When planning a trip, today’s travelers are brought into contact with a multitude of services designed to meet their transportation, accommodation and entertainment needs. However, the modern travel industry is one of the most stratified around, meaning that websites are just customer-facing points of contact at the end of a long line of behind-the-scenes intermediaries.
Some of the most popular services like Airbnb or Kayak make it quick and convenient to book travel arrangements, but they also add hefty fees to cover their bases. They’re essentially modern travel agents–digital platforms whose backend handles the synchronization of millions of hotel rooms and airline flight plans. Yet, there is still a missing ingredient.
While it used to take travel agents longer to accomplish these tasks over the phone, even with a fraction of the clients, there is something that even the best website can’t imitate. Travel agents were often some of the most experienced concierges around, full of intimate, cultivated recommendations having spent significant time in their specialized locations.
This notion of expertise has been utilized by local attraction aggregators like TripAdvisor, which collects user recommendations and reviews about the best local spots and generates recommendations based on users’ tastes. Unfortunately, even TripAdvisor also suffers from some of the centralized internet’s various detriments. Such faults include susceptibility to misleading, monetized reviews and a hesitancy to combat them due to concerns over the company’s bottom line.
The last few years have shown that blockchain may be the only hope for online services to escape the influence of middlemen and gain transparency. How? By pushing P2P models in place of the content funnels we see today.
An Era of P2P via blockchain
As blockchain evolves, peer-to-peer alternative models are becoming an increasingly likely replacement for various aspects of internet infrastructure. Blockchain gives more responsibility and power to individuals because it can host services and applications, albeit in a decentralized environment. Without a centralized authority responsible for handling everyone’s data, there is no singular entity that gains an edge with respect to collecting, hiding or monetizing that data. This notion comes thanks to the collective consensus algorithm that coordinates any blockchain’s many peers.
Travel applications and services built on the internet contrast with this idea strikingly. Just look at Airbnb, a service that provides a shiny interface and aggregator as justification for its cushy spot between homeowners and guests. The service is beloved by travelers worldwide, but tacks on fees for payment processing, guest servicing and owner commission. This often adds upwards of 20% to the price. They’ve also made it clear that their interests aren’t aligned with hosts by pushing instant over traditional bookings, which reduces a host’s ability to screen potential guests.
TripAdvisor doesn’t monetize itself like Airbnb does, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without flaws. The website thrives on its impressive traffic numbers and uses its status as the de facto travel recommendation and review hub to get businesses to list themselves. However, it’s not as good for businesses as it may seem. Even the world’s best hotels and restaurants suffer shockingly poor reviews, thanks to a system that doesn’t weed out illegitimate complaints.
This compromises the very idea that TripAdvisor is a place where people can go to get a transparent, honest appraisal of the place they’ll be visiting. Instead, in its hesitation to drive away traffic, the site refuses to act when businesses actively sabotage the reviews of competitors. It’s also possible to pay services to farm out good reviews, further clouding the waters for curious travelers.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
It’s not difficult to demonstrate that services claiming to be P2P are not truly so. Blockchain has made it more obvious in recent years as industries around the world root out the intermediaries they’ve accrued on the internet model. Cool Cousin is the travel industry’s latest champion and seeks to bring a true P2P travel agency to market based entirely on blockchain. The application counters the information overload and mixed messaging inherent in outdated competitors like TripAdvisor, and instead provides the best information straight from locals.
Being on blockchain limits the platform from confusing commercial interests with those of its participants, while simultaneously allowing users to monetize their recommendations with the CUZ cryptocurrency. Those with first-hand experience in the area can earn from their intimate knowledge and offer experiences for much less than what’s offered on competing platforms. As a result, the system’s low overheads don’t push prices upward.
Similarly, new entrant Beenest is attempting to dethrone Airbnb by offering a more direct way for homeowners to rent their properties to travelers. The company offers users the ability to connect with renters or homeowners without an intermediary. Users can exchange tokens and pay no commissions or fees on their rentals. Moreover, the system can implement strong security measures that Airbnb has, at times, lacked.
This is the ultimate ambition of any blockchain solution: to create a better value proposition for content providers and consumers simultaneously. Before, these two constituents butted heads at every point of interaction and worked to obscure and extract value from the system rather than add to it. Blockchain relies on participation, but these new entrants are quickly proving that the demand exists. By disrupting the status quo, they could create a future that completely eliminates any antiquated gatekeepers, and puts the advantage back in the hands of travelers.
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