How important is blockchain and cryptocurrency in hospitality

Welcome to Boostly Podcast Season 11 Episode 81. This is a recap of my Facebook live where I have guests who talked about blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Here's the audio for this episode:

Here's the video for this episode:


00:00 Start
02:10 Guests' introduction
07:30 Basic terms about cryptocurrency
16:00 Should hosts pay attention to cryptocurrency?
24:10 Demographics of people using cryptocurrency
28:00 What NFT means
30:00 Possible opinion of big organizations on cryptocurrency
35:00 How hosts can use cryptocurrency
38:30 Why many artists use cryptocurrency
40:00 Where to get started
44:00 About cryptocurrency domains
47:10 Quickfire questions
58:30 Know more about our guests

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Audio – Boostly Podcast




Transcript from the Episode

Today we're going to talk about cryptocurrency and blockchains. We're going to talk about everything digital currency and how it's going to affect you in the future.

Guests' introduction

Luca: I'm Luca. I'm Italian, but I live in Sofia, Bulgaria. And I've been in the vacation rental space since 2001. When I started a little booking platform, which later was kind of a precursor to Airbnb, in a way was doing the same thing but in a small scale, and it allowed me to travel full time for almost 10 years. And I've been in this in this space ever since just in 2013 I started getting into bitcoin and since 2017, full time in crypto/blockchain/web tree and so yeah, then it makes me a pioneer because I'm doing things which few people do in our market, but it's getting pretty busy in general. And I'm really happy about that.

Emmanuel: My name is Emmanuel. I live in South Florida. I started Vacation Rentals about 10 years ago. I was originally a maintenance guy in an apartment complex. Then got into the management, the rental arbitrage and then the ownership. This vacation rental space is getting very busy. I heard about Bitcoin and crypto the first time probably 10 years ago. But the legitimacy just wasn't there. In my opinion. At the time, it just kind of sounded like this, this weird thing that maybe Mexican drug lords used to use, which they probably still do. But now everybody else is also on board and heard about.

Simon: My name is Simon Lehman. I have been in this industry for 16 years, I've served on the board of Homeaway. I have run the largest property management company in the world with at the end 50,000 units, I know what it means to run a full-service property management company from A to Zed. And interestingly enough, I've also been the CEO of Focusrite for more than a year with the largest online travel research and all on travel conference in the world. And interesting enough, I've been going to that conference since 2005. And obviously, if Focusrite doesn't pick it up, nobody will in terms of consumer behaviour, travel behaviour, booking behaviour, and what is in between and Focusrite has, especially with Philip Wolf, who unfortunately just recently passed away as a raised is blockchain cryptocurrency issue very early the focusrite conferences. So it's been debated, and talked about in travel for quite a while. So without a doubt, I'm very keen on that. To learn more. I'm running a consultancy firm called AJL Atelier. I'm based in Switzerland at the moment. Yes, I was in Dubai last week, which was great to travel again. But I can tell you guys travelling is no fun at the moment. So rent your property local, and still, go and rent. Don't travel for time, but travel will come back.

Basic terms about cryptocurrency

Luca: First of all, let's think for a moment how lucky we are of being in this moment in history. 25 years ago, there was no internet. And we already going through three iterations of this thing. The internet has just started in the long, you know, a journey of the human experience 25 years out of, you know, how long is humanity been doing communication.

So this thing, which is among us is is just started. And we sometimes forget how things change, right? We think well, now we have the internet is fine. But this thing is changing constantly. So we can divide this in three main eras so far. So the web 1.0 is the web, which we started playing with around the end of the 90s and ended about 2005. It was the Internet of small websites where small companies will do is more business online, right. So it was the web of of people like you as a person who could create your own business on your own website and live out of it. And I did this myself and I was very lucky to be able to travel in so many countries for so long. With my own little business lifestyle business. It was a booking platform, right? But you could have as more sharp and everything like that,

