Cryptocurrency has garnered a lot of bad press since its inception. First, there was a brouhaha about its inventor, then its association as the currency of the dark web, and most recently its volatility and some environmental concerns about its energy consumption.
However much the traditionalist might warn you against its instability, cryptocurrencies are gaining in popularity with institutional buyers and some corporate entities ( read Tesla) putting their might behind it.
So where are the Bitcoin, Ethereum and other digital coins being put to actual use?
Besides Tesla and some other entities agreeing to accept payments in Bitcoins in the near future, now travel suppliers are warming up to the idea.
Cryptocurrency of Travel
Airfare website Cheapair.com, Latvian carrier Air Baltic and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic have long accepted Bitcoins. Since June, Berlin-based tours and activity booking site GetYourGuide has started taking dogecoin, processed via BitPay.
Nevada’s new Resorts World Las Vegas property takes bitcoins it for select payments through a partnership with U.K. crypto exchange firm Gemini. Bobby Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, allows guests to book stays and events with Dogecoin and other cryptocurrencies via BitPay.
Johannes Reck, CEO and co-founder of GetYourGuide, is confident that cryptocurrencies will become more popular in the travel and tourism sector. He is looking towards accepting more cryptocurrencies besides Dogecoins. Cryptocurrency transactions “will really matter for travel” he said.
“People want to put their crypto back into the system [and] travel is one of the biggest categories there is,” he added. “We take dogecoin now into the real world; you can apply it and actually get a real-world, kinetic experience.”
The advent of investment platform apps such as Robinhood, have fueled an interest in investments among the younger generations. They can now just get on to the site, circumventing the fund managers and brokers and directly make their picks. And cryptocurrencies are the next big cool thing to be involved in. Cryptocurrency appeals to younger generations of travelers, say industry players.
Alex Simon, co-founder and CEO of soon-to-be-released travel app Elude, said next-gen vacationers “are looking for modern ways to plan and book trips.”
“The ability to purchase your airline ticket or hotel through bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies is inevitable,” he added. “Though the travel industry is antiquated, the new generation of travelers, Gen Z and Gen Alpha, will demand new forms of payments and alternative ways to purchase travel.”
Expedia, the online travel portal, stopped accepting payments in Bitcoin in 2018; still about 700,000 Expedia Group hotels and accommodations can be booked via the crypto-friendly booking platform Travala.com.
Tripadvisor-owned company Viator offers more than 400,000 bookable activities and food delivery outfit Zomato through Travala.com
Travala.com uses blockchain technology and accepts payment in its own native AVA altcoin as well as 50 other cryptocurrencies. Its CEO Juan Otero claims that 70% of all bookings are now by digital coin. It is currently witnessing more than $1 million a week in business.
“These are massive partnerships with some of the world’s biggest online travel brands, all of whom are embracing crypto,” Otero said. “Altogether, Travala.com offers over 3 million travel products, making us not just the biggest crypto-friendly [online travel agency], but one of the largest overall.”
A new way of sharing accommodation via blockchains technology has been launched by Dtravel, a new decentralized home-sharing network launched by Travala.
Otero said the blockchain technology Dtravel is built on facilitates “smart contracts” between hosts and guests. The platform centers around TRVL, its in-house crypto coin The token is available to all registered hosts and any guest can purchase it; those who have TRVL are voting members of the Dtravel Decentralized Autonomous Organization’ DAO.
“Hosts can propose changes — for example, fee structure, organizational policy, usage of community treasuries — and vote, allowing [them] to control the destiny of the Dtravel platform to suit their evolving needs,” he said.
Research shows consumers spent more than $1 billion in crypto on the Visa network alone in the first half of 2021. An April 1 Travala.com survey of 1,000 Americans found that 71% of respondents plan to spend more on travel than before Covid, and a quarter of these say they will use crypto to pay for part of it.
With wider acceptance by the travel services of cryptos, more people are willing to use this as mode of currency. It is easy to use and makes the process more open and assured.
Some other companies that are offering travel services through blockchain technology are:
The company connects travelers directly with service providers like airlines, hotels, and tour guides with its LÍF token.
It is an Australian-based travel agency that makes airlines and stay bookings based on the blockchain technology, reducing any incident of wrong bookings or overbooking. Its open chain system allows for no mistakes.
TravelChain: Making the Most of Data
The Russian company allows users to collect and monetize their travel data by keeping it safe from prying eyes and giving tokens as compensation for sharing with travel service providers. These tokens can then be redeemed for services or money.
To offset the wild swings of the Bitcoin, most travel suppliers have teamed up with third-party payment processors to convert them into tangible values.