The myriad of companies that are involved in a single customer’s travel plans is one of the main reasons why many people are excited about how blockchain can transform the travel industry.
Just as Bitcoin was conceived as a method for bypassing financial intermediaries, blockchain can help to improve the travel experience by letting customers interact directly with service providers. This process is already underway, with multinational corporations and technology startups developing blockchain solutions across a range of industry use cases.
5 Blockchain Use Cases in the Travel Industry
1. Decentralised Booking Marketplaces
As anyone who has booked any sort of travel online knows, the market is dominated by a handful of online travel agencies (OTAs). Even though these middlemen help customers to find the services they want, end providers, such as hotels, hate the fact that they are paying at least 15% in commission through these channels.
In a decentralised booking marketplace, these centralised entities are unnecessary, with service providers connecting directly to customers. Furthermore, the transparent nature of prices and potential fees within a decentralised marketplace can provide a better experience for customers.
Smart contracts could bring many efficiencies by serving as intelligent, automated, intermediaries for individuals who require them. Acting as an automated travel agent, these smart contracts would utilise data oracles to source a range of relevant services. Not only that, they could hold funds in escrow and only release them if services are properly provided.
2. Loyalty Schemes
Loyalty schemes, whether for air miles, hotel stays or anything else, already play a big role within the travel industry. However, customers often find them to be too restrictive and limited to a small set of rewards. Digital tokens provide an excellent opportunity to enhance the transparency, security and exchangeability of these rewards. It will improve the customer’s experience when using them.
By tokenising reward programmes and transforming them into a decentralised network of value, these schemes could become what customers really want them to be. Firstly, they could expose a range of products and services from different providers. Secondly, rewards could be easily exchanged between schemes if points are tokenised into digital assets. As a result, customers would be able to compare the relative value of schemes and the rewards that they offer.
3. Identity Services
Tracking the identity of travellers is essential for all sorts of different parties within the industry, but none more so than those involved in ensuring the security of transportation and national borders. While the travelling public understands the rationale behind identity checks, they also view them as the most time consuming and repetitive steps in a journey.
In a blockchain network, individual travellers could be tracked throughout their journey, with different parties seamlessly confirming that verified individuals were making their journey in the correct way. From the passenger’s point of view, this will make the journey easier but also without intruding on their privacy. Zero-knowledge proofs would allow passport and other documentation to be verified by various service providers, without needing to share sensitive information.
4. Baggage Tracking
Lost baggage is a big issue for customers and airline companies. The source of the problem is the fact that multiple different parties handle bags as they are transported from A to B, including airline, airport, security and ground staff.
Blockchain could enable a decentralised and transparent network for items of luggage. Different parties can then track baggage, rather than reconciled between siloed databases. Not only that, any liability and reimbursement for lost baggage could be easily identified and automated using a smart contract.
5. Travel Insurance
Blockchain technology lends itself ideally to insurance because of the need for high-quality data and the ability of smart contracts to automate decisions based on this information. If you imagine any number of scenarios where a claim against a travel insurance policy might become necessary, such as a lost bag or a delayed flight, a smart contract using data oracles within a decentralised network could spot whether the claim’s thresholds had been met, and payout automatically.
6 Travel companies Using Blockchain
In July 2018, the airline launched KrisPay, a digital wallet that enables a blockchain-based loyalty scheme for frequent flyers. Developed in partnership with KPMG and Microsoft, the key advantage of KrisPay for customers is allowing them to turn air miles into a digital currency that can pay for a broader range of services than just flights. At launch, the airline announced 18 merchant partners in Singapore where customers could also use KrisPay.
Working with Accenture and the World Economic Forum, the hotel chain is aiming to ease the choke points and bottlenecks that occur with security checks through the Known Traveler Digital Identity (KTDI). KTDI enables seamless travel through various checkpoints by creating a unique, verifiable and secure digital identity for travellers, which also eliminates the need for paper documentation.
The travel technology firm that operates global distribution systems for managing travel-related transactions has worked with IBM to develop a private blockchain that facilitates more efficient and trustworthy transactions. The solution aims to solve the problem of finding trustworthy travel services, such as city tours, by ensuring a verified party first endorses any content added to the network. Once service is available, the provider can use a smart contract to detail the fees involved, which will execute once a sale takes place.
The travel group, which includes agencies, airlines, hotels and other services, has used blockchain to synchronise operations across its hotels business. The company developed a single blockchain network to manage operations more efficiently and to manage its inventory of beds in a project called BedSwap. The company has also stated it will seek to manage all its information across a blockchain network in the future.
Australian travel booking site Webjet launched Rezchain in 2018, having developed the solution for the previous two years. This blockchain-based accounts reconciliation tool allows hotel operators to transparently share data related to hotel bookings to solve the problem of mismatches and disputes. The company claims to have tested it internally as well as with partners like Thomas Cook in Europe and DidaTravel in China.
The insurance giant has started to use blockchain for its Fizzy product, an Ethereum-based flight delay insurance. Launched in 2017, Fizzy takes advantage of smart contract technology to automatically reimburse policyholders as soon as their flight is more than two hours late. It achieves this by tapping into global air traffic databases to track flights, using a data oracle to communicate any delays directly to the smart contract.
5 Startups Using Blockchain in Travel
A blockchain-powered decentralised travel ecosystem, Winding Tree seeks to disrupt the online travel agency model that is dominated by a handful of large companies. It allows sellers of travel services to connect with hotels, airlines and other providers using smart contracts on a blockchain that enable commission-free interactions. It has a number of major airline partners, such as Etihad and Lufthansa, as well as hotel brands like Citizen M.
This blockchain network hopes to provide the underlying infrastructure to connect the highly fragmented loyalty, rewards and incentives industry. As well as solutions for employee incentives and credit card rewards, its travel offer is aimed at airline loyalty schemes.
A smart contract infrastructure that aims to connect consumers and businesses as part of a decentralised travel ecosystem. Its hotel partners include Hyatt and Shangri-La, while its airline partners include Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways.
This short-term rental platform has been labelled the ‘blockchain-based version of Airbnb’. It wants to eliminate middlemen by using a peer-to-peer network to connect renters with property owners directly.
A hotel booking platform with rewards built in, Trippki is seeking to eliminate the middlemen that stand between a holidaymaker and the hotel they are looking for.
Is the Industry Ripe for Disruption?
The travel industry seems so ripe for blockchain disruption because of the range of intermediaries and service providers that combine to make a tangled web of interactions in a traveller’s journey.
Having said that, established players within the market are already actively working with the technology so they might not find themselves disrupted by it. It will be interesting to watch if the travel industry comes to adopt blockchain on a mass scale though and hopefully, this article has given you some idea of the most exciting areas to investigate.