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Higher Education Payments Industry Challenges: Consumer Perspective

Lack of alternative payment options and inefficient cross-border payment and international funds transfer systems are two of the biggest challenges impacting the higher education payments industry. These challenges stem from the reluctant nature of universities to migrate from legacy systems to more advanced digital payment solutions.

Lack of Alternative Payment Options

Inefficient Cross-border Payment and International Funds Transfer System

Research Methodology

To find the two biggest challenges impacting the higher education payments industry from a consumer perspective identified above, your research team started by scouring reports on the higher education payments industry. In this regard, we focused on reports published by payment providers, educational institutions, fintech solutions vendors, and financial institutions. We then checked which challenges are repeatedly mentioned across these reports, along with those that have a greater financial impact on the students. For each report, we focused on the consumers' perspectives of the matter, along with expert opinions. Overall, using that approach, we found out that the lack of alternative payment methods and ineffective cross-border payment platforms are two of the biggest challenges impacting the higher education payments industry.
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Higher Education Payments Industry Challenges: TechnologyPerspective

As technology advances and students expect higher education providers to advance with it, there is an increasing pressure on institutions to embrace technology across all areas of the business, including finances and payments. With the growth of a cashless society and the increasing consumer desire for new currencies to be accepted, the higher education payments industry is constantly required to adapt.

Contactless Society

  • In a society where students rely on contactless payment methods to make purchases, higher education institutions are expected to accommodate this growing trend. Payments via smart phone, QR code, SMS, smart watches and wristbands, and even fingerprint recognition software, are increasing in popularity, but with them come challenges.
  • Moving away from cash to contactless payments presents significant security risks, challenges with infrastructure and PCI compliance (especially as many institutions operate on legacy systems), and the processing of large amounts of sensitive data which makes the institution a target for hackers.
  • Institutions are beginning to implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) tools which provide an added layer of protection from cyber-attacks. This is particularly important when students are using their own devices to make payments. Santa Clara University recently launched a contactless digital ID card that can be used to access university facilities and make payments. The card is installed in the smart phone's wallet app and features two-factor authentication, minimizing the security risks associated with contactless cards. Companies such as Arrow Payments and Flywire are offering higher education institutions solutions and advice to overcome security challenges and reduce their PCI scope in an ever-changing financial market.


  • Cryptocurrency is making a come-back and there is an increasing need for higher education providers to accept donations, payments, and even tuition fees in the form of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. For international students whose countries are under financial sanctions, being able to make payments using cryptocurrencies can help them to avoid unnecessary fees.
  • Accepting cryptocurrencies is a challenge for any business due to the volatility in the value of major cryptocurrencies, the lack of security and the need to store funds in a digital wallet. Higher Education providers are regularly dealing with such large sums of money that a change in the value of cryptocurrency could have a significant impact. Therefore, the challenge is to exchange any cryptocurrency collected immediately upon receipt, which adds an extra layer of complexity and potential fees.
  • Universities who have adopted the use of cryptocurrencies as a payment option all seem to have partnered with companies specializing in blockchain technology, who can advise them on the exchange and fee payment process. The University of Nicosia in Cyprus was the first institution to accept tuition payments in cryptocurrency, with 45% of students paying for fees using Bitcoin in 2016. Since then other universities have followed suit, with The Kings College in New York partnering with to accept bitcoin payments for fees in 2014, and France’s Financia Business School partnering with crypto asset specialist Coin Capital to do the same.

Research Strategy

In order to understand the technological challenges faced by the higher education payment industry, we first researched current advances within the industry. Using industry reports and articles published by major banks, agencies and financial advisers, as well as research on financial trends among the student population, we were able to determine areas where the market is changing. Although this research has focused on the US, higher education institutions are receiving a larger number of international students who have a significant impact on how the payment industry responds to consumer needs. This is evident in the growing trend to use cryptocurrency as a payment method. Therefore, multiple sources mention institutions and technological advances with a global, as well as a US, perspective.
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Digital Payments Barriers

While digital payments have grown in popularity in peer-to-peer, e-commerce, and retail point of sale situations, growth in the use of digital payments in educational contexts, such as paying university tuition, has failed to keep pace. This slow growth is despite an increased desire by students and parents reporting wanting to use non-traditional payment methods at higher education institutions, with more than 90% of respondents claiming that the ability to use real-time and text message payments would decrease late payments. While limited information regarding obstacles to adoption was found, some university officials reported concerns were mainly around the number of digital payment options available, processing fees, security, and existing barriers to implementation.

