We may not see a big blockchain splash into hospitality anytime soon, but it’s making major waves
Back in November, I wrote a blog introducing blockchain in the hotel industry. While news about blockchain in the hotel industry has cooled down a bit since then, I’ve seen several real-world applications emerge.
There are still a lot of questions, and naysayers, surrounding blockchain technology. There was an interesting article about trust from Wired contributor, Bruce Schneier, an American cryptographer and computer-security specialist. He outlined many reasons why the general public does not trust cryptocurrencies and while his viewpoint has value, particularly coming from the cybersecurity perspective, there are other opinions to be considered.
Major Players Enter the Cryptocurrency Game
In the past few months, some of the world’s largest internet messaging companies, including Facebook, Telegram and Signal are looking to roll out new cryptocurrencies over the next year. Designed to allow consumers who use non-traditional banking methods to send money to contacts, these major messaging app developers are looking to aid the movement of currency across international borders more efficiently and securely.
In a recent article, The New York Times reported Facebook has hired more than 50 engineers to work on a secret project involving a coin users of its WhatsApp messaging service could use to send money to friends and family instantly. This is especially useful in countries where it is difficult to open a bank account or use cyber currency to shop online.
Telegram reported to investors it was 90 percent done with key components of a network that would house its own cryptocurrency, known as the Gram. In fact, Telegram raised $1.7 billion to aid in its development. Meanwhile, Signal is building a digital token, Mobilecoin, for its privacy-focused messaging app.
The overall message here is that when we see major technology companies investing billions of dollars in cryptocurrency options, it is clear this technology is definitely moving ahead more aggressively than ever before.
Blockchain in the Travel Industry
At the same time, leading companies in the travel industry are continuing to make inroads. Forbes reported one of the leaders in German travel, TUI, has now moved its entire inventory management into the blockchain with hopes of revolutionizing the travel industry. The company’s chief executive, Friedrich Joussen stated, “If you want to address 20 million customers individually, you need the most modern IT technology. So, the blockchain is not the internet, the blockchain is the next internet.”
While that may seem to be a bold statement, the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies is blockchain. As an open, distributed database, it is highly secure and has definitive possibilities for managing and recording transactions for supply chains, shipping details, government records, ownership rights, patent files and, yes, even hotel inventory.
In a recent panel discussion at ITB, Joussen stated this has vastly improved the efficiency and speed of balancing inventory with demand. For example, if demand from Spain for a hotel in Egypt is greater than the demand from Germany for the same hotel, that inventory can be made available, dynamically, to the Spanish market.
The founder of PhocusWright and serial board director Phillip C. Wolf noted, “I learned in the mid-90s—when the internet began taking the travel and hospitality marketplace by storm—that it is easy to mock or ignore new, disruptive technologies. That’s why today’s biggest online players were new entrants back then. I see the same pattern repeating itself today with the advent of blockchain.”
Skift writer, Andrew Scheivachman, reported from the JetBlue Technology Ventures Blockchain in Travel Summit last month that U.S. Customs and Border Protection see possible uses for blockchain as a way to share facial comparison and biometric data with other government parties to aid in the tracking of individuals. Don’t expect this to happen any time soon, however, since the blockchain space lacks serious standards to undergird and standardize communications between government organizations.
Other Players Looking to Disrupt the Market
D/SRUPTION reported on seven hospitality companies using the transformative technology to help them advance travel and hospitality into the digital age. From TUI, who has worked on blockchain initiatives for years to travel apps such as Atlas, Populstay, Travala, Travelport, SITA and Winding Tree, there is no shortage of players jostling into position.
In addition to distribution, the advent of the digital ID and wallet is getting closer. One of the companies to watch is Civic, an Amadeus partner company that has developed an online app that dynamically provides businesses and individuals with the tools to control and protect their identities.
While it is still too early to see how much traction blockchain and cryptocurrencies will gain in the hotel space, with the likes of Facebook and others starting to seriously invest time, people and big money into the space over the coming months, this could be the tipping point.
Stay tuned. More will definitely be revealed.