As the internet matured, especially after 2001 after the big bubble, which popped but which actually meant that big companies could, you know, mature like Google and Amazon and others. The Internet started playing seriously serious money got in, serious investment. And then we have, we have seen the rise of incredibly big companies like Amazon today, Google today, Facebook, booking, Airbnb, Netflix, they are incredible scales. And they, they grew so fast compared to companies in the decades before, right? So this is mapped to the web of corporations, web of platforms, everything we do is done on platforms, right? We are in a platform, now people are looking at this video, this this live from YouTube, Facebook, other platforms, we take our bookings, mostly on platforms, booking Airbnb, everything happens on top of huge corporations platforms. And this is great in a way because it makes things much easier. Before Airbnb it was very hard to start the business online, in vacation rentals. Now it's very easy. But on the other side, it comes with these problems, namely, the fact that we are in a platform you do not own and they can do whatever they want, they can kick you out, they can change the rules, you just have to follow it's you know, this way or the door basically. And, and web 3.0 is what's coming. And it's the web of code of, of communities. It's the same incident we know already, but it's been powered by blockchain.

And which means it can now deal with value. Money, not only money, but also any kind of value like reviews or value, right? So why blockchain. let's see those of this way that in the first two phases of the internet, this technology could do only one thing, it could do very fast, very cheap data transmission. So everything, which was communication, and data became very cheap. Right. So before sending a picture to your grandma in another town, you had to take the picture, develop it, put it in an envelope, send it with a stamp, etc, etc. Now, you can just take a picture and it goes there. So The only real big technological advance was cheap and fast data transmission. That's one thing which internet could do, and it changed the world, right? So with web three, the internet has learned something new. Now the internet can also deal with value. If I have to send money to you, I don't need to go through PayPal or credit cards, I can send you cryptocurrency. But this is nothing. This is just one of the many aspects. And the very important thing is on the web tree, I can own my own accounts. Now, on Airbnb, or booking or any other platform, you do not own your account, you may have 1000 reviews, 5000 reviews on Airbnb, and tomorrow they can be gone, because maybe a guest saw your co2 detector and thought it was a camera, called airbnb and said you're spying on them, your account is closed and good luck getting open again, this happens every day, right. And even if he's not, doesn't happen to most people. The very fact that this can happen shows us that we do not own the accounts. We do not own the reviews if booking decides to take away your reviews. They're gone, right? So on web two, we are renting spaces. Whatever we do with these platforms we are renting, we pay them, and we stay on their platforms for as long as they want. It's even worse than renting. Because if I'm renting a place, there are laws in place where the owner can really kick me out. Like in a minute that he needs to go through some process.

But let's call it renting and the web web 3 is the web where we own stuff. you own your account, nobody can take it away from you, right. So the only thing we actually only web 2 is a domain name. You buy a domain name, you pay $10 a year that's yours. Okay. That's the only thing we actually own. We don't own our gmail account. We don't own anything, right? We don't even own the relationship with our guests. So web 3 is great news for people. It means now we can get control of the the our lives on the internet. And as this life gets more important, this is really good. Okay. And another analogy I have is Europe in the feudal times when people were oppressed by the kings and the Lords and then the Americas were discovered, Some people left. And they went to a new continent where the rule of law was actually being applied. And there were no kings there could just you know, the cited some, some people have to live in people in the Americas build a new continent based on the rule of law, that's what we're doing with web 3. And the rule of law in this case is the rule of smart contract law. Right? So it's great news. And the only thing which is missing at the moment is most people in short term rental industry don't understand this, don't start playing with it. And then we can actually start incredible things, build communities together around that idea.

Should hosts pay attention to cryptocurrency?

