Travel and tourism are huge. One of the largest industries in the world, the sector was valued globally at over $7.6 trillion in 2016 and isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Can blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies disrupt such a massive marketplace?

Travel and tourism have gone through somewhat of a shift recently too, with social media influencers playing a significant part in promoting flights, accommodation, experiences, and vacations via Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

A social travel and rewards platform, Triphop has launched a cryptocurrency travel program that incentivizes hotel guests to share their experiences on social media in return for exclusive benefits such as complimentary room upgrades, in-stay benefits, and the startup’s own Tripcoins.

So how does it work, and how does it benefit the traveler and the vendor?

Triphop reduces the ordinarily high commissions hotels pay to online travel agencies (OTAs) by encouraging guests to book through its platform and then promote hotel properties to their social media followers. The company is trying to create a win-win situation, driving direct traffic to hotels while rewarding guests with exclusive benefits and its Tripcoin cryptocurrency.

While it is blockchain-based, Triphop operates like a traditional rewards program.

“Rewards for social engagement will follow the same stay rewards scheme,” Triphop CEO and founder Basil Elotol told me. “In addition to rewards, guests will get complimentary in-stay benefits. Reward value will differ based on the type of engagement.”

While a traveler might typically open an app such as Trivago, Booking.com, or Kayak to find a local hotel option, Triphop wants to change this behavior to make its online destination first in the traveler’s mind.

The Triphop solution consists of two parts. It is a marketing platform that measures the frequency and reach of a guest’s social media accounts, rewarding the traveler not just for posting content online, but also for the level of engagement and ratings they achieve. The company also attempts to improve the overall guest experience by providing perks and benefits that are personalized by the hotel.

However, travel influencer marketing is a double-edged sword. We’ve seen a few high-profile examples of hotels rallying against influencer marketing, especially in cases where the influencer is demanding better accommodation because of the size of their network. How does Triphop guard against this?

“From Triphop’s view, we feel there is a difference between authentic guest-generated content and paid endorsements or influencer marketing,” Elotol said. “We’re focused on helping hotels expand their digital footprint through authentic and verified user-generated content while helping everyday travelers maximize rewards and in-stay benefits.”

Ultimately, then, it is less about handing out freebies to those who claim to be influencers and more about rewarding the average traveler. The hotel is freed to choose who to reward and how to pay its customers back for their social efforts.

“Just as with any form of advertising and promotion, the hotel should invest in channels that help meet their business objectives,” Elotol said. “Hotels are starting to realize that influencers are difficult to manage, and it’s almost impossible to measure the return on investment of the influencer channel. Consumers are realizing that influencers are becoming promoters.”

So what’s next for the company?

“Triphop will continue to grow its member base and hotel partner network in the immediate term,” Elotol said. “We’ll be rolling out a greater range of benefits for our members and marketing solutions for hotel partners.”

A rare beast — a blockchain technology startup that isn’t vaporware — Triphop has over 80,000 members and operates in partnership with 550,000 hotels. It is available now via its website, as well as through its Android and iOS apps.

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