Following the launch of the first report in our Thought Leadership series, on blockchain technology, we asked Ilan Twig, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of our parent company Navan, about his insights into the technology and how defining blockchain’s role in travel management could be a game changer.
How can blockchain technology be explained in the travel sphere?
If every travel player embraced blockchain applications, if everyone could rely on just one source of the truth then everyone could be in sync.
However, blockchain is overkill if the only issue you want to solve is a distributed tamper-proof database, but it does have other benefits.
The travel industry could use blockchain platforms to move money; that’s really interesting because money movements on top of blockchain are instantaneous: it is 24/7, it works on weekends and public holidays and that’s not the case with today’s existing infrastructure.
Corporate travel management tends to experience a lot of changes; for example, more than 60% of flight bookings change, whether that’s seat changes, the date, cancellations etc, and that’s where having a reliable, tamper-proof source of truth becomes relevant. That’s because when there are a lot of changes with corporate travel bookings – there’s a lot of data stored, money moving around, creating reconciliation issues, which are complicated. Having a way to deal with this – such as with blockchain technology – would be a gamechanger.
Is there a way to change travel infrastructure in a way that there would not be a reconciliation problem? Again, blockchain networks may offer a solution here.
Smart contracts are an evolution on top of blockchain technology, opening the door to other capabilities. For example, more visibility on carbon emissions and sustainability, as well as offsetting for travel, bringing customer and vendor – say, a tree-planting organisation – together without the need for an intermediary.
Smart contracts empowered by blockchain could be used to embody all changes that are needed for a particular trip. This infrastructure could then provide a single source of the truth that’s used by the customer, the TMC, the airline or the travel agent.
It feels like we’re getting close to the point where we can take action when it comes to blockchain-based technology.
However, the corporate travel sector is a marketplace full of vendors, such as airlines, hotels and customers, with the TMCs in the middle. If you want to drive change with blockchain infrastructure you need to drive change in the marketplace.
With blockchain, if it offers real value to the marketplace – to airlines, hotels, vendors and customers that dominate the market and those who move money in corporate travel – then it could be adopted at scale.
If we manage to identify the real opportunity with blockchain, and we have the technical capabilities to implement it, then we have a chance to drive real change.
Do you agree? Where else could blockchain support travel management?
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