Those in the know evangelized the power of the internet all the way back in 1990. They claimed it would change everything, and it did. Now a similar group of proselytizers are brandishing the many applications of blockchain technologies, cryptocurrencies, DeFi (decentralized finance), CBDCs (central bank digital currencies), DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations), NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and the metaverse as the new gospel.
They’re not wrong, but the key difference between web1 and web3 is that three decades later the adoption of the internet is still in the rearview mirror and we know the perils of being the first mover on a bumpy road. Blockchain will inevitably rewrite how nearly all industries do business, but such a broad statement is irrespective of time, place, people and cash on hand.
It’s Not a Priority Right Now
Firmly into 2022, hotels have far bigger fish to fry than worrying about such novelties as building a direct pathway to accept payments from one of the more popular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ether, cardano or solana. And the metaverse may sound alluring, but until a VR headset is the top-selling gift at Christmas, you should not worry about the whopping development expenses involved in digitally twinning your fabulous property. Hotel experiences are much more than a virtual walkthrough – engaging all five senses in addition to the human connection element – and those devices are at least a few years away from approaching that uncanny valley.
True, it makes for a good press release to announce that your brand is accepting crypto transactions. But beyond demonstrating that your company has a futurist mindset – which perhaps may be the entire point – how will this help you resolve your labor issues? Do your housekeepers care about such an advent or would they prefer some kind of mobile-first automation to help them clean rooms and earn more credits faster?
Then consider the guest’s perspective. Will the crypto bulls and whales really care whether or not you can facilitate direct payments in crypto – versus having them first convert through a stablecoin into fiat – or do they care more about your brand standards, amenities and upgrades to your wellness programs? For the game that is hotels, service always wins.
In other words, it won’t move the needle relative to other tech projects you can undertake amidst rapid occupancy swings and perpetually swamped onsite teams. Blockchain applications are a ‘nice to have’ in the post-pandemic travel recovery and not a ‘must have’ like automation tools that can drastically improve productivity or better data integrations to optimize business intelligence decision making.
But It’s Still a Gamechanger
That all said, we defer back to the opening statement and the apt comparison to the dawn of the internet in the late 90s and early aughts. Yes, the early adapters like AltaVista and Yahoo or Friendster and Myspace are eventually usurped by the likes of Google and Facebook respectively, with similar stories yet to be fully written for overvalued blockchain companies that lack a comparative advantage. The same goes for hotel companies that move too soon or do not have a clear vision.
Eight to ten years from now, after the next boom and bust cycle of crypto, the manifold utilities of the decentralized internet will be fully realized and relatively easy to implement. By then, though, you may find that you are late adopter, losing customers to the brands that caught the wave at just the right time and engaged with this technology in a way that enhanced the guest experience in a meaningful way. A good vision necessitates a sound plan, and that must start today.
Indeed, you need a rough outline for how and when you will implement crypto transactions as well as what you will ultimately do with the metaverse to both augment the onsite experience and monetize the whole venture. This outline will change as those technologies evolve but getting those targets in place will help align the necessary resources and capex so that you are not left scrambling. Form a committee, learn how these systems work and follow the trades so that you’re up to date on general customer appreciation for it all.
What to Do for the Here and Now
At present, the hype around NFTs is not one that you should ignore. There’s a lot of fluff, but it would be naïve to think of these digital assets as mere JPGs. Instead, think of those image files as the visual representation of a tokenized key that gives the owner access to a myriad of predefined perks such as inclusion in a private Discord channel where you can mingle with a coterie of celebrities or backstage access for at a famous band’s latest concert tour no matter the city.
This is what’s called ‘tokengating’. Because all these tokens are permanently recorded on the blockchain as unique yet still totally sellable items for interested buyers, hotels can get involved by using NFTs to merchandise exclusive experiences or to enhance their loyalty programs. And that’s where we see immediate gains – using these technologies to augment the onsite and to develop a non-price-based incentive for customers to continue to choose your properties over competitors.
To close, here’s a smattering of what to consider for an NFT-backed loyalty program:
- Launching a blockchain-backed purchasable loyalty status that comes with corporeal – and not only those vowed as a future possibility – perks in the real world like access to exclusive lounges at certain locations, discounts on room upgrades or complimentary services like airport shuttles
- Besides the immediately palpable, part of the allure of NFTs is the promise of the premise, where you offer benefits that can be rendered today while also outlining a plan for the implementation of forthcoming airdrops
- NFTs can also be used to govern unique onsite experiences such as personally curated meals from the executive chef, the right to sample new activities or cultural experiences added to exciting locations or first dibs on new property openings.
- While immersive VR may be a few years away, imagine an onsite AR integration whereby loyalty memberships can tokengate a wholly new layer of visual augmentation to your physical spaces that’s invisible to those who haven’t purchased the required NFTs.
- Cryptocurrencies can also facilitate staking and crowdfunding to the point where an extra upper tier of your loyalty program can also serve as a capital raise for renovating an existing property or building a new one.
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited