Blockchain is bringing travel and hospitality into the digital age
The hospitality industry has often been criticised as outdated and technologically underserved. It’s not hard to work out why – legacy hospitality vendors are strangled by infrastructures that don’t mix well with innovative tech. That said, travel and tourism companies are checking out of their old habits.
One of the transformative technologies that is helping them to do so is blockchain. The case for blockchain in such a sporadic, third party saturated sector is clear: connect suppliers, improve transparency, and cut out the middle men. Here, we list seven pioneering hospitality companies who are getting behind blockchain.
German travel giants TUI have been tinkering away at blockchain initiatives for a number of years. Company CEO Friedrich Joussen considers the technology to be ‘the next internet’. TUI’s first foray into blockchain was to manage its internal contracts. Following that, TUI also began to use it to track inventory. By 2017, the company had moved all of its contracts and inventory onto a blockchain based system. Through TUI’s BedSwap project, hotels with extra inventory (such as rooms or packages) can update the blockchain to let all authorised parties see the price and engage directly with the hotelier.
Atlas was founded with the aim of creating a travel dApp to decentralise the travel industry. Atlas claims to be the first blockchain implementation built specifically for the travel sector vertical, and has a long list of powerful partners including Hyatt, ApplePay, WeChatPay and various global airlines. Adding to the list of big names, one of the company’s investors is Chinese technology leader Tencent. Atlas stands out because there are no commission fees charged to suppliers for listing inventory on the platform, and no extra costs for customers who make bookings. Atlas also encourages data sharing through incentives.
If blockchain and Airbnb had a baby, it would probably look something like PopulStay. The startup was launched in early 2018 to build a home sharing business based on the blockchain, and connect guests directly with their hosts. PopulStay believes that decentralisation is the key to sharing profit, lowering fees and taking a more open approach to data. Last year, PopulStay received $2.25m in seed funding.
Travala is a travel booking platform that describes itself as a ‘next-gen online travel agency’ (NOTA). In other words, it does what a traditional online travel agency does, but leverages the power of blockchain at the same time. This means that Travala users can pay using cryptocurrencies as well as traditional fiat currencies, can submit and access blockchain verified reviews, and are rewarded for positive engagement through token powered incentives. Customers receive instant confirmation when they book, and there are no booking fees.
Travelport is a B2B, blockchain based platform that covers all aspects of the travel supply chain. The company has worked alongside IBM since 2017 to deliver a successful proof of concept, and has now built a market ready private blockchain. All suppliers who join the platform must be endorsed by a local travel agency, tourist board, or similar organisation. Their products are then made visible on the blockchain and payments are automatically settled via smart contracts. This makes the relationship between different hospitality companies much smoother. For example, a hotel might pay a tour company to take their guests on an experience as part of their stay.
SITA (Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques) was founded in 1949 by 11 airlines to combine their communications networks for improved efficiency. Blockchain is a key area of interest for the society. In 2017, SITA partnered with British Airways, Heathrow Airport, Geneva Airport and Miami International Airport to develop a private blockchain (FlightChain) that stores real time flight information in one location. The FlightChain project aims to build a single version of truth for flight status data. Another blockchain initiative is Smart Path, which combines blockchain, mobile technology, and biometrics. Instead of carrying around multiple ID documents, Smart Path identifies travellers once at the start of their journey. Since 2018, Smart Path has been used at Orlando International Airport to streamline customer journeys.
7) Winding Tree
Perhaps the most well known startup bringing blockchain to hospitality is Winding Tree. In contrast to Travelport, TUI, and most other blockchain backers, Winding Tree favours a public system. The company wants its Lif token to become the go-to utility token for hospitality – unlike other cryptocurrencies, Lif is optimised to carry travel specific data. Winding Tree also differs in that it is a B2B platform that doesn’t want to kill the middle man. Middle men are able to share their inventory just like any other company, which is part of Winding Tree’s goal to create a universally fair marketplace. Luckily, blockchain is exactly the right tool for the job.
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