United Arab Emirates airline Emirates has announced plans to launch non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and branded experiences in the metaverse. It is repurposing its Emirates Pavillion at the Dubai Expo 2020 site to create an innovation center hoping to attract talent from all over the world.
The NFT projects will be centered around collectability and utility. Besides commercializing digital assets like most other collections where consumers collect and trade NFTs in a secondary marketplace, Emirates can also explore the possibility of using NFTs for tickets and as rewards.
As for Emirates’ entrance into the metaverse, it will likely buy a space in existing popular digital universes such as The Sandbox or Decentraland.
NFTs as tickets is a strategy that some sports teams and venue managers have implemented. For consumers, owning a ticket as an NFT can become a souvenir of a trip.
In regards to NFTs as rewards, the strategy can make the company’s miles system more attractive to potential passengers. Most airlines manage a loyalty program where a passenger’s miles are turned into points that can be exchanged for rewards such as discounts on future flights or hotel accommodation. Emirates can use NFTs as part of the program, such as when a customer reaches a certain level of miles, they earn an NFT, making them feel that they are part of an exclusive club. If Emirates sells collectibles, completing a certain collection could also contribute toward customer points, for example.
Emirates is already using blockchain to improve its rewards program, Emirates Skywards. The project is a partnership with blockchain firm Loyyal and enables the creation of a shared system between multiple parties to report and track how passenger points are used.
“Emirates has always embraced advanced technologies to improve our business processes, enhance our customer offering, and enrich our employees’ skills and experiences,” said Emirates CEO HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum. “We are excited about the opportunities in the digital space of the future and are committing a significant investment in financial and resourcing terms, to develop products and services using advanced technologies that will deliver on revenue, brand experience, and business efficiencies.”
The UAE is trying to establish itself as a crypto and blockchain center. One of its enterprise zones, The Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), launched the DMCC Crypto Centre. And the Dubai Financial Services Authority has drafted regulations to provide regulatory clarity for cryptocurrencies and stablecoins within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) to attract international startups.
Meanwhile, over the past couple of years, the use of blockchain in airline management has revolved chiefly around Covid-19-related initiatives. Emirates trialed a GE blockchain Covid-19 travel app and IATA’s blockchain credential system.