Bitcoin

Money

Feb 01 2021

Will bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies change business travel? What you need to know.

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been back in the spotlight after their surge in value over the past few weeks. 

But do you feel this an opportunity and are you simply missing it? Do you reckon it’s time to capitalise on your gains from your past investments and start travelling? Are you feeling you are ready to take a leap of faith and start investing? Or do you think your company is ready to embrace bitcoin as part of their day-to-day travel operations.

What is it going to happen if your competitors start using bitcoin? Additionally, imagine that your neighbour starts sharing their pics on yacht in Bora Bora on your next kid’s birthday party?

Or on the other hand, what if these cryptocurrencies are only creating a bubble that is ready to burst?

Here you will find out if bitcoin can an option for your next travel plans. Furthermore, you will see that some companies are already trading in bitcoin. But are they in the right track?

However, before we understand bitcoin or cryptocurrency, let’s talk about money.

Money is value. 

In the past, we associated value with physical goods and they have taken many forms: shells, wheat, gold, salt, etc. Notably, the word “salary” comes from payments in salt. You know that, right?

For something to have value, and work as a means of exchange, we need to trust it. Hence, for centuries, we have associated the value of money with physical goods and trusted them to facilitate trade.

In recent years, we changed our model from trusting something into trusting someone. 

First, we started using paper bills instead of materials to pay for things. Imagine paying for your ticket using pieces of gold bars from your oversized wallet.

Then, governments decided they were going to be responsible for the value of those paper bills. With that in mind, you didn’t need to have actual gold to possess value.  Consequently, it was the end of the Gold Standard. Check Nixon’s announcement in 1971.

Are we cool so far?

For this reason, people started trading things using paper money purely based on trust. 

And that’s how “fiat” money was created. Fiat means “by decree” in Latin. That is to say that the value of the money now comes from status given by a central authority.

Now, let’s get to the fun part

Fiat Money vs Bitcoin

Fiat money has different characteristics compared to bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

It is centralized and only governments or central banks can issue money. But these authorities can print as much money as they need.

However, printing more money causes its value to drop. So, when hotel prices go up, for example, it is not because more value was attributed to it. It is because you can buy fewer things with the same amount of cash.

In that case, you may have heard about hyperinflation in Germany in the 1920s and most recently in Venezuela.  As a matter of fact, they made people pay for things by weighing money because of the little value each bill had.

Weighing money

And with the advent of the internet and technology capabilities, fiat money became more digital. 

Wait! 

So, what would stop me from creating a copy of my own money? Literally, printing my own money?

This is the double-spending problem. In other words,  it is the risk of digital currency, like bitcoin, being spent twice.

With this in mind, banks solved that issue with sophisticated ledger systems to track money. Then, they assigned each person an account number to store that money. However, that information is centralized and only found in the bank’s server. 

But, when a single authirity centralizes the money, much power concentrated into ones’ hand. Moreover, you give away control of your money. That combination sometimes leads to corruption… Only sometimes, you know? 

The bitcoin advent

In 2008, a white paper was published by Satoshi Nakamoto claimed that a new form of decentralized digital currency to be created would solve the double-spend problem. A peer-to-peer electronic cash system. That is to say: The Bitcoin.

And how would this work?

This system would operate on a public ledger where anyone could check the current state of balances and transactions. Nonetheless, the system is decentralized as everyone would keep a copy of the ledger on their own computers.

That is different from banks where you can’t access the banks’ ledger to understand how much money is in it. But similarly to banks, you won’t know who made these bitcoin transactions and their values, protecting one’s privacy.

You get a copy! You get a copy! Everybody gets a copy! (Can you hear Oprah too?)

So, whenever new transactions are generated, the ledger creates a new “block” with that new information. Consequently, that new information is added to a chain of blocks; also known as the “Blockchain”. 

So, each new block is created approximately every 10 minutes. And after a new block is created and added to the chain, the whole chain is therefore updated across the network of computers.

As a result, someone would have a small window to hack the ledgers in every computer to fraud them at the same time. Consequently, defrauding the cryptocurrency blockchains is nearly impossible because the chain grows at each update.

Seems good, uh? Hmmm not quite there yet….

The controversy: Bitcoin or Fiat Money

So, is cryptocurrency an option for fiat money?

There are some characteristics we need to highlight first:

Firstly, with bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency, you control your own money. There is no intermediary between payer and payee. Therefore, no bank or government can freeze your account or block or funds. 

Secondly, it cuts down the number of middlemen at each transaction and it can be economical to send and receive funds in some cases.

