Blockchain

IBM, Travelport Build Future of Travel Planning on Blockchain

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There’s a great deal of discussion being had across industries and around the world about the potential impact of blockchain, a market that’s expected to be worth nearly $14B by 2022[1]. As Travelport’s Chief Architect, my team and I are responsible for seeing through the hype and finding the right implementation for new technologies. We need to determine the point of entry which will allow us to add value for our customers – and their customers, the end travelers – by enabling us to do something differently – better, smarter, more valuably, more efficiently, or to provide a richer experience.

We’ve been looking at blockchain and its potential use cases in travel and in our analysis earlier this year, we proposed that storing traveler identity records or trip management on blockchain is still more than five years away[2].

Before we get into the details of what we’ve been looking at, it’s important to understand the why.

The world around us is changing rapidly. We live in a fast-paced, digital-first era in which instant satisfaction and peer approval are highly valued. Millennials (those currently aged 22 to 37) plan to spend 35-days each year travelling[3] and 40% prioritize ‘Instagramability’ when choosing a destination[4]. This means travel companies need to provide rich, differentiated and immersive experiences which garner those all-important likes across social media.

These rich experiences also need to be provided in a seamless, single booking. Although the supply chain within travel is often fractured, travelers increasingly want to be able to manage their trip with ease and simplicity. It’s especially challenging when you look at in-trip tours and activities. Local cookery or language lessons, Segway tours and gallery passes are often part of an Instagram-worthy trip, but they need to be procured from small, in-destination suppliers and paid for in local currency.

Bringing these types of in-trip activity into a travel platform like Travelport’s could enable the seamless, single-transaction booking experiences we know customers want, but managing the complexity of large numbers of small scale suppliers has historically been a barrier. This is why we’ve been testing the concept that ‘long tail content’ could be efficiently managed using blockchain, with our technology partner, IBM.

The IBM Blockchain Platform has broken barriers in speeding up the processing of transactions to advance blockchain for businesses. It provides the ability to put a smart contract across a distributed ledger. By implementing a smart contract, settling payments or carrying out other functions within the network, the technology significantly lowers the processing time since it manages diverse ledgers across multiple companies in a way that removes manual processing. The other benefit is that you are also adding transparency to the system across all parties in the travel network, meaning travelers have greater levels of trust in the service they are buying.

The proof of concept study Travelport and IBM carried out early in 2018, suggested blockchain distribution could be effective for management of long-tail content. This means you can add a whole list of long-tail content into a travel platform like ours for a greatly reduced price point. The blockchain network will allow the operator to upload bookings and work through any administrative tasks, rather than manually managing the tasks – a normally expensive element of any travel transaction. It will also help manage diverse ledgers across multiple companies in a way manual processes couldn’t deliver.

The next exciting step for IBM and Travelport, which is well underway, involves building a minimum viable product and testing the proved concept with a broader range of stakeholders. This should help fight the industry’s challenge surrounding delays for smaller providers onboarding content and deliver the type of speed and seamless experience we know all travelers, especially millennial travelers, expect from their travel suppliers.

Using blockchain to provide this experience is a value-adding deployment of this new technology. With IBM, we’re removing barriers that limit travel choice, to deliver the world of experiences we know today’s travelers want.

Join us to find out more at www.travelport.com/innovation.
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[1] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-increased-popularity-of-blockchain-technology-in-various-sectors-885208900.html

[2] https://www.travelport.com/blog/avoiding-hype-see-value-blockchain-travel

[3] https://skift.com/2017/10/02/u-s-millennials-travel-the-most-but-gen-z-is-on-the-rise/

[4] https://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewarnold/2018/01/24/heres-how-much-instagram-likes-influence-millennials-choice-of-travel-destinations/#2c141ce04eba

Chief Architect, Travelport

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