The travel industry is considered as the fastest-growing economic sector in the world. According to the report of the UNWTO (World Tourism Organization), it provides about 10% of global GDP and 30% of total services exports. For some countries such as Aruba, Malta, the Maldives and Cape Verde, tourism has become the main driver of socio-economic development through the creation of jobs, infrastructure and export revenue.
At the same time, more and more people visit other countries for tourism purposes every year. In 2016 the number of international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) reached a total of 1.235 billion worldwide, and by 2030 it’s expected to exceed 1.8 billion.
The tourism industry is very dynamic. Developing at a fast pace, it absorbs new trends, hi-tech features, and ideas. A century ago, traveling for fun was a luxury, accessible only to a small segment of the population. Now it has become a part of the lifestyle of millions, largely due to the adoption of new digital technologies. In particular, GPS navigators appeared, which replaced inconvenient paper maps. Reservation systems like Booking.com and Expedia simplified booking accommodation. In addition, travelers discovered services such as Airbnb and Uber, and began to actively use mobile money for payments.
While these have already proved their usefulness and are ingrained in modern tourism, blockchain technologies are just on their way. Recently, the world has been overwhelmed with the news about companies that are beginning to implement them in their business. Today, we are on the verge of a new reality, and obviously, those who adapt to changes early will have a first-mover advantage.
Upending the industry with blockchain
In tourism, using blockchain is a win-win for both travelers and service providers. It can be applied to ensure the security, privacy, and accuracy of shared information especially in regard to financial data and users’ ID details. The travel industry holds astronomical amounts of vulnerable personal information such as passports, bank accounts, and even people’s income records. By keeping all these pieces on a distributed ledger, blockchain is able to protect them from fraud, hacking and misuse.
Moreover, it can reshape the way travelers book flights and accommodation. With decentralized technologies, they’ll have a much cheaper and more appealing alternative to traditional Booking.com or Airbnb. Proof algorithms, which form the bases of blockchain networks, guarantee that a hotel or an airline would receive a payment from a customer in a seamless and fast way. Meanwhile, as the intermediaries would be eliminated from the process, travelers won’t have to pay extra commission fees.
By the way, similar solutions already exist in the tourism market. The blockchain version of Airbnb was created by the Rentberry company. Smart contracts help handle relations between tenants and landlords in a more reliable and transparent manner, with all agreements being written on the blockchain ledger.
Another curious startup, which uses blockchain to make travel cheaper for consumers and more profitable for suppliers is the Swiss firm Winding Tree. It’s a decentralized open-source travel distribution platform, which allows airlines and hotels to connect with travel operators and agencies directly, without the centralized control of big market players, excessive fees and barriers for entry. Winding Tree established partnerships with Lufthansa, Air New Zealand, Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines to bring the new technology to the travel industry.
Crypto paradise for travelers
Blockchain can enhance a traveler’s experience in many ways, but the most anticipated is, of course, paying with cryptocurrency.
The number of people owning cryptocurrencies is increasing daily. According to recent studies, in 2017 the total value of all cryptocurrencies grew by over 3300% to over $600 billion. In the USA alone, over 16.3 million citizens own digital coins and tokens.
Blockchain throws down a challenge to traditional methods of payment, and the most tech-savvy companies are actively adapting to the new reality. Doubtless, the technology makes a big difference in financial transfers. It facilitates international payments so that travelers don’t need to exchange currencies multiple times, thus saving their time and cutting off additional commission expenditures.
No less importantly, the adoption of cryptocurrencies for payments provides a significant competitive advantage to the whole tourism industry by making it attractive to millions of virtual coin holders around the world. This market niche is still vacant and those who occupy it will definitely become innovation drivers with a bright future.
In fact, such pioneers have already begun to appear. In particular, in March 2018 the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) announced that they’re now accepting cryptocurrencies as a form of payment for its services. The company’s aim is to represent Germany as an attractive travel destination and they believe being crypto-friendly will contribute to that a lot.
A similar idea is realized by the Noah Project powered by the non-profit Noah Foundation. The company is implementing several blockchain projects that would allow locals, expats and travelers to take advantage of innovative digital technologies – sending and receiving money transfers in virtual currency, using it to transact products and services and even enjoy a luxury vacation on the Philippines.
The creators of the Noah project point out that “the rise of blockchain is inevitable. Today people expect to access what they need in a fast, simple and convenient way. If a person wants to get his confidential data protected, he should get it. If an expat wants to transfer money to his family at home easily, he should get it. And, obviously, if he wants to pay for traveling with virtual money – we should think about that. You cannot ignore these technological trends, as they’re not going anywhere. But you should be among the first to bring them to the world”.
The Noah Project is among these “the first”. Since its start in 2016, the company has been developing the Noah Ecosystem, where its own infrastructural token – Noah Coin – will be used. The ecosystem comprises of various services, and beach vacations are among them. The Noah Project partners with Dakak Beach Resort in the Philippines to create the Noah Resort, where the company’s token will be accepted. With Noah Coin, travelers will be able not only to sunbathe but will also get exclusive access to all the facilities of the resort, including 3 tennis courts, horseback riding, golf course, rock climbing, kayaking, scuba diving, river and sunset cruises. The Noah Resort aims to open a whole new travel experience where people won’t need to worry about currency exchanges – all they need is the wireless connection and a blockchain wallet.