Diversity of Options

  • Some university officials quote the variety of digital payment products, from Google Pay, Venmo, PayPal, and many others, as being an obstacle to integration, as officials claim there are too many to support them all, and research is required to even narrow down to the few a school chooses to accept. Vanderbilt University's bursar, Chris Cook, was quoted as stating, “There are so many [alternative payment methods] and we can’t possibly accept all of them... Before we decided to say yes to one and no to another, we need to research all of the options.”
  • Limited information was found regarding what educational institutions are doing to limit the burden of choice. However, research noted that the payments industry in general, with the support of governments, is exploring partnerships and joint standards to ensure interoperability between services. For example, the U.S. Federal Reserve created the Faster Payment Task Force in 2015, to drive a national push to develop a faster payments system, to include requirements for system interoperability.

New Processing Fees

  • Some universities claim that they're concerned about additional fees that they might incur (or have to pass on to the student), above and beyond credit card processing fees and ACH transfer fees. For example, using Venmo would incur an additional 3% charge for sending money, on top of existing processing charges, which often get passed onto the payer in educational contexts. Research indicated that mitigation of this factor appeared to be limited to making sure neither the institution nor the payer was adversely impacted by the new methods' fees, beyond what they were already used to incurring.

Integration Challenges

  • Many schools don't have a unified payment solution, in that the coffee shop, bookstore, campus bursar, and other campus points of sale (POS) may all use different payment systems and therefore accept different payment methods. As a result, integrating a single digital payment method may involve not just integration into one POS system, but several, slowing down a campus-wide rollout. Regardless, institutions are choosing to adopt new digital payment systems, to solve for other related pains associated with payments, such as ensuring data security and privacy, easing the payment process for international students, and easing demands on customer service.

Security Concerns

  • Due to the size of many educational payments exceeding tens of thousands of dollars, such as a semester's tuition, some families and bursars may be uncomfortable utilizing newer, but less-proven, payment methods, instead relying on traditional methods with which they might be more comfortable.
  • In particular, real-time payment systems (on which many digital payment systems are built) are more susceptible to account takeover using sophisticated fraud schemes and hacking, since the funds are managed through digital accounts, and allow bad actors to move funds quickly out of accounts they have compromised. Peer-to-peer payment platforms, such as Zelle and Venmo, are often susceptible to the same risks.
  • In response to this concern, experts are encouraging institutions to do a phased rollout, starting with departments with low-value transactions, such as bookstores and dining halls, before moving on to larger-value transactions, such as tuition and board payments.

Research Strategy

Since thee is no single definition of "digital payments," a definition of the term was developed. For this research, "digital payments" were defined to include digital wallets (e.g., Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.), in-store payment applications (e.g., PayPal Beacon, Apple iBeacon, etc.), in-app payment methods (e.g., WeChat Pay, Facebook Payments, Whatsapp Payments, etc.), digital currency (virtual money and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Litecoin), and Peer-to-Peer payment applications (e.g., PayPal, Venmo, Veem, etc.). Payments using bank account-to-account transfers (e.g. ACH and wire transfers) and physical use of cash, check, and credit/debit cards are not included in this definition.
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Higher Education Digital Payments: Security Concerns

Improved efficiency, flexibility, and cost savings are benefits associated with using digital payments in higher education. The concerns include fraud attacks and overall acceptance. A detailed presentation of the benefits and concerns is presented below.


