Blockchain: Loyalty And The Next Generation Of Traveller

By Sarah McCay Tams - Director of Content, EMEA at Duetto

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15 June 2018
McCay Tams

Blockchain is the next major disruptor to the travel industry, according to industry experts talking at the Blockchain Demystified - How will it change your business? panel discussion at last week's EyeforTravel Europe Summit.

According to a recent survey by the World Economic Forum, 58% of executives anticipate that 10% of global GDP will be stored on blockchain before 2025. Hoteliers need to pay attention to this new, technological revolution.

Talking at the EyeforTravel Europe Summit, Simon Talling-Smith, Chief Commercial Officer, Voy - a cryptocurrency and loyalty programme, tackled the issue of how blockchain and cryptocurrency could be used in travel loyalty programmes.

He highlighted the current state of the loyalty market, in which 80% of users don't have enough points to redeem or can't log in or have forgotten their password. He said blockchain offered a perfect opportunity to fix some of the ills associated with loyalty.

"You need to motivate your customer. Give them something they can keep spending. There is a direct correlation between spend rate and engagement with product," he said.

Talling-Smith explained how loyalty programmes are not just about providing a currency, but about tracking traveller habits. It's about personal data. However, the roll out of GDPR is changing all this. "Your power over your data is now more powerful than anyone thought it would be," he said.

Using blockchain, users retain control of their personal data.

"You can permit access to a standard profile and choose whether or not to share your whole travel history. What incentives would companies put in place to allow them full view of your entire travel history? Imaging if you knew the entire travel history of your customers?" he asked.

By giving the data control to the consumer, blockchain allows companies to track people with complete compliance.

David D. Brillembourg, CEO, Brillembourg, provided a compelling overview of the future of blockchain. In his presentation, he pointed out that $1 trillion worth of travel will be in the blockchain in the next 10 years.

He talked about his STEP travel ecosystem, which is powered by blockchain and cryptocurrency, and aims to provide a cost-effective solution for travellers and hotel owners. He explained how blockchain will provide an alternative distribution channel to the OTAs, via new blockchain distribution ecosystems.

Brillembourg also highlighted how the consumer has changed and how they will change further.

"The change behaviourally has already happened; people are living in a virtual world. They already use virtual currency in their lives, for example, through video games," he pointed out.

Millennials and Gen Z are set to inherit $30 trillion, according to Brillembourg. These generations were born with mobile, social media, the sharing economy and cryptocurrencies. With a strong send of wanting to belong, and susceptibility to FOMO and YOLO, this market was born to travel.

"Crypto economics allow us for the first time to empower the traveller, putting the digitally native traveller at the centre using the wallet and coins," Brillembourg said.

Ilya Khanykov CEO, Bartini, Inc, wrapped up the session with a quick presentation on how blockchain could reduce transactional costs. Bartini is prototyping flying cars. According to Khanykov, blockchain reduces the barriers to entry, and will be used to manage the product's back office and make sure the system is safe and secure.

He said blockchain provided a: "transparent playground for everyone to find their place, growing ecosystems far beyond what we thought."

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Sarah McCay Tams

Sarah joined Duetto in 2015 as a contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Content, EMEA. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.