Then, it opens digital commerce opportunities to people who don’t have bank accounts but do have access to the internet.  According to Forbes and the World Bank, in 2017 over 1.7 Billion people lacked access to a bank account and could be transacting in bitcoins.

However…

There will be a limited number of bitcoins issued and they are about 21 million. 

Some specialists talk about bitcoin’s “deflationary” nature, which means people would be better holding currency rather than spending it. 

Fiat money loses value over time and people need to make it circulate to create more value. Contrarily, the deflationary nature of a currency could impact wealth creation. Another fact is that many bitcoins have already been lost because people may have lost access to their accounts, making the number of bitcoins more finite.

You also want to consider the fact that cryptocurrencies have been “re-centralized”, where 3rd party exchangers have entered the marketplace causing security and fee concerns about the freedom of bitcoin, for example.

There is still a lot of debate about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Please watch the opinions of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett talking about what they think about the topic.

Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin and Travel

Over the past months, we have seen a surge in the price of cryptocurrencies attributed to these facts:

  • Institutional investments – Corporations like Paypal and Square are buying bitcoins like never before. In addition, private investors are following suit. Consequently, this scenario creates waves of trust, which are deemed necessary for a currency to succeed. Remember…? Trust?
  • More people buying – More people have access to the stock market as the result of new Fintech companies entering the market.
  • Central Banks investments – Countries like Turkey and China are rushing to develop, promote, and adopt digital currency.

Central Banks are now invested in developing digital currencies because they are scared of losing control of money as other cryptocurrencies are growing: Ethereum, Neo, Cardano, etc. In the same vein, we may see new currencies being registered this year.

Not to mention that big corporations are yet to enter this market too. And have you heard about Libra from Facebook? Now called Diem?

But for digital currencies to be widely adopted, they need to be available for retail transactions. Consequently, an overall adoption would need to take place to ensure the cryptocurrencies can circulate. For example, you receive bitcoins as salary to spend on hotel bookings, taxi rides, visa applications, etc.

Cryptocurrency and travel

How can you use cryptocurrency for travel at the moment?

In 2014, Expedia started accepting bitcoins as a payment option for hotel bookings. The idea was to give customers a choice, according to the company.

And why has it stopped accepting it in 2018

Firstly, it seems they were treating it as an experiment due to its price volatility. Above all, their perception was that customers could lose money overnight if they decided to spend it on tickets. Remember the deflationary effect?

At that time, there were few places accepting bitcoin, making transaction fees expensive. Moreover, the lack of commercial adoption would make bitcoin circulation a challenge. Nevertheless, bitcoin had been treated as a speculative investment, making it harder for the general public to use cryptocurrency in general.

Maybe it is still the case? Though recently, Expedia has partnered with Travala allowing over 700,000 hotels to be paid with cryptocurrency but has it missed an opportunity?

At the moment, other Online Travel Agencies seem to be accepting bitcoins as forms of payments and they are CheapAir, Bitcoin.Travel and Destinia.

That is to say that these companies would take your cryptocurrencies and pass on fiat money to the airline, hotel, etc.

Interestingly, Air Baltic, the flag carrier of Latvia, accepts 4 types of different cryptocurrencies and you can see the print screen of a booking I was making.

There are also just a handful of hotels in the Luxury sector that accept bitcoin as a direct form of payment:

Dolder Grand in Zurich – Switzerland

Sandman Hotels in Canada and globally

Casual Hoteles in Spain and Portugal

The payment options are always at the hotel discretion and they can change at anything. But it’s always worth it to check them first.

Does that mean that your company can start thinking about cryptocurrencies as a payment option for your travel? And for you? Do you want to spend part of your reserves on your next trip?

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am unsure how early cryptocurrency will be widely available to the public for everyday transactions. At the moment, there is a lot of speculation around these new means of transactions and it is still a bit volatile.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to watch the attempt of governments to establish new CDBCs and rollout to society. But will they be formed under the same characteristics of the current banking systems? We need to wait and see. 

If you hold cryptocurrency now and want to pay for trips, could it be a good option? Paying fewer bitcoins which are high in value for tickets and hotels that a very cheap in price at the minute could be a good opportunity?

Moreover, would corporates use strategies cut costs in the long term, taking advantage of price volatility? Will it be possible to use cryptocurrency in any travel transaction?

There are so many aspects to consider. If you want to learn more about cryptocurrency, these are some resources you can use:

If you are ready to invest, here’s a platform to help you with that:

Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor and you should consider professional assistance to start investing.

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