  • Use of digital payment methods such as mobile payments in institutions of higher education nurtures efficiency in service delivery. Transactions made through such digital platforms are processed quickly, thus maximizing on the number of people served each day.
  • A campus can also customize transactions before, during, and after they are executed to align to an institution's prevailing culture.
  • Moreover, administrative staff on campuses avoid worries about issues such as human error, providing change, or keeping track of cash paid by students. This frees up more time for them to attend to other duties, thus enhancing efficiency.
  • Enhanced efficiency is a benefit because it helps institutions to improve on the quality of services delivered.
  • Another benefit of using digital payments in higher education is administrative cost savings. Using digital payment platforms such as mobile wallets reduces administrative costs in labor, printing expenses, and credentials inventory maintenance associated with cash payment.
  • Cost saving is a benefit because it helps institutions to improve on their profit margin as a result of low operational costs.
  • Digital payment improves students’ experience and offers them the convenience they desire in their campus life. They avoid long queues when paying at the numerous touchpoints on campus. Campuses with mobile payment platforms also allow students to pay their school fees from anywhere and anytime using their mobile phones.
  • Convenience is a benefit because it allows students on campuses to focus solely on their academics, as they will be less worried about forgetting the identification documents needed to access some services.
  • Digital payment solutions also provide students with flexibility. Campuses with a blended solution of mobile payment apps and physical prepaid cards allow students to pay even when there is a poor network connection. They can use the appropriate option depending on circumstances.
  • Flexibility is a benefit because it helps students to avoid skipping payments or late payments.


  • Digital payment platforms raise important security concerns such as fraud attacks. A fraud attack on an institution of higher learning's digital payment platform can lead to the loss of students' personal data, such as card numbers, names, and card verification number.
  • For instance, in 2019, Mirrorthief hackers attacked the PrismWeb e-commerce platform of numerous American universities and stole students' payment data. Such incidences are a concern because they raise critical questions on the security of personal data when using digital payment platforms in institutions of higher education.
  • Another concern with digital payment is the overall acceptance rate by the involved stakeholders, especially the low-income families. Such families have no access to credit/debit cards or other infrastructure needed to use digital payment systems.
  • The overall acceptance rate is a concern because it determines the adoption rate of digital payment platforms in institutions of higher education. Some institutions are forced to adopt the system slowly to accommodate such concerns.

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Education in 2020

The admission practices of higher education institutions have faced unprecedented public scrutiny in the past year. The "Varsity Blues" scandal and accusations of admissions discrimination were the key drivers of this public inquisition. It comes as no surprise that college admission practices will continue to generate public interest in 2020. Online education has expanded from private for-profit education companies to small and large higher education institutions throughout the country. Offering online courses has become a necessity, and institutions of higher education will invest significant resources in 2020 to learn how best to market and deliver this type of learning opportunity. A third topic generating extensive press coverage is the closing of small, private colleges across the country as a result of financial collapse. This trend is spreading to publicly funded institutions, and creative methods for ensuring financial solvency will be a key topic in higher education in 2020.

Reinventing College Admissions

Public Scrutiny Continues

  • Colleges and universities across the U.S. were cast in a negative light in 2019 when investigators discovered that certain students had received admission offers as a direct result of financial bribes and illegally obtained SAT and ACT scores. The Varsity Blues scandal upended the world of college admissions, exposing that the admissions process was vulnerable to wealthy and influential individuals exploiting their financial and personal advantages to ensure admission for their children at elite institutions.
  • In late 2019, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), altered its code of ethics to reflect harsh penalties for antitrust violations. Some colleges and universities had previously attempted to poach students or entice them into applying and/or accepting an offer of admission by offering generous perks.
  • Due to the college bribing scandal and the NACAC's revised code, colleges will be held accountable by the public and must be vigilant about uncovering the motives of those giving donations.

Affirmative Action

Partnerships with Private Industry

  • The low national unemployment rate has required companies across the United States to offer more lucrative employee benefits in order to retain and attract high-caliber employees. An emerging trend is for companies to leverage education as a benefit for their employees. A study published by Deloitte revealed that companies will spend $22 billion on tuition assistance benefits in 2020, and experts predict that number will increase in years to follow. This trend will require a unique partnership between human resources executives and college admission staff.
  • Reports of technology innovation flood the media, and higher education is no exception. New methods of communicating with prospective and accepted students will be necessary in 2020, as colleges develop creative tactics to capture the attention of screen-dependent high school students.
  • An "admissions-focused website" aimed at attracting prospective students is a goal of many college admission offices in 2020. In working with marketing professionals, the admissions teams will revamp home pages to serve as inspiring launching points with "call-to-action features" for financial aid, admissions, and program pages.
  • The standardized testing industry is under fire for a variety of reasons, and admissions offices have been forced to respond accordingly. Lawsuits accusing standardized tests of being discriminatory and accusations that the test companies have been selling student scores and student disability data have ruined the public's opinion of these tests. Add to this the highly publicized college cheating scandal, and more colleges in 2020 will have no choice but to reconsider accepting scores as part of the admissions process. As of January 2020, over 1,000 institutions have declared themselves test-optional, and that number is expected to increase in the near future.

