When blockchains first emerged on the world stage in 2009, very few people could have imagined that they would come to impact nearly all spheres of human activity. But as we’ve seen in the last few years, blockchains hold the promise to modernize everything from finance and banking to supply chains and even media distribution. The travel and tourism industry is the world’s largest commercial service sector industry with an estimated $7.6 trillion spent on travel in 2016. Despite the exorbitant money involved in the travel industry, the industry is controlled by a handful of big players and has a lot of rigidity when it comes to cross service compatibility. Let’s take a look at how blockchains can improve the travel industry in the coming years.
Challenges Faced by the Travel Industry
Lack of transferability in frequent flyer miles and other loyalty programs – Frequent flyer points (FFP) is a loyalty program offered by airlines to encourage users to accumulate points by taking their flights. These points can then be redeemed for air travel or other rewards. FFP is very popular with long-distance flyers and airlines both as it encourages repeat business. However, the problem is that different airlines are unwilling to honor FFPs of other airlines. Blockchains can remedy this situation by treating every FFP as its own cryptocurrency using and ERC-20 token which can then be transferred or traded for other currencies.
Lack of accountability for baggage misplacements – Airline baggage management is similar to a supply chain where the goods being transported are people’s luggage. Through the course of an international flight, a piece of luggage is handled by several different organizations each of which constitutes a possible point of failure. Distributed ledgers can make sharing tracking information across different organizations much simpler and safer.
Identification Services – Processing travel documents is crucial for any air or sea travel and is also the source of much delays in travel due to long queues and slow manual checking. Blockchains can reduce check-in times and queues in airports by automating the authentication process using blockchain verified documents using services such as Civic.
Top Blockchain Projects for the Travel Industry
Sandblock – Customer loyalty programs worldwide are a big part of the hospitality and tourism industry as repeat business adds up in the long run. To retain customers for a long time over the years, companies design all kinds of incentives from monetary to in-kind. Sandblock is aiming to disrupt this market by creating a much more customizable loyalty token for all companies. Sandblock allows companies to create their own tokens that can be used beyond just the company that created them in effect creating a marketplace for loyalty points.
KrisPay – KrisPay is a digital wallet developed in by KPMG and Microsoft which allows Singapore Airlines customers to turn their FFPs into units of payment. KrisPay works through an app on the user’s phone which can be used to turn points into discounts at partnered merchants.
Civic Identity Management – Civic uses blockchains to securely store private information for its users. Using Civic, customers retain full control over how their information is used. Any time a third party requires access to their identity documents, they get a prompt on their phone to accept or deny the request. Civic can save crucial time that is being spent in long lines at airports and border crossings.
Winding Tree – Winding Tree is a decentralized travel ecosystem which is aiming to break the monopoly of a handful of large players over airfares and hotel bookings. WT seeks to connect airlines, hotels, and even tour guides directly with travelers around the world using Ethereum smart contracts. By handling every aspect of traveling from within a single platform, WT gives a chance to users to skip the exorbitant fees charged by the big online portals. Since payment is automated using Ethereum smart contracts, there is next to no additional fees on the transactions and the benefits are passed down to users.
Bee Token – Travellers no longer have to rely on expensive hotels to meet their accommodation needs thanks to the advent of peer to peer home sharing apps like Airbnb. While Airbnb has close to 150 million users worldwide, it still suffers from high fees for both guests and hosts along with unverified and fraudulent listings. Bee Token is looking to remedy this problem by offering payments on the Bee Nest with the native cryptocurrency through smart contracts to ensure transactions are automated and with almost zero fees. Hosts and guests on Bee Nest must be verified via blockchain-based Know Your Customer (KYC) checks to ensure safety for the users.