In what is being claimed as a hotel industry first, Nordic Choice Hotels will “explore new ways of distributing inventory” using an open-source blockchain distribution platform developed by Winding Tree.
Hobo, the chain’s brand new hotel in the centre of Stockholm, is the first to take advantage of what Christian Lundén, director of future business for Nordic Choice Hotels, is calling “a totally new opportunity for our industry”.
It is still early days for the partnership but, as Lundén understands it:
“It will be possible to create reservation services from this platform in February next year when Winding Tree goes live.”
Although online travel agents will also have the opportunity to build a channel to the Winding Tree platform, initially he expects most interest to come from new and innovative companies.
Levelling the playing field and fuelling innovation is a stated objective of Winding Tree’s executive team. CEO Maksim Izmaylov has been a vocal critic of what he describes as the “winner takes most” approach of companies like Expedia and Priceline in the hotel arena, and the global distribution systems (GDS) in the airline industry.
Winding Tree’s first major announcement was with Lufthansa, which in 2015 was the first airline to introduce a surcharge on all reservations coming through the GDS. The German carrier has bought into WT’s own cryptocurrency Lif, the travel industry’s answer to Bitcoin, which will launch in February. Air New Zealand was its next airline partner. In early December another partnership was signed with ATECH, the foundation behind the technology hub of the Caribbean island nation of Aruba.
Izmaylov is positive about this latest partnership as “a great step forward as we work on our hotel smart contracts”.
With 30,000 rooms across Scandinavia, it allows Winding Tree to test usability on various levels: from the individual property to regionally and even across the entire hotel chain.
The Scandinavian chain is already working with Winding Tree on a so-called ‘testnet,’ where teams will gather qualitative data on transaction throughput and latency of the network. With some questioning the future scalability of blockchain platforms, it is argued that this will be vital in shaping core parts of the smart-contract before migrating to the ‘mainnet’, where transactions will have economic value.
With the number of heavyweight backers, the Winding Tree story is starting to look increasingly interesting, especially for boutique hotels which rely heavily on third-party distributors. One concern is that they will need to go through several steps to use the platform – from opening a digital wallet to purchasing Ethereum tokens and converting them to Lif.
How Winding Tree drives adoption in an industry not best known for being technologically savvy will be keenly observed in the year ahead.