The Solvency of American Colleges and Universities

  • A number of factors are causing both private and public colleges to merge or close, especially in New England and the Midwest. Reports of the closings have generated public outcries of support for these beloved institutions.
  • With a smaller college-age population, higher education institutions are seeing declining enrollments. Most states are also implementing budget cuts that directly impact public colleges and universities. This will require institutions of higher education to locate new financing opportunities.
  • Funding strategies focused on research will be critical to solvency in 2020. Universities will need to partner with companies interested in funding research and development initiatives, and the creation of state-of-the-art research hubs will enable institutions to be more competitive when applying for federal grants.
  • Fundraising campaigns will be noticeably different in 2020. According to a professor at a top graduate program, "We’re seeing more capital campaigns seeking funds from private donors." More institutions will launch multi-year fundraising campaigns with large goals. In a survey of 600 higher education fundraisers, 81% were about to start a capital campaign, and 49 institutions were already in the midst of billion-dollar fundraising campaigns.
  • One revenue source that will become more commonplace is the partnership with local employers to provide an education benefit to their employees. Employers are interested in having a mutually beneficial contract rather than being forced to "write a blank check to workers like they did in the past."
  • A global higher education leader recommends enrolling more students from Africa, the Middle East, and India. Universities and colleges will be increasing their marketing efforts to these countries in 2020, as this tuition source has the potential to produce substantial revenue. This admissions initiative will dramatically change the diversity of college campuses in fall of 2020.

Online Education Growth

  • Whereas regular college and university enrollments are declining, online education enrollment continues to increase. One third of all college students have taken at least one online course, and advertisements for online education opportunities abound. The global online learning industry is increasing by millions of students each year, and online education will be a $331 billion industry by 2025.
  • Colleges are developing innovative methods of delivering online courses to students. Arizona State University offers students the choice to take all first year courses online, and they only pay for them if they are pleased with their grade and are seeking academic credit. Numerous graduate programs are now available online at a fraction of the cost of an on-campus degree. New versions of online education programs will increase in 2020, as will the marketing and public awareness of such opportunities.
  • Online learners have unique needs, including scheduling classes outside of work/personal demands and the challenge of feeling disconnected from the school community. Over the next year, colleges with online programs will flood the industry with unique ways to engage with this growing group of learners.
  • In 2020, online program management will be handled in-house, rather than by an external company. University-owned online programs generate more revenue and allow schools to customize their programs towards student needs.
  • Affording a college education remains at the forefront of the minds of Americans today. Online education has the potential to assuage this issue. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles garnered extensive support over her decision to enroll in an online college instead of attending UCLA. The University of the People, a fully accredited, tuition-free college, has set the standard for low-cost online college educations of the future.

Research Strategy

To conduct research for this brief, we consulted the leading higher education news sources and websites to determine the top trends for 2020. After reviewing which topics were most frequently mentioned, we were able to determine the top three for 2020. We then researched press coverage of these topics by reviewing articles appearing in major news publications, such as Forbes and the New York Times. Finally, we consulted leading higher education graduate program websites to secure an inside look at what is being taught to new higher education professionals. In reviewing course syllabi and published material written by higher education faculty, we were able to confirm that our sources were credible and that the topics listed are being routinely discussed in higher education classrooms today.
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Revenue Cycle Management in Healthcare

The US healthcare RCM market is likely to benefit from government healthcare reforms such as Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the introduction of new technologies such as robotic process automation and machine learning in the RCM space. Lack of skilled RCM personnel, highly competitive market, and high implementation costs are among the key challenges faced by the healthcare organizations in the implementation of RCM. Below we have presented a detailed overview of the current state of RCM in US healthcare.

