Webjet tests blockchain for hotel bookings

Elizabeth Barry 8 November 2016

booking travel online

The online travel firm claims its a world-first for the travel sector.

ASX-listed Webjet has just completed a six-month blockchain proof of concept for the travel industry. In collaboration with Microsoft, the companies aimed to transform the way hotel bookings are made by using blockchain to increase transparency and accuracy.

Speaking to the AFR, Webjet managing director John Guscic said the company was testing blockchain for its business-to-business wholesaling arm which offers hotels to travel agents.

"The dirty secret of the global hotel industry is that roughly one in 25 transactions globally end up with breakage where someone provides a service and doesn't get paid for it ... which is an enormous number," he said.

"The reason that happens is because you have a lot of intermediaries in this space who are passing information to each other sub-optimally, and things get lost or not followed up. We believe blockchain will create a more seamless, less intrusive, more robust supply chain than currently exists across all those parties."

The test involved Webjet creating a smart contract to represent a hotel booking between two parties. As part of the blockchain, this creates a permanent record which ensures any changes are logged. Webjet chief information officer Graham Anderson said it essentially developed a way to match the booking and handshake on the blockchain itself. "It is, in essence, the decentralised trust platform that we are delivering into the environment," he said.

Webject worked with Microsoft to establish the blockchain, which is being hosted in its Azure cloud. Microsoft has provided resources as it looks to build out its own blockchain capabilities.

While the test is a first for the travel industry, several Australian financial service providers and companies have carried out their own proof of concepts. CommBank took part in a worldwide blockchain test with financial innovation company R3 which created two prototypes for trade financing. NAB and Westpac also joined the global network of distributed financial technology provider Ripple in order to innovate their payments transfer.

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