Blockchain and travel: the plot thickens

There has been plenty of hype around blockchain, the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but the application for travel is gathering momentum

When the head honcho of the largest leisure, travel and tourism company in the world comes out saying that he is betting on blockchain, it seems that the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies has moved beyond hype.

And TUI is not just talking about betting on blockchain – a decentralised registry of assets and transactions, which also powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin or ethereum – it’s actually doing it. As CEO Fritz Joussen explained in a recent interview, last year the company sold its Hotelbeds bed bank for €1.19 billion because “we decided to fundamentally reorganise TUI Group’s entire hotel bed portfolio and place it on a blockchain”.

This is a quite bold and advanced move from TUI, which could challenge the tour operator model, says Joerg Esser, a theoretical physicist and former Thomas Cook executive, and one of the speakers on an upcoming panel in Amsterdam titled Blockchain: the next big disruptor.

Another speaker, Wilhelm Weber, partner at Swiss Hospitality Solutions, also believes in blockchain’s disruptive potential. “In the travel industry institutions such as OTAs or tour operators bridge the gap in trust between a buyer (traveller) and supplier (eg. The XY lodge, Botswana). Since travellers trust the institution enough to book with them and maybe even to prepay – these companies take quite a significant margin for this service. A blockchain-based system would allow the supplier to interact directly with the traveller at a far lower cost.”

So although “it might not sound spectacular, the beauty of the idea is that it allows trade in an environment where trust is given to the technology instead of the institution!”

So is TUI’s move bold and advanced, or a risky one that could jeopardise its own business?

Read rest of the article at Eye for Travel