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Is the Future Of Travel On Blockchain? This Startup Says Yes

Going on a trip is an exciting prospect—traveling the world, learning about new cultures, and discovering sites that have only ever existed in one’s imagination is very liberating. This freedom is only felt once the vacation begins, however, and is made even more gratifying by its contrast with the restrictive experience that many people encounter when booking travel arrangements. Though the days when travel agents dominated the industry are fading away, new gatekeepers have emerged in their place. Under the guise of convenience, these companies have neglected to use the power of the internet to create a more equitable environment, and have chosen instead to build infrastructures that are almost mandatory to use, yet also expensive.

Winding Tree

This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who understands the imbalances of the modern internet, or to those who are familiar with how the travel industry works. For many reasons, the current state of the travel industry was inevitable, but that doesn’t mean it’s unsolvable. Blockchain has emerged as a decentralized computing powerhouse in recent years, and threatens inequitable structures that have entrenched themselves in other industries to the same extent as in travel. Thanks to an innovative platform called Winding Tree, the travel industry will soon feel the beneficial effects of blockchain, and show travelers around the world exactly what they’ve been missing (and putting up with) for such a long time.

What’s Wrong With The Travel Industry?

Nothing is technically wrong with the travel industry—it’s just suffered the consequences of a centralized internet, which allows authorities and other trusted actors to gain too deep of a foothold. This is apparent when trying to book lodging accommodations or flights on the web today. Though a traveler planning their upcoming trip has more choices in front of them than ever before, the huge variety of booking websites they see is an illusion.

Most of the places where one can go to browse hotels, airlines, and cruises are owned by a concentrated group of corporations that have bought up all the promising startups and rebranded themselves multiple times. The small cabal of companies sitting at the center of this web are well-known. Its biggest names include Expedia and Priceline, both of which collectively own up to 95% of the US market’s travel sector according to figures compiled by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

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Though they still operate inside the borders painted by antitrust regulations, these two companies nonetheless engage in questionable practices that do nothing more than line their pockets at the expense of other stakeholders. Consumers at the bottom end of the funnel unknowingly pay big fees, often with a built-in premium of up to 40%, yet the model can almost be justified due to the presence of another layer of intermediaries sandwiched between booking sites and service providers.

It’s called the Global Distribution System (GDS), and it acts as a sprawling, hidden middleman between the world’s travel and hotel providers and customer-facing booking interfaces. To combat inefficiencies in booking and pricing, GDS platforms owned by Sabre, Amadeus, and others act as a cushion to fill gaps in capacity, find accommodations in areas that haven’t already been scouted, and more. Accordingly, these multiple layers are all necessary for customers to be able to book on-demand, and for booking sites to be able to meet their needs flexibly. The system technically works, but each middleman in this process adds their own fees along the way, culminating in a snowball-like effect on the price that customers pay.

Combat This Unnecessary Reality

Airlines and hotels understand the detriment to their business that intermediaries have. Their primary goal is to meet margins and fill seats, and giving too much power to booking sites and GDS operators allows these gatekeepers to put their interests ahead of the airlines’. They’ve combatted this recently by tacking on fees for booking companies that use GDS. Hotels can do the same, and have also opted to develop their own direct booking campaigns to try and reduce their dependency.

These efforts may bear fruit, but avoiding the industry’s inconvenient infrastructures will become much easier once blockchain platforms like Winding Tree hit the scene. Winding Tree is building a decentralized, open marketplace for all airlines, hotels and other travel providers to list their rooms and flights. Booking companies will gain unlimited access to this new B2B platform, utilizing the Líf token for their purchases associated with this system. They’ll be able to access inventory directly from suppliers, using the public, permission-less ecosystem to obtain a more transparent deal and pass on the savings to their own customers.

Big airlines have already leapt at the chance to usurp the parasitic GDS industry, leading Winding Tree to sign Lufthansa, SWISS, Brussels Airlines, Austrian, Eurowings, Air New Zealand, and Nordic Choice Hotels. Other lucrative partnerships are on their way, and soon, the market at large will witness the vast improvements that blockchain brings to their travels.  Once the reality sets in, companies like Winding Tree will be the example by which new entrants measure themselves. The travel industry is one of the most stratified and opaque on the planet, and when the curtains come down, the world of travel will be forced to reconcile endless layers of middlemen to bring about a new way to circle the globe for adventure. 

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