Could Crypto Transform Tourism?
You might have come across the term ‘crypto tourism’ and wondered what it’s all about. Well, crypto tourism could refer to both the use of cryptocurrency on holiday, or a special type of trip or tour catering to crypto enthusiasts. Yes, that’s a real thing.
We’ll come back to crypto cruises later, but first let’s have a look at how prevalent cryptocurrency payments are in the tourism industry.
Crypto adoption in travel and tourism
A recent report by the world’s leading crypto-friendly travel agent, Travala.com, found that one in four Americans plan to use cryptocurrency to pay for at least part of their post-pandemic travel. So, the consumers are keen, but what about the businesses?
The travel industry embraced digital currency surprisingly early on - Expedia teamed up with Coinbase in 2014 to allow customers to pay for hotels with bitcoin.
Expedia may have been quick off the mark to introduce crypto payments, but unfortunately they were fairly short lived. The company quietly stopped accepting bitcoin in 2018. Why? TravelOnline CEO, Glenn Checkley, said, “Bitcoin is simply too unstable to use for travel transactions, as evidenced by Expedia dropping it as a payment method.”
Was he right? Or was the timing just wrong? The lack of commercial adoption elsewhere, combined with the slightly wary attitude towards crypto held by both businesses and the public at the time could well have played a part.
But there are some success stories in the industry. Popular Japanese travel agency H.I.S also began accepting bitcoin payments in 2017, through Japan-based bitcoin exchange, bitFlyer. And they still accept it to this day - in 33 stores in the Tokyo metropolitan area, to be exact. It appears there is demand for crypto usage in the global travel market, after all.
The benefits of blockchain
While crypto could be a faster, cheaper and more secure alternative to fiat money in the travel and tourism industry, its underlying technology also has huge potential to transform the sector.
The travel industry supposedly has more middlemen than any other - which makes it a prime candidate for blockchain adoption.
There are a number of areas which blockchain could disrupt - let’s take a look at a few.
Payments between hotels, agents and aggregator sites can be complicated - especially when they’re cross-border. Adding blockchain technology into the mix means the intermediaries are removed and the time it takes to settle a payment is significantly reduced. Not to mention the whole process becomes much more transparent.
Windingtree - a blockchain-based travel platform which matches trusted buyers and sellers - is a company putting this into practice.
Traveler ID verification
ID is needed every step of the way when you’re travelling. You’re required to show it when you’re booking a trip, boarding a flight, checking in to a hotel, and at plenty of other points along the way. Blockchain could simplify the process by storing and sharing individuals’ information - such as their fingerprints and faces - with local authorities in advance. This method would not only save time for all parties involved, it would also increase security and help combat identity theft.
Air transport IT specialist, SITA, is trialing an identity management service for air travel, known as self-sovereign identity (SSI), which claims to give control back to the passengers.
We’ve all had a baggage-related nightmare in our time, but luckily blockchain could be about to put an end to our troubles. Our bags change hands between airlines and airport baggage handlers multiple times throughout a trip. Blockchain could allow all parties to exchange information as to their whereabouts much more quickly, easily and accurately.
Startup BagTrax uses multi-sensor baggage localisation technology to keep tabs on people’s belongings during transit, plus pays out instant refunds in case of lost luggage.
Ratings & reviews
It’s tricky knowing which reviews to trust. What could help with that? You guessed it, greater transparency. Incorporating blockchain technology into customer reviews would allow us to see exactly who wrote what and confirm that they actually stayed at the hotel in question, for example.
Blockchain-based review sites such as Revain aim to provide a reliable place for customers and business to share reviews. There does, however, still appear to be a gap in the market for hotel reviews in particular.
Taking crypto tourism to the next level
An interesting trend has emerged in recent years known as ‘crypto tourism’, which basically describes tourism programs catering to blockchain and crypto enthusiasts.
CoinsBank is one of several companies providing such programs, and it does so in the form of cruises. Their 2019 Blockchain Cruise was headlined by the late John McAfee, who gave the keynote speech.
But are these events useful in educating people about the benefits of blockchain, or are they simply an excuse for crypto millionaires to splash their cash? Of course, it depends on the type of trip you book. While the Blockchain Cruise may seem like one big gathering of crypto celebs (and cost you an arm and a leg to attend), other programs such as CryptoExplorer’s Crypto Valley Trips offer an opportunity to watch demos, attend workshops and mingle with fellow enthusiasts in a more intimate setting.
The future of crypto tourism
Paying for travel in crypto certainly appears to be on the rise. It allows customers to circumvent high fees for currency exchange, ATM withdrawals and transactions, while minimising the risk of fraud that comes with using credit cards.
Jaide Barclay found that it could be done relatively painlessly when she embarked upon a 12-week crypto survival challenge across 10 countries. She noted that travelling using crypto would only get easier as more people learn about it and as tech continues to develop.