US Healthcare Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) Market Overview

  • According to the data from GM Insights, the US healthcare RCM market was valued at $18 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $25.63 billion by 2025, as per data from Grand View Research.
  • In addendum, as per Grand View Research, the market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 11.2% over the 2019-2025 forecast period.
  • Physician offices and their staff such as nurses, consultants, and office managers are the largest end-user segment in the US Healthcare RCM market and had a 42% market share in 2017. The segment is expected to remain dominant in the coming years as well.
  • Some key trends in the US healthcare RCM market include increasing consolidation through mergers and acquisitions and rise in the adoption of cloud computing.
  • Some key players in the US revenue cycle management market include Allscripts, SSI Group, Cerner Corporation, Athena Health, McKesson Corporation, Epic Systems Corporation, and eClinicalworks among others.

Growth Opportunities in the US Healthcare RCM Market

  • The implementation of new technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), artificial intelligence, and machine learning in RCM has helped healthcare organizations unlock significant growth opportunities and attain higher levels of revenue cycle performance. This will help increase the adoption rate of RCM solutions among healthcare organizations.
  • The US Government reforms such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have led to the expansion of health insurance coverage to low-income individuals, improvement in the quality of healthcare services, and reduction in healthcare costs. This has, in turn, expanded the US healthcare market, and hence, provided a growth opportunity for the adoption of healthcare RCM solutions.
  • The expansion of the insurance coverage in the US is likely to lead to an increased number of claims that are required to be managed through RCM. Thus, the demand for RCM solutions for effective management of reimbursement processes is set to increase.
  • In addition, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as well as the Medicaid and Medicare EHR Incentive Program is likely to underpin the growth of the RCM market through 2025, as these regulations will increase the prevalence of certified EHR systems in the US.
  • An increasing number of US hospitals and health systems are working to consolidate their operations from multiple third-party vendors into a single, one-stop solution to reduce administrative burden and increase revenue collection rates. This is likely to further boost the adoption rate of RCM solutions among US healthcare organizations.
  • Advantum Health is an example of a company that is leading the healthcare industry in the use of RPA in revenue cycle operations and "medical credentialing verification processes".

Challenges Faced

  • According to a survey by Black Book Research, in 2018, 26 percent of the US hospitals still do not have an effective RCM solution in place.
  • One of the key challenges faced by US healthcare organizations in the adoption of RCM is the lack of skilled RCM personnel for new RCM software implementation and functioning.
  • High pricing and costly maintenance of RCM solutions along with staffing concerns also act as key challenges for the organizations in the implementation of RCM.
  • The US RCM market is highly competitive and the existing players need to constantly diversify their product portfolio in order to retain their market share. This requires high capital investment from the players, which poses financing and liquidity challenges for the organizations.
  • Additionally, the RCM space is undergoing high consolidation and witnessing an increasing number of M&A deals which poses integration challenges for the organizations.
  • Bon Secours Health System, located in the southeast US, is an example of a healthcare organization that faced RCM adoption challenges. The organization struggled to find an effective RCM vendor solution and had to go through multiple implementation phases of RCM adoption.

Software Tools Available/Upcoming

  • Some leading software tools in the healthcare RCM space, based on customer reviews, include AdvancedMD, DrChrono EHR, Kareo Billing, Athenahealth EHR, MDConnection, HENO, ChiroTouch, and Intergy by Greenway Health among others.
  • Athenahealth EHR was named among the best 2020 RCM solutions in KLAS research. It currently works with a network of more than 160,000 healthcare providers.
  • The upcoming healthcare RCM software tools are likely to focus on advanced analytics. The next generation will see tools that aid with patient responsibility.
  • There are new RCM software tools and features that are entering the market that enable facilities to capture credit card information, implement a workflow that will educate patients upfront about the amount of their responsibility, and verify insurance benefits prior to an office visit or procedure.

How RCM is Being Adopted by the US Healthcare Industry

  • According to a survey by Navigant Consulting, 15% of US health system executives leveraged the RPA technology in 2019 as compared to none in 2018 for the adoption of RCM.
  • Additionally, the survey highlighted that 25% of the executives in the health systems and large hospitals are implementing advanced health IT, including RPA, to adopt and improve their revenue cycle management operations.
  • The US healthcare organizations are also adopting RCM through a partnership with outside experts. This is corroborated by the fact that nearly 46% of the organizations surveyed indicated that they are collaborating with external entities, exploring vendor partnerships, and outsourcing solutions to drive RCM improvements.
  • The cloud-based healthcare RCM adoption is projected to witness the fastest growth over the coming years, owing to the flexibility and scalability offered by the cloud-based solutions.