Simon: First of all, there are two things to look at, in the future. One is being carbon neutral. 2030-2050. And second, is adopting cryptocurrency and, and these intermediated. platforms, to the point that look as perfectly explained, and it's not an easy thing to explain. And, and I think, you know, with everything, looking back at the evolution of other technologies, like when we, when we came with this, the normal records at a time and then CDs came and tapes came and this and that, and it was just a very fast evolution of different technologies being in in the media, side television, whatever. And certain things came early, others adopted others put their efforts on the wrong horse. And I think Bitcoin has sort of put that unreachable thing out there for people to think well, that's only for, for, it's obviously a high risk, because we see massive fluctuation valuation on one side, and on the others, this is only for people who are, you know, super well connected and, and also have the access to this type of technology to actually benefit from it. And I think, now it's a matter of bringing these realities and the situation together, and get them to get everybody to understand what this is all about. And from an educational standpoint, I think that's one of Luca's largest frustrations, and also others who think you know, who understand what it means that you can disintermediate a contractual relationship between an A and A, B. And then as third person, individual person actually approves this contract, that it's valid, and it can be executed. It's a totally new concept. And I'm thinking of that in vacation rental, I would say, you know, if you understand, obviously, we know vacation rental has contracts, several ones, one with an owner, one of the guests. And so there's a lot of relationships happening, in addition to all the points that Luca has mentioned, and twisting to, to disintermediate, that by one particular authority, you can, you know, you can make it safer, you can make it faster director in terms of payment and actually closing the contract, and everything else. And for that, we need to apply web 3 technology to what Luca has explained to us. Now, this sounds extremely complicated, but in essence, it's not that complicated. It's just a matter of actually understanding it, building education talking about it. And I think that's what, what we're doing here tonight, to put people more at ease to think about what this is what this really is. I mean, when we see the evolution of electromobility, as well, it's something equally happening fast. And people are thinking, you know, even though he and I was part of those, also very, very, you know, let's say negative or or critical to see that, that traditional combustion engine manufacturers were able to actually build electromobility and go into electromobility was only Tesla as a pure player. But now it's happening now everywhere. If you look to the large car companies they've understood, and they've invested a hell of a lot of money to speak evolution of electromobility up and, and put products out there into the marketplace now.

I think this is this is happening in web 3 as well. I mean, luckily enough Switzerland is considered to consider to be one of the top moving countries, especially when it comes to FinTech and cryptocurrencies. Very close to where I live, a lot of startups are there, we've seen a lot of failures, we have seen people entering through different angles, and you know, with mining and, and, and whatever, we can make a lot of money. But actually, the the evolution of the technology itself down the standing at large was not there. And therefore, we see a lot of failures. But we've seen that in every industry, you know, there's a lot of early movers, some can be very successful, it's like gold mining, others are not so they're investing into the infrastructure, they go mining they if they don't find a nugget, and others go straight into the right spot and get the billions out and then you have them flashing their their their Bitcoin billions on Tiktok, that's just a very, very small minority. In the world, we have made that happen. So I think it's, it's, it's the right time to, to, to, to speed up the conversation, talk more about it, and do everything possible to educate the consumer and the industry itself, what they can do with this type of technology going forward. But to be honest, I would not put all my money in it right off tomorrow. It's an it's still an evolution process. That is not happening overnight.

Emmanuel: First of all, I love everything that was said so far, because I think it really highlights the most important part of really what's going on, right. And I think what's going on is, as I said earlier, is the fact that crypto overall, as an industry has more legitimacy. Now they have perhaps, so as as a host, as an investor as a host. That's what I'm looking at right and I'm looking at because it's being something that is consistent. And once you actually start doing research, and you get past the hype of some of the coins that are out there, and everything else, you understand that the basic fundamentals behind it are really, really strong. And, and understanding good fundamentals. And seeing the opportunity in them is what has me interested in the kind of coming into the space. So to that person that you were saying that said, it's going to matter to me later, um, to me, that's a dangerous game to play. Because that line of now and later, it's very, very blurry. So to me, it's now it's an opportunity to come in and start understanding and having the opportunity to also have some learning lessons now at the beginning that are not maybe as part of the fields to swallow if something was to happen.

Demographics of people using cryptocurrency

Luca: I think it's changing because many more different people can mean like artists, namely, so that means also more more women. Before that, only it was only about speculation, money. So it's kind of Yeah, males and young males, especially now is getting more more widespread that thing. So we're gonna see these stats change in the future.

