IBM announced an extension of its existing partnership with Travelport, the B2B travel marketplace. The two companies are already collaborating on AI with IBM’s Watson. Together they’ve completed a proof of concept (PoC) for a blockchain solution that shares hotel content between the Travelport platform, hotels, and travel agencies. Outside of mobility, this is IBM’s first public blockchain announcement about a project in the $7 trillion travel sector.
UK-based Travelport’s marketplace connects “the world’s leading travel providers with online and offline travel buyers”. Last year the platform processed over $83 billion of travel spend and the company had net revenue of $2.4 billion.
After the PoC, the next project is to improve travelers in-trip experiences. Tourists are increasingly looking for unique experiences that they can share on social media. In a blog post Mike Croucher, Travelport’s Chief Architect, said that 40% of millennials prioritize “Instagramability” when choosing a destination.
But it’s often not cost-effective to integrate low volume specialist excursions into travel agency systems or booking platforms. Hence Travelport plans to use blockchain to both share content about the available experiences as well as settle transactions.
“We know unique experiences are what modern travelers are looking for. Using blockchain to access these experiences is a value-adding deployment of this new technology. With IBM, we’re removing barriers that limit travel choice,” said Croucher.
“We’re putting the ability into the hands of the operator to upload bookings and work through contracts and administrative tasks within the blockchain network rather than manually managing and owning these tasks, which is normally the expensive part of transactions.”
“By implementing a smart contract, settling payments within the network and so forth, the technology significantly lowers the processing time,” said Elizabeth Pollock, Industry Client Leader IBM Travel & Transportation.
Other travel initiatives
While Travelport caters for all segments of the industry, including travel agents, others are targeting blockchain to reduce the number of intermediaries. Winding Tree is one of the leading startups and already has relationships with several major airlines, including Air France-KLM.
Another popular blockchain application is loyalty and rewards. Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Air Asia have each announced blockchain loyalty schemes.