Research Strategy

The research team began with scouring through the various research reports on the US healthcare RCM market from Deloitte, Grand view Research, Business Insider, MarketWatch, GMInsights, etc. The team also searched through the various media articles from Forbes, Bloomberg, Live Mint, WSJ, etc. Based on these sources, the team compiled a list of growth opportunities and challenges that were enumerated across the multiple sources and reports. The team also searched for various surveys and expert interviews around the RCM adoption in the US and incorporated the findings from the same as well. Lastly, the research team hunted through the blogs, websites and presentations of some key players operating in the US healthcare RCM market and tried to incorporate the pertinent information around key challenges faced and growth opportunities leveraged by them.
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Revenue Cycle Management Opportunities & Challenges

While the revenue cycle management industry in the US can expect to enjoy significant growth in 2020 due to new government reforms, market players will also face intensifying competition this year.

Biggest Opportunity — New Regulations

  • The revenue-generating opportunities created by recent US government reforms was identified as the biggest opportunity for companies offering revenue cycle management (RCM) products and services in 2020 based on the fact that ResearchAndMarkets and Grand View Research highlighted this factor as the most significant and pervasive industry growth driver beginning in 2019/2020 and lasting through 2024/2025, respectively.
  • Most notably, Grand View Research asserts that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is "playing a crucial role" in increasing the overall adoption of revenue cycle management products.
  • In particular, the expansion of insurance coverage under this reform continues to increase the reimbursements and denials that must be managed through RCM systems, thereby strengthening overall demand for such products.
  • Additionally, Grand View Research highlights that the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act as well as Medicaid and Medicare EHR Incentive Program will "bode well" for RCM market expansion through 2025, given that these regulations will increase the prevalence of certified EHR systems in the US.
  • In particular, the continued implementation of such legislation will "support growth in demand" for RCM systems that can be integrated with EHR products.
  • Finally, ResearchAndMarkets adds that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will also contribute to RCM market opportunities given the agency's "tough stand" on its final Quality Payment Program (QPP) rule, which has increased reporting requirements for Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) participants in 2020 and 2021.
  • Overall, the US RCM market is seeing a convergence of multiple legislative efforts that, collectively, generate significant new momentum for customer demand and adoption of RCM products and services.

Biggest Challenge — Increasing Competition

  • However, all players within the US RCM industry will also face increasing competition in 2020, as highlighted by ResearchAndMarkets and Grand View Research.
  • As of February 2020, ResearchAndMarkets characterized the RCM industry in America as a "competitive environment," while Grand View Research highlighted intensifying market competition as the only significant challenge facing companies that offer RCM products.
  • Going into 2020, the RCM market in the US included a variety of large competitors, such as SSI Group, Allscripts Cerner Corporation, Mckesson Corporation, Athena Health, Epic Systems Corporation, Eclinicalworks, NextGen Healthcare Information System, Carecloud Corporation, Quest Diagnostics, and Kareo.
  • According to Grand View Research, this "highly competitive" marketplace will be strained further given that the number of companies offering RCM products and services is "anticipated to rise" in 2020 and beyond.
  • Notably, ResearchAndMarkets asserts that new entrants will likely include companies providing general RCM outsourcing services to healthcare facilities as well as niche providers.
  • However, Grand View Research notes that market players will likely implement a variety of merger and acquisition strategies to "retain share," thereby helping to somewhat counterbalance the further fragmentation of this market and its key players.
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Adventure Travel Trends: 2020

The biggest trends in adventure travel in 2020 are solo traveling specifically in women, wellness travel, and cultural- and heritage-related travels.

Solo Travel

  • A late 2017 report showed that 58% of millennials enjoy traveling alone.
  • A 2018 study showed that 40% of baby boomers had taken a solo trip in the last year.
  • A 2019 report from an online booking platform showed the number of solo travelers using their services had grown from 31% to 38% in one year.
  • Solo travel has been on an upward trend since 2016, now making up 11% of the total travel market.
  • There has been a percentage growth of 131% in Google searches for 'solo travel.'
  • Solo travel bookings have increased by 42% in the last two years.
  • 25% of millennials in the United States plan to take a solo trip in the next 12 months.
  • 65% of American women in a relationship have taken a vacation without their partner within the last year.
  • The growth in solo travels, especially among women, is driven by its appeal of giving some sense of freedom in making one's own plans. It also bolsters self-confidence and excitement.