What NFT means

Luca: The best way for me to understand what's happening is to consider the internet. Sorry, I take it a bit from the far side. The internet is not a technology anymore. The internet is a place. And it's basically a new continent which we have built, right. It's a place where we can live, we can meet people, we can make money, lose money, have a job, find the job, everything. The only thing we can't do is bring our bodies right. So as in the real world, there's two kinds of things. There's fungible things and non fungible things. Now, what is fungible? Money is fungible. So my $100 bill is the same as your $100 bill, right?

Maybe a liter of water is fungible, we can exchange them, nothing's gonna happen. There's no real difference, right? But most things that are non fungible, my shoes, my car, my shirt, my house, so NFTs are everything else, so this stuff, digital stuff, it could be a sword in a video game. It could be a picture, a booking, it could be a contract, anything, basically NFT is is digital assets. Anything you can think in a virtual ward. It's an NFT. That's all. The characteristic is that you can sell it and trade it. And or keep it with you, that's all.

Possible opinion of big organizations on cryptocurrency

Simon: Luca mentioned the word artists before and it will be interesting to understand why artists and what other verticals are looking at NF T's. Because the artist wants to be as close to its customer than having, you know, kill all the middlemen that make millions. And the artist gets nothing. And that's for music and everything else a huge topic. And it's interesting to the audience to understand what the different use cases for NF T's and the cryptocurrency, right? Right now is so interesting enough, I think there was quite a bit of energy. When especially when the big rise of Bitcoin was about a lot of otas. And others have thought about, hey, how important is it? Should we accept cryptocurrency is that an important piece for us going forward? We had obviously other payment methods, you know, later on the credit card came and then you had PayPal, and you have Apple Pay, and you have other payment methodologies, which obviously still goes through the classical way of banking because there's a credit card behind it, you still pay credit card fees, the transaction takes longer, you have people who take money in the middle, and obviously, the disintermediate networks will take all that out. So the transaction fees will come down. It's actually very, as a, as a merchant of record. It's an extremely attractive way. But it's not readily available. And I think in terms of technology and development costs, it doesn't make sense, of course, on their roadmap somewhere, technologically they have that on their radar. But it would surprise me that any of the larger otas today into distribution where the vacation rental put meaningful money and effort into developing accepting cryptocurrencies in the very near future because there's simply no demand there right now because it's still an educational issue. Also, for owners, it could be very attractive, but why should an ota do that? Because they benefit from the payment transaction and from the transaction itself. Because obviously, at the later stage, when you can pay with cryptocurrency, you also can disintermediate the OTA and connect directly to the owner and have that payment done with a contract that doesn't need an OTA between. So it's for me, it's a two-fold issue strategically. One is to make cryptocurrency available as a payment method to the otas. But on the other hand, you know, what does that mean to the entire blockchain technology? So why should they lead, that development in disintermediating, and how people do business together? And therefore, I think this is definitely high on the agenda on any of the otas right now, they had to speed up other payment methods which they've done, but I think at the moment at large it serves how the customers want to pay.

Emmanuel: Where I find interesting, as a question is also what is I understand in this sense as an investor and a host, I understand my interest in accepting crypto payment. But as somebody who is actually paying with a crypto payment, are you going to be as willing to pay with crypto because you don't know? Because technically, right? Let's say that you using a coin.

That then skyrockets over the years instead of you just kind of holding it? Because a lot of a lot of crypto investors that I know are more in the camp of like buying and then just kind of sit on it. And then there's a very specific term that is escaping my mind right now. So why would you, you know, I can pay for this now with actual US dollars and I know exactly what my cost is because let's face it US dollars.

How hosts can use cryptocurrency

Luca: Cryptocurrencies are a horrible method of payment right now. Nobody has them. They're not actually fast and cheap, especially in these days, just the cents a meter is gonna cost $10-$20.

Most of them are volatile. Why would I use my Bitcoin to pay for a stay when I hope it goes to double? Right? Yeah, I can use stable coins, like they're always worth $1. Great. But you know, I got credit cards, why should I use crypto? It's too early. It becomes really interesting when everybody has crypto. And when there are layer two solutions, which makes it easy and fast today, horrible. I will never use my crypto to pay anything. Unless there's no other option, right?

