Tourism industry: Blockchain opens up new horizons
Many people think immediately of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin when they hear the term “blockchain,” not least because of recent news from the financial industry. But blockchain technology offers many more possibilities. Quite soon, end customers in a variety of industries could be enjoying the benefits of this new database architecture. One possible pioneer is the tourism industry.
In several major interviews, TUI CEO Fritz Joussen has sparked an interesting debate. Blockchain is the future, he says, and he is currently working on restructuring the travel giant in certain areas. For example, the booking portals are being converted to the blockchain database architecture, as blockchain technology makes it possible to simplify many processes, reduce costs and improve customer communication.
No central mediator anymore
Blockchain was initially developed to facilitate secure money transfer online. The most prominent example of an application of this technology is the Internet currency Bitcoin. Blockchain is based on the idea that information is no longer saved centrally but instead in many different places online. Data and access rights are therefore disseminated in a forgery-proof manner. A central intermediary body is no longer necessary. Smarts contracts ensure that a rendered service is paid for, or that no service is rendered if there is no payment (see also New Opportunities: How Blockchains Are Conquering the Digital Market).
Joussen is drawing his own conclusions for the tourism and travel industry and predicting a fundamental change of the Internet in all areas. He believes that as a result of this change, Internet giants such as Google and Airbnb, or sites like flight-booking portals, will lose their unique position as data collection points. “Blockchain is not on the Internet, it will be the Internet. As a result of that, the web will become non-hierarchical. Up to now, there have been a few privileged users on the Internet and lots of dumb people,” says the manager in an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
Customers will soon book their flights directly
And Joussen has already followed through on his convictions. In 2017, he sold the TUI subsidiary “Hotelbeds” to an investor for 1.19 billion euros as he no longer believed in the future of the booking company. If blockchain technology makes it possible for every user to have the same rights and access to all the information, then users can book their hotel rooms or plane seats directly — transparently, securely and quickly.
The Russian airline S7 has already converted its ticket sales to blockchain technology and is promising its customers shorter transaction times, among other things. A few weeks ago, Air New Zealand also started trying to use blockchain technology to track items of luggage and improve freight management. If an item of luggage is loaded onto the wrong plane, the passenger is automatically informed, and the suitcase is sent to the correct destination.
Improvements for next-generation customers
Work on further improvements is well underway. It is possible that, with the help of blockchain, reimbursements for flight delays and cancellations will be directly and automatically arranged with the customer. Overbookings would in principle no longer be possible, because users can see the complete availability of flights and reservations in real time. An electronic token on one of their devices will serve as a passport. Thanks to a combination of blockchain, mobile technology and biometrics, passengers would only have to be identified once at the beginning of their trip instead of having to present various documents multiple times.
Air France is also looking at the potential of blockchain. Its main concern is being able to track supply chains in air transport. And Lufthansa is working with the Swiss startup “Winding Tree” on a marketplace based on blockchain technology on which airlines, hotels, and other service providers can directly sell their services to other firms. “That should create more efficiency in a market that is complex and in some cases dominated by a few intermediaries,” announced the airline.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.
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