Since its inception, Blockchain technology has evolved significantly and it is no longer a buzzword restricted to the hardcore geeks. With the technology maturing – a lot of sectors are showing willingness to use it and some have started experimenting with it as well. Technology behemoths like Facebook and IBM are into it already and a number of leading banks and NBFCs have embraced it too. The industry experts feel blockchain has the potential to change the travel sector for good- if it is deployed in the right ways. In fact, a handful of travel companies and entities have started deploying Blockchain and using bitcoin and the results are largely positive. However, widespread adoption of the tech in this sector is yet to happen.
Why use blockchain tech in travel sector
The travel companies, tour operators and entities already use a lot of technologies for their operations. They all have websites, profiles in top social media circles and Smartphone apps. They also tie up with third party brands for booking and services. While these technological infusions have helped in improving service quality for such entities, there are still some loopholes that need to be plagued. There are several efficiency and coordination related issues pertaining to their operations that can be enhanced. The crypto analysts argue these issues can be fixed by deploying blockchain technology in this sector.
How the travel industry can benefit in many ways by using Blockchain tech
- Better Safety of data-Nowadays, the travelers remain concerned about the information they share with travel companies. Honestly, no one wants his/her personal data to become accessible to numerous third party entities without consent. This can happen from time to time as the travel agencies work in co ordination with many other agencies in the sector. They have to share customer data with airlines, train agencies, bus operators and even hotels. When customer data is shared between so many agencies, data theft and leakage can take place. This can be handled by using blockchain. Owing to blockchain’s decentralised nature information cannot just go offline. It can’t be lost though malicious online hacking attacks either. Since the data is not stored on any master server or single location, hacking attacks can’t affect it.
- Secure payment- The travel sector entities also need to deal with a huge volume of financial transactions o a daily basis-globally. From flight ticket and train ticket booking to calculating accommodation discounts and cancellation of tickets- they need to perform a mammoth amount of transactions. Human errors can take place while handling such transactions and that may lead to troubles in the long run. By deploying blockchain tech, managing travel related transactions becomes hassle free. A transaction recorded in a blockchain cannot be lost or manipulated by any third party later. The transparency remains at all stage –making things better for all the parties involved.
- A new digital currency- It is true that you can travel these days without carrying cash. There are so many digital payment options including credit, debit card, Smartphone apps and wallets. However, not all such payment pathways are completely safe and instances of card cloning and wallet related scams surface from time to time. Blockchain tech offers the travelers and the travel entities a new digital way for making and accepting payments. As of now, not many travel operators accept bitcoin and other crypto currencies, citing lack of regulation. However, this is going to change in the near future. The additional benefit of using Blockchain is lack of any commission or fees. This ensures the buyers can get flight tickets at lower prices. There will be less need to exchange the currencies while traveling in foreign countries too.
- No third party and mediator payments- When you pay trough crypto currency, no credit card agencies and mediators are involved. So, you do not need to pay commissions to such companies and the third party agencies that permeate the travel sector. You do not need to think of ATM withdrawal fees as well. In the long run, you can save a lot of money just by paying though crypto currency.
- Better luggage tracking- The travel companies may face luggage tracking and loss related woes from time to time. This can happen more for the travelers opting for intercontinental and long tours. Human and machine errors can happen-leading to woes in luggage handling and tracking. By using blockchain tech, sharing luggage tracking data between the airlines and other travel companies become easier.
- Better traveler identification- The travel agencies, airports, seaports and related entities need to verify identity of the travelers on a daily basis. They typically rely on passport and similar identification documents for these verifications and existing processes are pretty time intensive. Blockchain tech can be deployed to store and access such data. Since it involves transparency- verification becomes faster. The agencies can say goodbye to lengthy and obtrusive methods of identity verification- more so in foreign tour related cases.
- Time saving-By embracing blockchain tech, the travel sector companies including those into flight operations, booking, accommodation will be able to save a lot of time. Blockchain allows for faster money transfer overseas compared to the existing methods of sending or receiving money overseas. Removal of intermediary entities and their charges, instant settlement and continuous, streamlined auditing will help such companies perform their work faster. They will also be able to verify customer data faster using the tech. This will eventually lead to service quality improvement and better customer experience.
- Easily manageable loyalty programs and schemes- Travel agencies and several airlines have loyalty schemes for their regular customers. They typically offer cash discounts and gifts or rewards for eligible customers. Sometimes, disputes in determining such gifts and discounts may crop up and risk of frauds are there too. By using blockchain tech, data can be decentralized and it becomes less prone to fraud and manipulation. So, this enables the travel companies to offer loyalty schemes to the deserving customers in a hassle free manner.
Instances of travel companies that have already deployed blockchain tech successfully
Listed below are a handful of travel agency and operators that have already deployed blockchain, paving way for the others in the sector to follow!
- CheapAir.com: A California-based company offering flights on the top airlines and covering major airports accepts Bitcoin. In fact, this has the record of becoming the first ever travel entity to accept Bitcoin. It started doing so back in 2013.
- ABitSky.com- Are you looking for a travel company that only accepts bitcoin payments! Then, this is your best option. It offers flights from Europe to many countries.
- Destinia.com- A Spain based travel agency-it accepts BCH and BTC. You can check the accommodation and flight cost in crypto currency using the portal.
- Travelport- This is a consumer and business travel services provider which has deployed IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric for better management of commissions paid to the travel entities. It will bring down payment related disputes by using blockchain made by IBM, three hotel chains and a travel management company named BCD. It helps eliminate gaps in data capture and retrieval across various travel agencies along with gaps created by different payment methods.
- BeeToken / Beenest- This is another inspiring usage of Blockchain in this sector. BeeToken or Beenest is a home-sharing platform. It uses this technology to link the customers with potential hosts. There is no commission and payment and arbitration protocols are safe as well.
Summing it up
Apart from the efficiency, transparency and manageability benefits, travel sector companies can gain from using cryptocurrencies and blockchain in other ways too. By offering support for this technology, they can appeal to a niche section of travelers- the millennials and geeks. The growth of cryptocurrency has given birth to a new ecosystem and these companies can use it to their advantage. Of course, it will still take a few more years before blockchain adoption in travel sector become commonplace. Support for crypto currencies is still sparse among the travel companies and lack of govt regulations also add to the delay in embracing the technology.