Does it mean we have to kind of forget about it? No, it's a very good moment to get ready. But payments are the least exciting part of crypto, that's the thing. Every time crypto comes out in in many industries. First thing which comes to mind is payment with cryptocurrency. The last thing is the whole. The whole internet, which is changing because of crypto, and it's not about money is about owning your own assets. I don't know if I was able to explain that. The fact that they you do not own your Airbnb account is an incredible danger, you're putting value every day to your reviews. And you do not own any of that. What if you could today start getting bookings through blockchain and have your own reviews which nobody can take away from you. And you can actually had otas use these reviews. And you have the reviews connected your listings. And all the otas can take these reviews. So there's no more booking reviews and Airbnb reviews. There's your own reviews. That's that's when things change. It's not about paying in Bitcoin. Absolutely.

Emmanuel: That to me what's also very interesting, right on the real estate. And as I mentioned earlier, being a real estate investor, I also have a real estate team that does real estate sales in South Florida. And there's a big thing here, there's the title, like how do you hold title to a real estate property? To me, the blockchain technology will be super interesting, as part of that, because then that will want to make the title work. I assume a lot cheaper because it's pretty much as I understand it once is on the blockchain, that it is what it is. And it's unique and is non-fungible. Right. But you can't make other copies of the title of the property. And that to me, is that other integrations and I don't know if that's what you want to talk about what you said integrations, but it's all the different uses of the blockchain technology, in everyday technology, kind of similar to what you said just now. Like feeding into the otas. From our own.

Why many artists use cryptocurrency

They want to be free, they want to sell their own art directly to their fans without going through gatekeepers, who keep all the money or most of the money, who control everything about their relationship with the fans. It's It's a dream come true for them and it's happening. If you go on clubhouse, it's all about NFT's artists and musicians and artists, and they are getting crazy, they are learning this complicated wallet things, meta mask, you know, blockchain because they see that this is a way for them to finally make some money if they are not very famous artists, or if they're famous artists, to actually own the relationship, you know, be free from these, you know, the middleman basically, it's a very simple value proposition. Just go directly sell directly. There's a new technology in the same way as we stopped, you know, needing a TV channel or a newspaper to publish our own stuff. You go on YouTube, and You do your show, you write a blog, and you got your readers. Same thing. It's so obvious and so powerful that, you know, when people understand that they just, they just go crazy about that it changes everything in their lives.

Where to get started

Simon: You need to be curious enough. And I think that's the starting point here. I think you need to start looking into it. So yeah, great point. But you need to start looking into it. And I think the more do that. And then the best source is still sitting in Mountain View in California, without a doubt, to start digging into this and get information on Google on a search engine to really try to find out more use cases. I mean, there's so much content about it on YouTube, on social media in clubhouse. I mean, there's today the amount of information is that we getting is is so unlimited. I mean, I go crazy. So either you're too lazy to look at it, or you simply don't know how the search engine works. And for me, that is so basic, and everybody nods their head, but people feel don't do it. We have voice recognition. I can even drive in the car and say hey Siri, tell me about NFTs or or disintermediated networks. Tell me about blockchain Siri, and she will tell me and I you know I can say now word Alexa, my Alexa talks to me on my desk. I don't want her to. So I turned her off before that. That's, you know, that's where it is. And I think we need to we were always trying too hard. We're going too far for any information that we're trying to, to search but we have it on our fingertips.

About cryptocurrency domains

Luca: First of all, a crypto domain is like a domain name that can point to our website. Or not? It hasn't addressed behind so I can send money to your crypto. Or you could send money from yours to others. So it's a handle, like using our Skype handle how our Twitter with maybe Twitter is the most powerful lately, right? It's gonna be something like your Twitter handle that Twitter is about Twitter, right? Where can I find you on Twitter here ads? Mostly right? In a few years, where can I find you online, you're not going to give your email your Twitter, you're just going to give you a crypto domain. And from there, there's everything else, right? So it's a way also to avoid sharing a long string 0x three, four, and you just give a few you know, just a word basically, with the dot in the middle.

