Online Payments

How to Start Accepting Online Bookings and Credit Card Payments for Tour Operators in the Caribbean

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July 20, 2021

How to Start Accepting Online Bookings and Credit Card Payments for Tour Operators in the Caribbean

Tour companies in the Caribbean are faced with the daunting task of setting up merchant bank accounts at local Caribbean banks if they wish to charge guests online and accept credit card payments via their website. At Junglebee, we simplify that process by removing the need to use a Caribbean bank to start accepting online payments for tours and charters almost instantly. 

As a business owner who may wear a few hats, the last thing you need is an obstacle in your way to getting paid. In the Caribbean, this is a common issue for many tour & charter operators that deserve to get paid for the memorable experiences they offer. If you have a Caribbean bank account and you’re finding it difficult to process credit cards, keep reading!   

Options to Start Accepting Online Payments as a Caribbean Tour Operator

One possible option is to go through First Atlantic Commerce or CX Pay, which requires setting up a merchant account with your local bank on the island. If your bank isn’t compatible (many are not), this can be a big problem if you want to start accepting online payments via your website for your tours and charters in the Caribbean. You will most likely be forced to switch to another bank that you don’t necessarily like. 

Unfortunately, many Caribbean banks have a slow, expensive, and complicated process that doesn’t suit Caribbean tour companies. This includes going through verification loops, providing business plans, tax details, and in-depth financials. On top of this, in our experience, this application process can take upwards of 4 months once submitted.

If your merchant bank account is approved, there is often a several thousand-dollar deposit that is returned to you only if/when you close your merchant account. For a small business, this sort of financial hit can be devastating. 

To make matters worse, when it comes to actually receiving your money and the processing fees, every Caribbean credit card processor is different. Credit card payment providers in the Caribbean often charge for the following with a very complicated fee structure:

  • Account creation fee.
  • Standard Monthly fee.
  • A fee per monthly volume.
  • Additional flat fees are added per transaction.
  • Bank transfer fee.
  • Bank charges associated with incoming transfers for payouts.
  • Different fees per credit card type charged.

As tour companies and local charter boat operators struggle through hurricane seasons, the reality is that these local merchant bank processing fees will eat into your margins which may be crucial to recovery after a hurricane.

Another downside to using local Caribbean banks for tours and activities, which we saw, was back in 2017 when hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated numerous Caribbean islands and left banks closed for weeks and tour operators without access to their funds. Tour operators using Junglebee came out ahead as we hold funds offshore and can payout to any bank.

Even PayPal, one of the more popular options worldwide, does not allow bank accounts in the Caribbean to be linked for easy payouts of funds accumulated. This presents a real danger and costly mistake as some tour and activity owners may start to use Paypal to start accepting bookings and will accumulate thousands of dollars in their Paypal account only to find out that there is no way to payout those funds to a Caribbean bank account.

With so many obstacles and downsides to opening a local merchant account for Caribbean tour businesses, it is no wonder that a few tour and activity owners that hold US or Canadian citizenship have opted for another yet a marginally legal way of accepting online bookings and payments. We’ve noticed that Caribbean tour businesses owned by US citizens set up bank accounts in the United States and use American credit card processing companies (Paypal, Venmo, Stripe) built for the USA and not the Caribbean. While these US payment provider options seem like a good idea because they are simple and fast to set up, there are some very serious implications that can land any Caribbean tour operator in a lot of trouble.

Using a US bank account and online payment service to accept credit card payments as a Caribbean tour company is not recommended because you will need to declare all income received in the US with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service of the United States) for funds that you will need to send to the Caribbean to cover expenses and more. As a Caribbean business, with proper business licenses in place, employees to pay and costs, local authorities will expect any Caribbean tour operator to pay taxes. Therefore, as a US citizen taking payments in the United States for a Caribbean business, you will quickly find yourself dealing with the IRS and local tax authority in the islands at the end of the year. This will require complicated accounting and a very good accountant that understands both legal systems.

Not to mention, banking in the USA requires you to have a social security number. As for alternative options, payment providers in the Caribbean often have a more complicated process that can slow your growth efforts down. This has been our experience first-hand and the countless stories we have heard from our own customers. 

Junglebee enables local Caribbean tour businesses and charter companies to accept online bookings and charge guest credit cards instantly without needing a merchant account.

Michael, the founder, of Junglebee, grew up in the Caribbean working on boats and with local tour operators in St. Maarten. Back in 2015, when he tried to open a merchant account for his tour business, he struggled with the complicated process to set up a local bank account to start accepting online payments. He soon realized there was a serious banking issue unique to the Caribbean and that other tour operators were also struggling. Furthermore, available booking systems were not suited for Caribbean banking but also, the way local tour operators do business. In the Caribbean, there is a very unique relationship that exists between local tour operators and activity desks at hotels throughout each island. Local agent bookings often account for more than 50% of the business that any tour operator receives. 

And so, that is why Michael created Junglebee with the help of many local Caribbean tour operators, to make it very easy for any tour business to start accepting online booking via their website with credit cards and simplify the booking process between local agents and tour suppliers.

With Junglebee’s straightforward online payment service, JB Pay, Caribbean tour operators can offer a simple solution for online payments to their guests. Tour guests can pay with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or ACH to book tours and charters. 

Junglebee’s online credit card payment and booking system for Caribbean tour companies has a very simple fee structure:

  • 3% credit card processing fee (Any type of credit card).
  • 4% booking system fee.
  • There is no monthly fee, no setup fee.

Once you’re set up, payouts arrive in your bank account on a 2-week rolling basis. You can opt to receive payouts once a month or less often, depending on your needs. Junglebee is a risk-free solution for Caribbean tour & charter companies. Not to mention, the built-in booking software will save you endless hours of communication and marketing. 

Prefer to pass the credit card and booking system fee along to your guests? With Junglebee, you can opt to have all fees added in the checkout process for guests to pay. So far, more than 80% of tour operators use this option. Total transparency is one of our top priorities.. At any time, you can see all the bookings you have received and view a real-time report of how much money is due to you for each two-week period.

The Caribbean islands that we support are Anguilla, St. Martin/Maarten, St. Barts, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, and Nevis, Montserrat, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and the Grenadines, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, Cayman Islands, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, US and the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, and Jamaica. If your island is not on this list, please reach out as we most certainly do support it.

Start accepting online bookings and payments for your Caribbean tour business today!

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No monthly fee, no setup fee