The global travel and tourism industry generated over $2 trillion in revenue last year. If the trend over the past five years continues, the industry is expected to enjoy further growth. Driving this growth are the millennials who now enjoy increased buying power. Part of their income goes to travel. They take an average of 2.38 vacations a year overtaking even the Boomers in the time spent on holiday.
This is even further enabled by the growth of mobile computing and the emergence of travel and tourism applications and services. Capitalizing on this growth are distribution systems, aggregators, and booking services like Booking and TripAdvisor. They dominate the space by serving as middlemen between service providers and travellers. These services, however, have their share of critics. Users have complained about how some services charge hidden fees and offer distorted information. This dissatisfaction has partly enabled the gig economy to thrive through services like Uber and Airbnb.
This disruption of the travel and services doesn’t seem to stop there. New technologies such as blockchain and crypto activities are now making their mark in the industry. Various projects like Cool Cousin and EBcoin are leveraging blockchain to further challenge the status quo and offer improvements in the travel and tours experience.
Cool Cousin is a fast-growing travel app that features curated content about travel and tourism featuring localities around the globe. The application features guides from local experts or “Cousins.” It also has a nifty feature that allows a traveller to instantly view a Cousin’s map which recommends various local destinations for a particular city or locale.
It also serves as a platform for travellers to interact with Cousins in order to get the inside track on how to get around the place they intend to visit. This allows for a more personalized travel experience – something that millennial travellers value.
56 percent of Cool Cousin’s user base is comprised of millennials aged 18 to 35. Interacting with peers is something millennials are perfectly comfortable with. The average Cool Cousin user gets in touch with at least three Cousins who are based in their target destinations to inquire about accommodations, events, and travel concerns such as safety and transportation.
These human interactions are what set Cool Cousin apart from the traditional travel planning services and guides. What’s even more interesting is that Cool Cousin has now turned to blockchain to create an ecosystem that benefits all its participants. The blockchain platform incentivizes Cousins to participate and share their insights through a token economy.
Peers as Travel Agents
The goal for the company’s adoption of blockchain technology is to create an ecosystem for Cousins to act as the modern-day travel agent. Core to its economy is Cool Cousin’s CUZ crypto token. Aside from its use as a compensate Cousins who create and edit content, it is also intended to reward Cousins who act as agents or tour guides for travellers.
Travellers can use the token to pay for exclusive information and Cousin services. Cousin services include 1) concierge services where travellers can have Cousins create custom itineraries and 2) travel agency services where Cousins facilitate bookings and reservations and even provide transportation services when needed.
This way, Cousins would be encouraged to provide more unique itineraries to travellers rather than offering canned or cookie-cutter travel experience offered by traditional tours and agencies. Cousins’ first-hand and personal knowledge of their own localities would serve them in such an economy.
Aside from user payments for services, Cousins will also be able to earn tokens by constantly tweaking and updating their guides and their own profiles. They could also earn tokens by helping promote and maintain the community including activities such as onboarding users, helping resolve disputes, and approving new Cousins.
Crypto for Payments
Speaking of payments, card companies have also long profited from international travel. Using cards for travel has been particularly convenient for travellers since purchases can readily be converted to the card holder’s local currency. This convenience, however, has a price. Companies like Visa can charge additional fees for the currency exchange. Should a user opt to withdraw cash instead, the card company could charge even more.
This is why cryptocurrencies have found its place in the payments space by enabling cheaper cross-border and global transactions. Bitcoin, for instance, has found use in international remittances particularly in developing countries. Travellers could also gain similar benefits from crypto payments especially when the crypto service is tailored to address specific needs.
EBCoin, for instance, is a cryptocurrency envisioned to curb travellers’ demand for local currency. The company aims to allow EBCoin holders to pay for purchases, exchange currency, and avail of tax refunds. Through its system, tax refunds can be also made more efficient. Travellers can get credited instantaneously and with fewer deductions. Tax authorities can easily verify transactions through the blockchain. The company targets the increasing number of Chinese tourists in Asia as a key demographic and plans to put ATMs in airports where users can transact using EBCoin.
Making Travel a Fair Game
What blockchain can effectively do is to make the travel and tours industry a more open market and a fair game for all stakeholders. Travellers could enjoy personalized experiences at cheaper prices. Suppliers and service providers could also benefit from lower barriers to entry and larger margins. If successful, this new approach can upend the current systems that are dominated by established players and enterprising middlemen. Ultimately, a fair market benefits everyone especially the ordinary traveller.