Australian online travel company has unveiled a new project that is likely to change the future of the travel industry, saving travel firms billions of dollars annually.

Webjet has announced the blockchain proof-of-concept solution developed in partnership with technology giant Microsoft. The project is expected to improve travel industry processes and change the way online payments for hotel bookings are conducted.

In general, blockchain holds great promise for the travel industry that usually involves multiple parties. The technology could be used to significantly speed up the settlement of payments that occur in different currencies and countries. Its open ledger system reduces risks by maintaining digital identities and storing permanent records of transactions and user data.

Webjet’s new solution is based on Azure, the Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. The company expects the blockchain technology will help it to minimize costs, accelerate online payments processing, and increase security.

It took six months for companies to build the PoC which is claimed to be the first blockchain for hotel bookings.

“Globally, hotel room wholesaling is a hundred-billion-dollar marketplace,” John Guscic, Managing Director at Webjet, said in a press-release. “Every day there are millions of transactions taking place and a single hotel stay could involve five or more transactions in the distribution chain. The 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.”

New blockchain for hotel bookings is expected to improve travel processes by eliminating errors that result in additional expenditures.

“As we’ve tested the technology, we quickly realized it had the potential to improve processes with the rest of our travel partners who face similar complexities,” Guscic said. “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 developing the new solution in three phases. The first stage includes the PoC, which will be tested by Webjet’s Lots of Hotels and Sunhotels brands. During the second phase, they will process thousands of transactions to trial the automated features of the distributed ledger technology. After this, the brands will select external parties that will test the new platform.

As Guscic told The Australian Financial Review, Webjet’s blockchain solution is used by its b2b wholesaling division that offers hotels to travel firms. The company plans to expand the platform between 250,000 hotels it works with and many third party suppliers.

“We realized 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. Undoubtedly, the blockchain technology built with Microsoft is an exciting opportunity for us over the next few years,” Guscic added.

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