By Victor Marks
We’ve written about hospitality in the past, but like anything in blockchain, is a developing story. Over the last 15 years or so, the travel and hospitality industry has been served by a bunch of loosely related separate services. If you wanted to make a travel booking, you might have used Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Kayak, and more. If you needed a hotel, you could have used Room 77, Hotels.com, Hotwire, and a longer list of similar sites. If you used TripAdvisor, you could leave a review on the vacation, only to have TripAdvisor delete it because they only want glowing reviews on their site.
That’s the deal. As a traveler, you can get a moderate savings on price, for what you hope is a good experience, if the reviews are remotely trustworthy. But, that presumes that the pricing is a good deal. Hotels have to pay commissions back to the sites for the bookings, which causes them to raise rates to amortize the cost of the commission.
Blockchain startups have a few opportunities to make this better for users and hoteliers.
When you book through a site rather than the hotel’s own bookings site or phone number, the hotel has limited information about the booking. If they double book or give away your room, you have fewer choices, and have to deal with the reservations site, not the hotel. By putting bookings on an auditable blockchain, the participating hotels have access to the booking as if it were their own.
Are the reviews real? Are important-to-the-consumer negative reviews being deleted? Is it possible to overcome the incentives to make fake reviews, either positive in a property’s own favor, or negative for a competitor? And what about the influence of prior reviews on a legitimate consumer leaving a review? “The food was terrible, but the prices were great” leads to a potentially inflated review, especially if the prior 700 people gave 4-star ratings. By putting reviews on the blockchain, hiding prior reviews ratings distributions from people leaving a review, and hiding the effect of reviews on scores for a delayed period of time, it should be possible to make reviews more meaningful rather than the current questionable state. One of the problems that needs to be resolved is the competing interests. Hotels only want positive reviews, consumers want to believe in real reviews, positive and negative, and booking site providers want to maintain good relationships with hotels by hiding negative reviews, even if those reviews are critically important to individual customers.
Tracking points and different rewards programs is its own tangled web. Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) ran great programs for years. In addition to its collaboration with American Express, SPG had a solution that allowed users to “click now” as well as offering “double points” for booking within a range of dates. The programs were had to track and end users struggled to audit the deals they had earned. Again, one of the prime benefits of a blockchain is the ability to audit the records on the chain when a system is untrustworthy. Blockchain’s distributed nature tends to make it collusion- and edit-proof. Putting hotel rewards into a blockchain should make it easier to manage for hotels, and easier for loyal guests to verify their standing and achievements.
This just scratches the surface for the hotel stay and blockchain. When we write on hospitality next time, we’ll talk more about what to do while on your trip and how blockchain can impact it.
Featured Image from lastminute.com.au