Travel bookings with bitcoin?
Is crypto a journey the travel industry should offer? There has been a lot more crypto related activity in travel than you might believe. Expedia has over 700,000 hotels available for booking via Bitcoin (and 30 other cryptocurrencies) and Pavilion Hotels and Resorts – an APAC‐headquartered chain with hotels around the world has started accepting payments in 40 different cryptocurrencies in July this year.
Meanwhile in the aviation space Air Baltic started accepting payments way back in 2014 and Spanish airline Vueling most recently announced plans to start accepting crypto from 2023 too. Even Bitcoin cash machines are proving popular too, having initially appeared in petrol stations and malls in the US they are now coming to major airports in Spain too. What does the industry feel? Here are few views.
James Montague, senior director security & integrations from hospitality technology Shiji Group comments: “We’ve had one or two hotel groups ask about this for sure. But once we explained the complications of actually allowing guests to pay with crypto there was no further interest, particularly as a payment method for in-present payments. That’s because most hotels are still struggling even to take a credit card payment over the internet – instead capturing your details but then charging you with the physical card on arrival. Even PayPal, AmazonPay or other alternative payment methods is a stretch for most.”
Matthew Chapman, co-founder and CTO of travel booking technology provider Vibe comments:“There are some travel companies – and many consumer businesses in general – that are now starting to accept crypto yes. But you need to understand that in almost all cases they are using some kind of intermediary platform to handle the payment such as Coinbase or BitPay.
In other words, they’re adding crypto as they might add any other non‐major currency they don’t currently accept or operate in, just like they might add South Korean Won or Singapore Dollars – and almost certainly they’re immediately converting that cryptocurrency into ‘fiat currency’ (the normal, real world, non‐digital money we all know and love, in order to avoid any exchange rate volatility risks). If you’re thinking about this, consider that all these payment platforms charge suppliers a small fee and of course there are the implementation resources required to do this. There are also tax implications in some jurisdictions, making extra‐accounting record necessary. Basically, you’ve got to ask yourself, does accepting crypto leave better off net? Right now, it probably doesn’t, but that might change in time.”
Alex Barros, chief marketing and innovation officer from Beonprice, the revenue management & total profitability platform for the hospitality sector, adds: “There’s a lot of questions that hoteliers might be worried about here. For a start, with thousands of cryptocurrencies out there, hoteliers would have to continually review which ones they want to accept and which not. Ultimately though it comes down to demand, if your customers all suddenly wanted to start paying in Mexican Pesos or New Zealand Dollars you’d find a way to make that work. Looking to the future though it would appear that the metaverse is going to be an ecosystem where crypto is the standard payment format, so hoteliers should keep that in mind too.”
Fabian Gonzalez, founder of Forward_MAD comments: “The luxury tourism sector is consistently first in providing guests with what they want. Firstly, because they have a service mentality, of course, but secondly because money is less of an issue for their audience so they don’t have to get the economics right: there will always be guests willing to pay. So, when it comes to crypto if there’s even the smallest of demand then luxury hotels will be quick to find a way to accept payment – not least as there are many services out there now that turn crypto in fiat (or real-world money!) instantly and with no risk. Right now it would seem that any demand is really miniscule, but there’s indications that this is growing amongst affluent travellers.”