How Blockchain can Help Travel Brands create Smoother and more Secure Digital Experiences for Travelers

6 minute read

We live in an increasingly digital era where securing the enormous amount of sensitive data that is generated is becoming of paramount concern, particularly in the e-commerce space. Significant financial data is involved in the form of the large volume of transactions that take place each day across the world, and cybersecurity threats loom large.

There is much ado about the risk of exposure to cyber attacks, compelling travel organizations big and small to invest in cybersecurity measures. To keep up with the pace of the growth in online travel, it is thus essential for the industry as a whole to address the security measures more holistically and work towards the development of more advanced technologies.

One such technology that is gaining industry attention is blockchain. We’re sure many of you must have heard about it but are probably not aware of what it is all about. Well, hopefully this article will help you understand it better.

Understanding Blockchain

Not the most sonorous word even for the tech savvy millennials, Blockchain technology is the result of years of security research and cryptography. According to the definition, blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions made in bitcoin or another cryptocurrency are recorded chronologically and publicly.

In 2008, when the financial industry saw a huge crisis, anonymous person or group of persons named Satoshi Nakamoto developed the worldwide cryptocurrency and digital payment system ‘Bitcoin’. This whole new thing opened a magnum of opportunities where people could carry out transactions without involving a third party.

What made it of greater interest is that Bitcoin is not a fiat currency controlled by a nation or state and the underlying technology involved is called blockchain. Revolutionizing the arena of financial services, this new technology is most profoundly used in the field of cyber security.

How safe is blockchain to implement in the travel sector?

As the blockchain databases are distributed amongst thousands of computers, the reliability is almost 100%, at least theoretically. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that organizations hold the right to shut down private blockchains anytime, especially those that control the nodes. However, public blockchains can never be controlled.

The fact that blockchain is distributed over multiple computers nulls the chance of hacking; also, there is constant check of validity in the nodes, making it even more difficult for the hackers to tamper with the security of the technology.

Forming a scope for decentralized business model, the cryptocurrency in blockchains can be used as an internal currency by organizations. The big intermediaries such as banks or credit card companies although have the trust and carry on commerce with their own transaction logic, they all are centralized – which means they can be hacked.

Will blockchain dominate travel?

Blockchain is already revealing its value in terms of data security, logistics, transparency and simplified process. A major reason for adopting blockchain in the travel industry is for its fragmented and complex structure. Securing the customer payments online and identifying the source in case of a fraud are two of the major concerns for travel providers. Blockchain is a major part of identity management.

Blockchain in the Hospitality segment

Blockchain and its application which includes Ethereum and Bitcoin are considered massive disruptors of the status quo for travel service distributors as current travelers like to enunciate their style, mood and personality with spot-on recommendations. Blockchain cuts out the middleman, which would mean that the hotels will pay lower transaction fee on bookings. Another area where blockchain can help hotels, particularly large chains is in connecting multiple systems more efficiently and securely.

The TUI group already uses an in-house private blockchain to manage its internal processes and distribution of hotel inventory across its 300+ hotels. It is also planning to use blockchain to connect its revenue management system to its PMS for optimizing its marketing and creating more personalized experiences for customers. Another hotel chain in Europe is exploring blockchain to decentralize distribution and get rid of intermediaries (bad news if you’re an OTA!).

Blockchain will also make it cheaper for travel startups access and distribute hotel inventory in a space that is currently dominated by OTA giants such as Expedia and Booking.com. Travel companies would be able to sell their products and services at lower distribution costs through a blockchain based platform.

The industry is also exploring the use of blockchain in loyalty programs and creating universal loyalty platforms that would allow customers to earn points across segments instantaneously and use their points in one segment, say an airline and redeem them in another segment, say to pay for their hotel room. The points along with other sensitive customer data would be securely stored in digital wallets and allow hotel brands to determine which other brands they want to include in their reward app on the blockchain.

Blockchain in the Airline industry

Blockchain technology has a number of benefits for airlines too. To begin with, it can transform maintenance logs by eradicating the cumbersome paper binders. The immutable “virtual copy” of all the records can take the practice of maintenance and security to a whole new level.

Secondly, Ticketing can be tokenized and dematerialized. It would also allow airlines to add business logic and T&Cs regarding their sale, opening doors to flight booking by different partners from any part of the world in real time. Not only just payments processing but inter or intra-airline schedule coordination along with the hotel reservations can otherwise be smoothened through a straightforward process built around a single, shared data set.

Loyalty is a big thing in air travel, but the process of accrual and redemption can take long. With blockchain-enabled loyalty programs, points can be instantly redeemed by passengers through the bitcoins. Easier and faster-to-use program can make development in personal preferences making air travel more sophisticated in the future.

Most importantly, it would make passenger data and other records relating to the flight and crew more far more secure.

Concluding

Although blockchain technology is a buzzword in travel, it’s still in its infancy and a long way from being widely implemented in the travel sector. However, the most predictable use of the technology would possibly be in the Bitcoin-enabled payment solutions. With digital payments becoming the norm in various parts of the globe, the one new age technology that we reckon will dominate the industry in the times to come is not social media, not robotics, not the big data brouhaha but the underlying digital currency technology that promised to create a safer and smoother ecosystem.

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