Blockchain and travel – two words that invoke a lot of feelings on their own, but mostly confusion when combined. While blockchain may sound overly technical and complex (because, well, it is), we promise that its potential benefits to the travel industry are phenomenal.
When you think of travel companies, you may think that their content is the most important part of the package. While it's a huge part of the marketing mix, the logistical side is just as crucial, and this is where blockchain can make its mark.
Blockchain is a rather misunderstood protocol born of the crypto-currency age. It was originally designed for Bitcoin and Bitcoin transactions, but boasts extra security, boosted efficiency and reliability. It can create palpable, real-time results, such as faster and easier data access and cost reductions for businesses and customers. Therefore it's unsurprising that this nifty system is already making waves in a variety of sectors, from finance to enterprise.
Experts are saying that blockchain has the potential to transform the entire travel industry. As avid travellers, we're keeping our fingers crossed for its success – here’s why…
Blockchain is a system of decentralised storage that works by storing data on blocks that sit within a chain. This is network speak, of course – we're not talking about physical chains or blocks cluttering up server rooms. The idea of decentralising data means it is on a wider network that's easily accessed by all agents. It's more secure than local data, as is less likely to come under cyber-attack or data loss via accidental deletion. Blockchain can harvest a wealth of benefits from business to business, improving customer interactions as well as efficiency.
The travel industry is a very data rich sector with information shared in high volumes between a huge number of businesses, services and agents. This begins with the travel advisor, and goes onto the airline, hotel, car hire and even car parking and transfers, as well as credit-card companies and banks. There is data provided to and produced by nearly every single purchase or enquiry of a traveller's journey.
For the most part, this data is centralised meaning that information such as traveller names and passport numbers have to be passed physically from agent to agent. This obviously leaves a lot of room for error, this system is also more likely to experience a cyber-attack. With blockchain, all of this information would be stored on a network which is accessible to all of the appropriate agents, meaning the information is made available immediately when required.
Blockchain goes beyond the initial booking processes described above. When implemented correctly, it provides the foundation for more efficient systems across the entirety of the travel sector. The benefits are realised by both travellers and businesses. a great example of blockchain in the travel industry is the snappily-named Known Traveller Digital Identity prototype which is currently being tested in several countries. It allows customers to supply all of their ID information digitally, hugely speeding up passenger verification and cutting down wait times for security checks at airports. The full digitalisation of IDs and visas would see a massive boost in efficiency in these areas.
Also inside the airport, the world of baggage handling could be reinvented. If blockchain was implemented in a baggage handling system, luggage could be tracked instantaneously without needing to contact other airlines and handlers for tracking information, minimising luggage loss.
For frequent travellers, hotel reward points could become available from the moment they are earned, as opposed to waiting days for the hotel and reward networks to sync up.