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Enhancing Visitor Convenience: St Helena Island Embraces Efficient Financial Transformation

St Helena Island partners with Ryft to introduce in-person card payments, transforming the tourism experience on the remote British Overseas Territory.
• This enables visitors to make real-time electronic Visa and Mastercard transactions, empowering them to engage freely with the vibrant local economy.
• This landmark development is set to boost tourist spending, drive economic growth, and position the island as a sought-after destination for modern travellers.

St Helena Island, in collaboration with Ryft, the FCA-licensed UK fintech, is revolutionising the visitor experience on the remote island. For the first time, visitors will have the convenience of making in-person, real-time electronic Visa and Mastercard payments, enhancing their stay and boosting the local economy by empowering visitors to engage more freely with the island’s vibrant local economy.

Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean, over 1,200 miles off the west coast of Southern Africa, the island is a remote British Overseas Territory renowned for its natural beauty and historical significance. With a population of under 4,500, the island relies heavily on tourism, particularly from the UK and South Africa. However, due to its geographical location and limited access to international merchant payment platforms, the island has faced challenges in facilitating seamless transactions for visitors.

Visitors to St Helena have previously been limited to cash transactions using Sterling or St Helena Pounds (tied to GBP). Cash withdrawals have only been possible in person at the Bank of St Helena, with an associated fee of five percent. This setup has hindered visitors’ ability to spend money on the island.

With the new convenience of card payments, visitors will have greater flexibility in spending their currency while exploring the island’s rich offerings. They can more easily indulge in local hospitality, shop for unique souvenirs, and savor the delightful culinary experiences the island has to offer. This development marks a major step forward in the island’s digital transformation, ensuring that St Helena remains a sought-after destination.

Mark Brooks, Minister for the Treasury, Infrastructure, and Sustainable Development Portfolio at St Helena Government, expressed his enthusiasm for the positive impact this partnership will have on the tourism industry.

He said, “barriers resulting from our remoteness have meant that technology adoption has always been delayed on our small and isolated island – the internet didn’t arrive until 1995, and mobile phones weren’t commonplace until 2015. But digital transformation is at the heart of our plans for economic growth as we work hard to recover from the hammer blows dealt to the tourism industry by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We couldn’t accept any longer the barriers our cash-based economy put in front of cruise passengers and other tourists, limiting their ability and appetite to spend with our local businesses. Many larger companies simply aren’t interested in the challenge of solving problems like these in circumstances like ours – we’re pleased to be working with Ryft, who were innovative and agile enough to take an interest and find a solution.”

Local businesses on the island can now directly apply to Ryft to accept Visa and Mastercard payments, with the funds being securely deposited in the Bank of St Helena or UK bank accounts. Ryft has worked closely with the government to develop a seamless and tailored application and onboarding process, ensuring compliance with local regulations while simplifying the experience for businesses.

“We often find ourselves being approached to solve problems for partners where nobody else has been able to, so we were excited to support St Helena Government in this important and ambitious drive to transform the island’s economy. As tourist destinations around the world continue to adapt and rebound in the post-pandemic world, reducing barriers to spending and supporting local businesses is a critical part of the recovery and regrowth process. We’re pleased to be part of that for St Helena, and look forward to working together to see what we can achieve next,” said Sadra Hosseini, co-founder and CEO at Ryft.

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