The Travel industry is in trouble. Can blockchain solutions save it?
Opinions and views expressed are solely that of my own. Always perform your own research on all topics. At the time of writing this information was correct. Always subject to change.
I’m sure by now most people have seen the abundance of news articles that go into great detail about how it is estimated around 30% of all bookings across various booking sites are fake, the most common would be booking. com and TripAdvisor.
In essence people pay external parties to create 5 Star reviews and “trick” guests.
Everyone is capable of googling and doing their own research but here are a few great examples:
- How Booking. com manipulates you
- One in Three reviews ‘faked’
- Fake “Verifed” reivews on Booking. com
- Fake booking .com Reservations
If you have some time, the video below follows the story of Oobah Butler who creates a FAKE restaurant and over a few months manages to take it to the NUMBER 1 Restaurant in London. The place didn’t even exist..
This is not a unique story and in this case was mostly harmless but what about small hotel owners and guests that are getting harmed ?
Various travel forums are full of angry hotel managers and guest alike complaining of illegitimate reviews for guests that never even stayed at the hotel.
Hows is it done?
It’s easier than you think. The places to order don’t appear on Google SEO but I did about 10 mins of searching and found two websites via a forum that you can order your bookings through. I have no doubts people in the industry are doing this “under the counter”.
I registered on the site using a fake name (ironic) and went through the process of filling in the forms with what I wanted. Below are a few screenshots, you can select your website and the package you want for your review. I’ll be honest it was even easier than I expected.
This is only one website I found. It’s beyond a joke.
The openly flaunt their blog:
Another interesting point is a lot of these sites often boast the ability to not only provide positive reviews but remove negative reviews.
As the review company's are just managed websites what is stopping them from simply deleting comments ? Does this happen already ?
Maybe you want a once off package ?
Maybe you want a Monthly Recurring plan ?
Now for the really shocking part:
It’s clear this is a huge problem for many years but this might be coming to an end with the recent up-rise of blockchain.
There are two areas of concern here:
- No way to legitimately authenticate reviews
- No incentive to leave a positive review
It’s human mentality if something goes well you don’t leave a positive review, only during a negative experience are you going to make a complaint. This is very obvious if you take a look at some consumer watch / review sites.
So how can blockchain help?
- Reward for leaving a review, positive or negative. This will ensure both sides of the story are being told.
- A way to Authenticate legitimate reviews in a legitimate and immutable way.
Disclosure: Below I go into some specifics of the AVA token on the NEO blockchain. I am personally invested in this token.
Encouraging users to leave a review:
It’s no secret or revelation that people tend to leave reviews for NEGATIVE experiences rather than a positive experience.
Lets face it in this day and age we feel entitled to perfection 100% of the time, this is almost expected to be the the norm. If I go to check my email and the service isn’t available 24 hours a day 365 days a day I’d be pissed off. We want everything perfect all the time. Last week I experienced some downtime for a service I provide to one of my clients in my day job and you can bet your ass we had close to 100 emails complaining and 50+ phone calls to the service-desk.
When do you think the last time one of them phoned up to say “Thanks” or “everything working well today” ?
The same concept goes for hotels, if I check into my hotel and everything works perfectly. If I have a great stay to be honest I’m probably not going to bother logging into the site and leave a “Loved the room”.
Travala.com has a solution for this:
The platform is already live and operational with over 550,000 hotels. The review and reward system described below is one of the many upcoming features to the platform.
For every booking on the platform there will be a giveback that the user can redeem by returning after their stay to complete a verified honest blockchain review regardless of it being positive or negative. This incentivizes the review process which we know is a big problem as customers tend to write bad reviews more than good ones motivated by anger or sadness.
You can read the full technical in the business plan: https://www.travala.com/about-us
The summary is you get AVA back after your booking for leaving a legitimate review.
For example If I book a hotel as a SMART member for $500 I can be rewarded close to $35 in the native AVA token just for leaving a review after my trip. That’s VERY significant. You can use these AVA token towards your future hotel bookings.
AVA can be seen as the “Frequent Flyer” style reward points on the platform. These are actually a CryptoCurrency token, potentially one of the first real world usages we might see “non-Crypto” people using Crypto and not even know it. Below you can see my 10 Travala points on my personal wallet.
Immutable review via blockchain:
This is where the blockchain comes into action with Travala.
For those unaware of blockchain specifics in short it’s a “chain” of data. Once the data is written to the blockchain it’s Immutable/Unchangeable. As blockchains are at the core “Decentralized” there is a no singular party that owns the data or can change it. It’s mathematically IMPOSSIBLE to alter a blockchain, traditional databases are normally owned by a central party and you can change data at the drop of a hat.
This is a great article for further reading on blockchain immutability:
Once again this is a feature that Travala are planning to implement into their booking system.
Section 4. of the Business plan (https://www.travala.com/business_plan.pdf):
Validated through blockchain-verified reviews for 100% feedback authenticity
Section 6. of the Business plan
The Travel industry, inclusive of hotels, restaurants or really any activity is classically a “Pay to win” service at this point and we need a solution.
If Travala can pull this off I think we are in for a refresh of legitimacy where the end consumer can get a REAL look at their bookings and not just angry or paid for reviews.
All of this will ultimately be controlled via Smart contract systems but I’d rather keep this high level rather than delving into technical specifics for now.
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