Is blockchain an expensive journey to nowhere for the travel industry?

Posted 31/08/2021 by Matthew Chapman

When a new invention captures the popular imagination, it can be presented as the answer to virtually any problem.

Just look at the internet boom in the late 1990s. Stagnant business model and lack of innovation? Stick ‘dot com’ at the end of your name and solve all your woes.

The same has been happening in recent years with blockchain. And with everyone now looking for silver bullets to cut costs in response to COVID’s damage, blockchain is increasingly touted as the killer solution.

But does blockchain have any place in the travel industry? We get asked this question by clients often.

If you want to use blockchain for distribution purposes or for managing bookings data, then our view is a firm ‘no’.

Why? There’s actually quite a lot of reasons and the first of those is that all information on a blockchain is public. This means that your clients booking details – perhaps their passport or credit card details – would be publicly available.

And should someone understandably take offense at that idea, under GDPR law they have the right to have that information removed. Except, with blockchain that is impossible as it’s an undeletable record.

I´ve seen people making the argument that in such circumstances blockchain gives you security and stability. But has the industry really had a problem with lost or misplaced records? If your current supplier is messing that up, you probably have a lot of other concerns already. Switching to blockchain probably won’t fix that.

There is another very important reason too why blockchain is unlikely to take off for this use: the high cost in terms of money and resources. Compared to a normal database solution, the cost of a blockchain infrastructure is significantly higher.

All of this said, we are aware of some rather high-profile cases of travel companies attempting to use blockchain. This leaves us suspecting that they are doing that for PR purposes, perhaps to appease investors who like the sound of such innovation. Nonetheless, we are monitoring this to see how it evolves.

Do we see any uses for blockchain in travel? There is one exception. Blockchain came into being off the back of crypto currencies, specifically Bitcoin.

In the modern world Bitcoin – and to some extent other crypto currencies – has become a currency reasonably widely used. And like any mainstream currency, travel businesses should be considering accepting this to increase revenues.

Could blockchain have a better use in travel at some stage in the future? Perhaps, but for the moment we see this as simply a solution to a problem that no one has.

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