Mastercard Launches Smart Islands Programme to Help Caribbean Countries Go Cashless

NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday January 24, 2020 – Technology giant Mastercard has launched a Smart Islands programme in the Caribbean to help countries in the region go cashless and reap significant gains, particularly in the tourism industry.

And according to Director of Market Development for Mastercard Caribbean Jimena Elia, the programme – which is to begin in The Bahamas – can help expand the tourism industry’s earning potential.

Tourism accounts for nearly 15 per cent of the Caribbean’s GDP; and over 50 per cent on many islands. The region attracts 57 million visitors each year and directly and indirectly provides more than 2.3 million jobs, according to studies from the World Bank and the World Travel and Tourism Council.

And Mastercard says the data and tourism insights that the Smart Islands programme provides can help governments and Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) define a country’s ideal tourist, enabling more efficient marketing investments with higher return on investment.

It said that while tourism growth has been steady and significant over the last ten years, with micro and small enterprises throughout the area playing a critical role in the economic ecosystem, only a tiny portion of companies in the region accept electronic payments.

“Today, out of the total of 1.4 million merchants in the region, only 10 per cent of those are accepting electronic payments. Independent research shows that foreign tourists are more likely to spend money where making payments is convenient and secure. To leverage the full potential of tourism for inclusive growth, international visitors need to be stimulated to venture beyond the few centres where they congregate, traveling far and wide across the country,” Mastercard said in a statement.

“Opening card acceptance among MSEs expands tourist dollar reach beyond the traditional tourist centres, democratizing the industry, fostering financial inclusion, and spreading wealth.”

In times of disaster, Mastercard added, the Smart Islands programme is also very useful.

Noting that natural disasters like those often experienced in the Caribbean severely cripple economies, often hitting the ever-important tourism industry and MSEs the hardest due to an inability to quickly recover, it said digital ecosystems facilitate seamless, fast, and transparent disbursements of funds in times of crisis.

“The Smart Islands programme can help governments implement Smart IDs with payment functionality to streamline government disbursements and help to facilitate immediate aid assistance when necessary, even in the most adverse conditions,” it said.

“Smart IDs with payment functionality included (Driver License, Fiscal ID, National ID) can also be used as an instrument to financially include the unbanked population.”

Mastercard’s Caribbean Division President Marcelo Tangioni said the technology company is steadfast in its goal of expanding its footprint throughout the Caribbean, and advances in technology like the Smart Islands programme 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,” he said.

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