On November 24, 2021, Russell Crowe fired off a tweet lauding the “amazing restaurants” on the streets of Bangkok. About four days later, Bloomberg reported that Thailand’s state tourism agency was laying the groundwork to attract the people who have become wealthy and famous by holding digital currencies. The plan also includes attracting celebrity crypto aficionados like Russell Crowe.
To some, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) plans could come across as radical attempts by a desperate and revenue-craving entity at resuscitating an industry badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. After all, the Bloomberg report states that the agency lost over $80 billion in potential revenue when Thailand went into lock-down in early 2020.
Nevertheless, TAT’s initiative is an example of an emerging aspect of global tourism called crypto tourism. This article aims to help you understand crypto tourism, its advantages and disadvantages, and the role of blockchain technology in the sector’s success.
What is crypto tourism?
Crypto tourism refers to a form of tourism or tour service targeted at cryptocurrency enthusiasts. It often involves tour companies organizing travel tours paid for with crypto or tour packages, including crypto-focused classes or lectures by the tourists.
Suppose you wish to travel to your favorite destination. You notice that you can use cryptocurrency to pay for essential amenities, including your stay at the hotel, food, and transportation. If you hold crypto, this could be an opportunity one can hardly pass.
The destinations that encourage crypto tourism often have proper mechanisms in place to facilitate smooth transactions. For instance, they could have crypto ATMs and other facilities that create an enabling environment. Some destinations go as far as issuing their own crypto coins and wallets, and on top of which, they build a new tourism ecosystem.
But to say that crypto tourism is all about targeting crypto enthusiasts would be too simplistic. Instead, countries like Thailand hope to build a new tourism ecosystem centered around blockchain – the technology that underlies cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain in crypto tourism
The term ‘blockchain’ suddenly became a buzzword overnight after Bitcoin emerged into mainstream awareness in 2009. Blockchain technology refers to a database system distributed among different nodes within a computer network. In simpler words, it refers to a shared registry that records and tracks transactions in a business network.
Blockchain is big news because it ensures that shared information is immutable. The technology enforces transparency when sharing information and only allows permissioned parties access to the network. Thus, blockchain’s potential applications in many industries are vast, so the tourism industry embracing the technology is not radical.
According to Statista, the tourism industry does not have one clear product; hence tricky to define. The industry has many subsectors, and some of the best known include travel companies, attractions, hospitality, transport, and lodging.
Nevertheless, a common thread cuts through the various subsectors: they all rely heavily on tracking and identification services. For example, a travel company might need the capacity to track customer luggage or adequately identify the customers for security reasons.
While attracting the crypto wealthy seems like the tourism industry’s quick fix to revenue shortfall post-Covid, the ultimate goal could be grander than understood today. For instance, most crypto tourism packages entail experts offering lectures on cryptocurrency and blockchain. Therefore, the ultimate goal could be to build the destination’s blockchain capacity. They could then use the capacity to build a more robust tourism industry.
What services does crypto tourism offer?s
Like any other tourism package, crypto tourism offers an array of treats to clients. Some of them include:
Cruises are an integral part of the global travel industry. Thousands of passengers book tickets for voyages to various regions worldwide every year. According to Cruise Market Watch, a cruise market watcher, the global cruise market generated revenue close to $30 billion yearly before the pandemic hit.
Seeing that the cruise market has immense potential for huge returns, CoinsBank organized a crypto-themed voyage in 2017 dubbed The Blockchain Cruise. The voyage would be one colossal blockchain technology event attracting thousands of participants from all over the world.
Buoyed by the success of the initial attempt, CoinsBank transformed the voyage into an annual excursion, with the last voyage taking place in 2019. The Blockchain Cruise is now a global conference with stops in major cities along the Mediterranean coastline.
NFT gallery visitations
NFT galleries are coming in various locations worldwide as museums, and other attractions businesses cast their nets wide to capture as many crypto tourists as possible.
A non-fungible token or NFT is a unit of data stored on the blockchain. The data can represent anything from a physical asset to digital art, and the best part is that NFT is uninterchangeable.
Over the past few years, interest in NFTs has shot up, mainly after Beeple sold an NFT for $69 million in March 2021. Because of their popularity, some enthusiasts have set up physical NFT galleries and opened the doors to crypto tourists.
In the UK, Quantus launched in March 2022 to showcase digital art in the physical world. Located in Shoreditch, London, the NFT gallery will host strictly NFT work and includes interactive elements for a wholesome experience.
A similar brick-and-mortar art gallery opened in Chicago in November 2021. The trailblazing NFT gallery displays different works of art on screens mounted on walls. Most importantly, visitors can place bids by scanning blockchain-linked QR codes.
Although less apparent, utilizing cryptocurrency on vacation is an integral part of crypto tourism. Tour companies that support payments in crypto indirectly encourage crypto millionaires to utilize their services.
According to a Markets Insider analysis, most businesses in the travel services industry are adopting a crypto-friendly posture. It said that the travel industry tops the list of the top 10 crypto-friendly industries, where 11.5% of businesses in the sector accept crypto payments.
Crypto adoption may be nascent, but the intention is clear: businesses will go to great lengths to tap into a rolling wave with the potential for vast returns.
Pros and cons of crypto tourism
· It offers learning opportunities in crypto investments and the latest trends
While defining crypto tourism, we stated that the packages include opportunities for visitors to offer crypto-focused lectures. This is an ingenious initiative because it opens learning opportunities for the local population.
According to 2021’s Blockchain Employment Report, blockchain’s highly technical and abstract nature is the most significant obstacle to the technology’s optimum trajectory. In other words, there is a shortage of experts who can distil the knowledge and disseminate it to the majority who lack technical skills.
This is why facilitating quality crypto tourists appears to be an ingenious initiative. If, for instance, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) succeeds in establishing an active crypto tourism niche in the country, the local population is highly likely to benefit from the knowledge the experts will share.
Additionally, most of the wealthy and famous in the crypto ecosystem are open-minded people who could strike investment deals wherever they go. This means that the destination countries might experience increased capital inflow. Also, local crypto investors who want links with the outside world could benefit from interacting with crypto tourists.
· It widens the range of payment options
Every country has a national currency that foreigners ought to use when visiting. It means converting currency from one denomination to another, which could shortchange the visitors because of forex slippage.
With cryptocurrency as an alternative payment method, many tourists can avoid forex slippage because currency conversion won’t be needed. For example, most destinations that support crypto tourism accept Bitcoin, the first and widely recognized cryptocurrency. This makes it easy to transfer the coins.
· It offers networking opportunities
In an upcoming sector such as crypto, beginners face enormous challenges navigating the ecosystem. Also, most of the crypto talent is concentrated in developed countries; hence finding mentors is challenging.
However, more people can meet leading developers and visionaries through crypto tourism services like cruises. Thankfully, all of the crypto-focused cruises taken so far have been designed to be global blockchain conferences. They are a critical avenue to meet and interact with experts and investors.
Crypto tourism is a grand vision, but it faces complex challenges. For example, except for El Salvador and a few other outliers, many countries do not recognize cryptocurrency as legal tender. Until most nations adopt meaningful crypto policies that facilitate the use of digital coins as money, it may take a while before travelers can comfortably switch to crypto.
Additionally, a small population globally understands or even has access to crypto. It means crypto tourism will remain limited to a small market for the foreseeable future.
If cryptocurrency is the future of finance, crypto tourism is the first indication of the radical shift in global tourism. Once the digital currency takes hold in global tourism, the chances of redundant fiat currency will increase. In the meantime, initiatives like crypto tourism remain mere attempts by businesses and countries to cast the net wide to stave off the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the industry.