Wellness Travel

  • Wellness travel was a $639 billion market in 2017, projected to reach $919 billion by 2022.
  • One in five people said they plan to take a wellness trip in 2018, almost double the number when compared to 2017.
  • Wellness travel grew by 6.5% annually from 2015 to 2017, more than twice as fast as overall travel.
  • Travelers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017, representing 17% of all trips.
  • The growth in wellness travels is driven by the experiences gained allowing the traveler to maximize their fitness, health, and other pursuits related to their wellbeing.

Cultural and Heritage Trips

  • The top getaway travelers’ insights on what they haven’t done, but would love to try includes heritage trips at 36%.
  • Millennials are 13% more likely to travel to a destination with a historical or cultural significance.
  • 50% of Americans have traveled to a country of their ancestral origins.
  • 57% of U.S. travelers say they would give up alcohol for a year for a free heritage trip in return.
  • 81% of U.S. tourists are considered cultural tourists and 56% of the U.S. population said they included at least one cultural or heritage activity on a trip in the past year.
  • A survey of over 2,000 Americans showed that 53% indicate that it is essential to learn about new cultures and gain perspective when traveling.
  • By the start of 2019, 26 million people had taken an ancestry DNA test and Airbnb’s recent partnership with the DNA lab 23andMe is encouraging travelers to seek out their ancestral roots.
  • Cultural and heritage trips allow the traveler to experience places, people, and activities that represent the past and present of a certain region and these factors are driving this trend to emerge in adventure travels in 2020.

Research Strategy

To determine the most significant trends in the adventure travel category, we analyzed reputable company's listings regarding the top trends for 2020. By utilizing statistical data from articles and pertinent survey information, we narrowed down the list to encompass the most impactful and prominent trends based on the growth rate in the number of travelers leaning towards these trends and how U.S. travelers are willing to shift towards these trends compared to other traditional adventure trips.

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Financial Tech

This past year has seen the collaboration of tech companies to bank corporations focusing on open-banking strategy, customer-centricity, digitized financial services, advancement on AI and robotic usage in financial setting, cloud-based computing and evolvement of cybersecurity. M & A in 2020 will be active in global activity, technology, healthcare and energy sector. Last year, IPO's were dominated by unicorns or privately held startup companies, enterprise softwares, Chinese companies and Biotech and pharmaceuticals. Likewise, this year, IPO trends will be most likely on startups, healthcare and therapeutics with the addition of consumer products.


  • Companies will continue to use M & A to strengthen their businesses.
  • According to J.P. Morgan, an American multinational investment bank and financial services holding company, M & A activity will be driven by companies looking to strengthen their businesses especially after prolonged periods of uncertainty which may lead to combining with similar sized companies and increased use of stock as acquisition currency.
  • The international M & A market will be competitive.
  • The international market will be dominated by Europe, North America and the Asia Pacific region which is driven by a resurgent Chinese economy.
  • Private equity will remain active in the M & A market.
  • PE firms will continue to provide alternatives for companies that may have limited options in maximizing shareholder value.
  • Shareholder activism will persist.


  • Unicorns: According to Yahoo Finance, a media property of the Yahoo network, the companies that are expected to go public are Airbnb, Stripe, Postmates and SoFi.
  • Consumer Products: Reynolds Consumer Products, the maker of Reynolds Wrap and Hefty bags, is expected to go public and could be valued as high as $7 billion.
  • Healthcare and Therapeutics: According to Marketwatch, an American financial information website, the companies that may go public are Black Diamond Therapeutics, Arcutis Biotherapeutics and Avadim Health.


  • Many Unicorns or startup companies are floundering and public investors are becoming skeptical because of weak margins or profits, macro landscape wherein there are warning signs of an economic slowdown and branding to assure investors of companies that would be vibrant with a growing platform.


From Part 02
From Part 05
From Part 09
  • "Companies will continue to use M & A to strengthen their businesses."
  • "International M & A market will be competitive"
  • "Private equity will remain active in the M & A market"
  • "Shareholder activism will persist"
  • "Reynolds Consumer Products, the maker of Reynolds Wrap and Hefty bags, is expected to go public and could be valued as high as $7 billion."