Bitcoin, tourism, and emerging economies

By posted on August 15, 2017 8:11AM
Tourism Blockchain Thailand

Can Bitcoin tourism become a “thing”? How will this impact emerging makets? These are questions we should be asking as Bitcoin holds steadily above $4000 USD.

Airlines and Travel

Latvia’s airline airBaltic, was once rated among the most innovative airlines in the world when they began accepting Bitcoin as a payment method. Despite being met with criticism, this announcement that no doubt paved the way for digital nomads looking to travel with the cryptocurrency, was the first of its kind. A landmark of sorts.

Since then, many airlines and travel companies have taken their cue. The reasons are obvious! Bitcoin, with its rapidly growing global appeal is perfect for travel, both for the person travelling and the vendors who accept Bitcoin as payment. There are no bank fees, no need to exchange currency, it is easy to send and receive, it serves as a hedge against inflation and it has a growing value in the marketplace.

Paying with Bitcoin also provides additional security, that isn’t available with debit / credit cards. It is no surprise that many emerging markets, especially in Asia are beginning to take notice.

Thailand

The central bank of Thailand criminalised Bitcoin in 2013, quickly changing its mind in 2014. Following the decision, Pattaya Beer Garden, a popular bar and restaurant in tourist-friendly Pattaya, began processing Bitcoin payments. In an interview with bitcoin.com, Peter Noid said:

“We started accepting it as soon as the Thai government said it was not illegal to do so,” adding that the establishment receives “a lot of visitors who come specifically to spend their bitcoin.”

In Thailand, the race to adopt Bitcoin started very slowly, with only a handful of businesses accepting the cryptocurrency. It appears the tide is turning. Two months ago, Bitcoin hit 92,000 BAHT, a record high which led to a nationwide shortage in computer hardware.

This was followed by news that Kasikornbank will join with IBM (NYSE:IBM) to roll out a blockchain-based digital financial contract to promote new business opportunities within the region. Thailand is not the only Asian destination to hop on the Bitcoin bandwagon.

Philippines

Despite lagging behind most of the world when it comes to internet services, most Filipinos are now on 4G LTE. Which is probably the reason for the spike in Bitcoin popularity in the country.

In the Philippines, Bitcoin is much more popular than previously mentioned Thailand. The cryptocurrency was adopted at a rate and scale much larger than its neighbour. As Bitcoin’s popularity grows in the Philippines, one platform in particular, coins.ph, has made incredible waves. Allowing locals, expats, even tourists to pay utility bills, tuition, credit cards, cell phone credit, send and receive payments and even withdraw cash at local ATMs using Bitcoin.

The growth in Bitcoin use is likely to continue as the island nation becomes notably more connected. A project that will provide free access to internet in all public places was signed in to law on August 3, by the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.

Tourism

Reflecting on the above examples, Bitcoin is set to become a game-changer for developing economies. As regulation is rolled out and the cryptocurrency popularity gains speed, there might be a great opportunity for emerging markets moving forward. The prospect of spending Bitcoin on their travels is already exciting many tourists, and accepting it could be a way for these economies to gain more of an equal footing on a worldwide level.

Bitcoin could be an equaliser of sorts. Palestinians, with no currency of their own are eyeing up Bitcoin as alternative. Venezuelans, are hedging Bitcoin against unprecedented inflation. Bitcoin is even gaining speed in Africa!

Foto CC0 via Unsplash

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