Travellers can now book more than 450,000 hotels with cryptocurrency, thanks to an app called Tripio, says Ben Brown.

Participating hotels include the spectacular Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and the Ritz-Carlton in Tokyo.

It’s not the first time the travel industry has embraced digital currencies. Expedia experimented with bitcoin payments for a short period, Cheapair has long accepted cryptocurrencies, and you can even book a space flight on Virgin Galactic with bitcoin.

However, this is the first broad initiative to match hundreds-of-thousands of hotels with cryptocurrency users.

The catch? It’s not Bitcoin

Surprisingly, the scheme doesn’t involve the world’s largest and best-known cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Instead, it uses the third-largest, Ethereum, to complete bookings.

In breaking news, Tripio will also support a popular digital currency called Binance Coin (or, BNB). BNB was created by the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, a platform where you can buy and sell various digital currencies.

Binance has 10 million users, many of which use the BNB coin on a daily basis. By partnering with Tripio, those users can now book any of the 450,000 hotels on the Tripio platform.

Sounds complicated…

It is. And, let’s be honest, the average family isn’t about to book their next package holiday with an obscure cryptocurrency.

The target market here is technology experts, crypto early-adopters and some business travellers. The vast majority of early users will reside in Asia, where most of the 450,000 partner hotels are located.

Don’t underestimate the trend

This might be the very early stages of a trend, but don’t underestimate its future potential. Cryptocurrency adoption is still relatively tiny in the UK but the Asian market is very different. A third of South Koreans own some form of cryptocurrency, for example.

It’s no coincidence that Tripio and partner company Binance both have their origins in China with many millions of Asian users.

Consider this a slow-burning trend as cryptocurrencies become normalised and accepted by more companies. Globetrender predicts that others will follow in the coming five years.

How does Tripio work?

On the surface, Tripio looks like any other travel and booking website. You can also download the app on Apple and Android. But there’s a key difference; it’s built on blockchain technology.

Blockchain is the technology that underpins and powers cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Without getting too technical, blockchain is essentially a database. Only, it’s completely transparent and open to everyone.

Travel companies on the blockchain: why?

Because blockchain is open and transparent, hotel managers can list their rooms directly on Tripio, set their own rates and specifications. 450,000 have already done so.

Customer feedback and ratings are also highly transparent, irreversible and cannot be hidden. And because this all happens without an active middleman, the fees for hotels are significantly lower.

In contrast, a company like Expedia controls and stores all hotel information, pricing structures and reviews, therefore acting more like a gatekeeper and charging higher premiums for listing and handling.

It’s a new, experimental model to move towards direct-to-customer hotel bookings, but it remains to be seen whether there is a true appetite for the technology.