel spend, experiences account for a hundred billion dollars a year of spend by individuals. So as a category, it's proven. I don't think that we need to sell travel or experiences or hotels, what our company does is by partnering with Expedia and partnering with Viator, provide you with the Best in Class inventory and real-time connections and the most choice in a very rapidly growing category.

And experiences is growing the fastest of all of the travel categories. Last year, Viator realized about a 70 percent increase year over year in people booking experiences online, and they've done a terrific job of aggregating the 350,000 suppliers mostly through mobile phones so that the Redemption at the point of the supply is much more seamless than it was several years ago. So you know with the size of the industry and as you described with kind of travel Rewards or incentives being one of the most um you know aspirational rewards that individuals can go for Peter, it sounds like there's a huge opportunity for businesses or for platforms to tap into that and use you know your travel gift cards as a reward.

Absolutely, and we're not the first, Hyatt Marriott we're involved years ago but many many hotel chains do not have individual gift cards or they're not selling into the incentive industry so travel is really a proven category. In the 15 years, actually 13 years that we've been involved as a business, we've actually had 75 million of hotel bookings and over 500,000 gift cards. So that may not um sound like a big deal versus Amazon or some of your other largest gift cards, but it's been a great category for us and I think it still has a lot of room to grow especially now when people are redeeming their points for travel and experiences versus Commodities which was happening or Home Improvement which is happening before. So we believe travel is an important category for people to have in their catalogs and our purpose on partnering with Runa because we don't sell direct, we only sell through good partner agencies like Runa, is to expose people to what our cards have as inventory, have as direct Connections in real-time, have as customer service, we provide exactly the same terms and conditions that you would normally see if you went to an online travel agency to book as I'm sure you many of you have with your credit card.

We allow the same user experience to happen with your reward points that you can redeem for a currency denominated card and then apply to a booking and if your card does not have enough value for the booking that you make, we then allow through split tender for you to pay the balance with a credit card from whichever country your bank has issued the credit card. So that's another good thing, and also, people ask us sometimes what if our travel plans change and things like that, and likewise, we pass through the highest terms and conditions and refund policies that the hotel has. So if your plans do change and hopefully you book a flexible category of booking, you can then cancel online and in real-time, your gift card will be refunded, and your credit card will be refunded, and unlike some of our other gift card competitors mostly in Europe, we never expire any of our gift cards. By law in the United States, you may not expire your gift cards, but that's maybe not true around the rest of the world but wherever we issue a gift card in any currency we pass through that highest term and condition which is no expiration and if somebody has a 500 euro card and they use half of it on one reservation, the remaining balance is available for the next and you can use four cards per reservation.

So we've tried to make it a really positive user experience. That's great Peter, thank you and you actually stole the question right from my mouth which was going to be you know why do you think recipients love it so much but to me, it really sounds like from what you're describing it's a super flexible way to spend it as well. So, um you know they can have um you know split the balance or they can top it up and put half in a travel card or half on a credit card so I think that's a really really super user experience and you know makes it so that people can really use these rewards to um to have the travel experience that they really want even if you know that might be financially a bit difficult um otherwise.

Yeah, and to be fair we don't try to curate our our booking so if somebody wants to have something that is a wedding with a champagne and a a you know types of curated um experiences to be honest we don't do that but for for hotel bookings and experience bookings that have been so popular in that one trillion dollar category of spend, the secret that we the secret sauce for our card are two things one is that co-branding that you see powered by Expedia group, we're the only partner of Expedia that is allowed to have that in the incentive industry and that's extremely valuable for us and they take care of us on a customer service manner in a really strong way and likewise with with buy a tour to have that relationship and co-branding is very important to us.

Brilliant, well Peter I'm conscious of time um but this is a you know great conversation so I'd love to open it up to see if anyone has any questions from the audience we did have a question submitted ahead of time um which was around Trends in different countries Peter so have you noticed different use in different countries obviously you're a global business um is there a country where this is demanded more or or less or kind of experiences over hotels or any Transit you're noticing. Speaking to the hotel card first, our usage mirrors the usage of an individual outside of the incentive industry outside of employee recognition programs almost exactly so um it's really the opportunity to spend on things that they want to spend at a hotel using their points is full or partial payment um but the destinations are almost identical to what expedia realizes on their consumer site and Expedia does not by the way have a gift card so we're really the gift card solution for them and their their inventory is huge all around the world.

With Viator, the experienced providers are much more prevalent in Europe so for example of the 350,000 partners that they have 40,000 are in Italy believe it or not and in aipac and Southeast Asia the inventory of things to do is also really large in the United States it's large but it's not as dominant as it seems to be in hotels so for your International clients we think we're a really good solution and for Global clients that you have we also think we're a great solution because if one of your if you're representing a company that has employees in 10 15 20 30 countries you can feel comfortable that our card will be successful or a good user experiencing a hundred percent of your catalogs without having to Source individual hotels or experiences in every country.

That's great, thank you Peter. Um, that was the the question that I had submitted beforehand. I can't see any others coming through. Um, and I am aware that we're over time so we better wrap up, but Peter thank you so much for your time today. This has been so helpful. Um, to everyone else we'll be sharing this deck and um a pack from from Peter as well so you can learn all about the global Hotel card and the global experiences card but um and if you have any questions feel free to just let us know and we can direct them towards Peter. So thank you, Peter, and thanks everyone for joining. Thanks everybody, thank you.