Online travel booking service Webjet has built a blockchain proof-of-concept (PoC) solution with Microsoft to manage online payments and records for hotel bookings.

“Every day there are millions of transactions taking place and a single hotel stay could involve five or more transactions in the distribution chain. This marketplace can be prone to data discrepancies due to the volume of bookings passing through multiple systems. Between five and 10 per cent of bookings can be impacted or, in other words, up to 10 billion dollars’ worth of transactions,” said John Guscic, Managing Director, Webjet.

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Blockchain is an emerging way for businesses to almost instantaneously make and verify transactions in order to streamline processes, save money and reduce the potential for fraud. It is a digital transaction ledger shared among a distributed network of computers, showing all historical updates in the transaction chain – providing a solution to the data mismatch challenges faced by Webjet.

In the wholesale hotel environment Webjet’s blockchain PoC aims to resolve issues created by data mismatches in the hotel bookings and payment processes.

“Blockchain eliminates transaction errors by having an indisputable record of truth,” Guscic said. “As we’ve tested the technology, we quickly realised it had the potential to improve processes with the rest of our travel partners who face similar complexities. It didn’t just benefit the Webjet environment; it could potentially assist every one of our partners in the supply chain to improve their efficiency.”

Webjet is rolling out the blockchain platform in three phases. The first phase involves the PoC that is now live with Webjet’s Lots of Hotels and Sunhotels brands trialling the platform. The second will see the same brands trial blockchain’s automated features, processing thousands of transactions weekly. Following this, Lots of Hotels and Sunhotels will invite selected external parties to use the platform.

Webjet believes the blockchain solution could have wider impacts for the travel industry and said it is an exciting opportunity for the business over the next few years.

“We realised facilitating bookings in the travel industry through blockchain could become an additional business we could enter in the future, and the same technology could also help solve problems outside the travel industry,” Gusic said.

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Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer, Mark Russinovich, speaking about Microsoft’s relationship with Webjet said, “Microsoft is uniquely positioned in this era of massive business and societal transformation. We’re the company that cares most deeply about computing technologies for both people and the organisations they build. By working with Webjet to use our digital platform, together we have created an innovative blockchain solution in Australia that has the potential to not only transform the travel industry but many other industries as well.”

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