That's just one of the many things which is coming out of the internet. But the very interesting thing here is you own this, no company can take this away from you ever. Like your domain, it belongs to UK, it's protected by a company like a bank, right? But something could happen. Maybe they go out of business, or maybe you lose it, whatever. The one you just bought is there with you forever. You own it for the first time on internet on the internet. You own something totally 100% that changes a lot of things. It's not immediately clear why. But when you own something, you own something and you don't own something, you don't own something. It's it's very different.

Quickfire questions

Have you invested in Dogecoin?

Emmanuel: I'm not much experienced in it. So I don't have much else to say on it.

Simon: No, I'm not invested in it and I'm laughing at it.

Luca: Dogecoin is for laughing. And that's actually where it is value stays. I bought a few five years ago, four years ago. And then I sold them at the beginning of this year because they went a bit up and then I bought again. And then it sold again. And then I said, No, this thing I want to keep it I want to see what happens in five years time. Because Dogecoin is is a bad cryptocurrency in terms of how many people own it in terms of emission, but it's an incredible joke and because it'll mean it's got into the culture today. And it's really hard to know where culture goes. So I'm going to keep my Dogecoin stable.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Luca: I started three days ago, and it's all my fault is because I'm in the office with this guy. He got into crypto two months ago, and he went straight to garden, the French shit coins. And I'm not talking Doge I'm talking other dogs, coins which have no reason to exist, but the only thing they do is like they go up very fast. So he buys them and he looks at them. He buys in the morning and he sells in the afternoon, and I'm a long term crypto guy, I believe in fundamentals, blah, blah, blah, and he's making money. And I'm not making money, but I'm making money slowly, right? So I started two days ago to say okay, you know, whatever you buy, I buy, like today I bought $100 of funny, you know, the the the coin of the dog have the Dogecoin picture, right? And it modified the dollar and I sold it for under 50 A few hours later. And right now I am invested in Mark Zuckerberg put a picture online today or yesterday with his goats. And one goat is called Bitcoin and one gold is called max. And somebody made a coin called Zuckgold and I bought it this morning, and it's up 50%. And after this, I'm going to try to sell it. So that's my guilty pleasure. I'm having a lot of fun with it. And, and I'm also learning a lot.

Simon: I have a massive obsession in red shoes. It's not a secret. I will choose wherever I go. And a lot of people think that's crazy. But we as men have very little to show ourselves. And you know, there's a little story to it. I might share that to the audience. I got married in red shoes. And then when I was packing to go to a vacation to a Focusrite conference, the year of our marriage house, my wife we choose Should I take and she says to take the red ones. I said I can't go to a conference in red shoes very crazy. And she says no take it, it's it's you will see it's gonna be fine. So I wore my wedding shoes 10 years ago, which were married this year, 10 years to the Focusrite conference. So that night I called her back and said she says How did it go? She goes you don't want to know. I got so many compliments from him and it's crazy. So the red shoes stayed with me. This is the reason why I have now more than 12 pair of red shoes. Certain people think it's crazy, but that's sticked with me.

Emmanuel: The quarantine year has definitely been And I think now the content when there is getting a little bit smarter, as some of our friends like Sean is now going on there. So you have seven, seven, Airbnb and hospitality quality factors, a lot of crypto stuff, but at the beginning was just purely just dum dums, just super stupid things. But I honestly, it is so fun because you just see people just without judgment, you know, just enjoying themselves and doing some very stupid things.

And to me, you know, I spend all day talking to people on the phone and doing things like this, but it's like good 15-20 minutes of just turning the brain off. It's kind of equivalent to watching trashy TV that used to be my thing.

What is your superpower?

Emmanuel: I'm understanding people like reading people and kind of creating meaningful relationships. I think growing up I used to use it for the wrong things. Now with age, especially with real estate sales, and just hospitality. It's been what's given me the ability to really connect with our guests , travelers and make people feel special. And I think having empathy dealing with people. Um, it's what we could all use a little bit more often. And I've been very blessed that that's kind of part of who I am.

Simon: I can make very short emotional intelligence and networking. That's what I'm, that's what I'm about.

Luca: Curiosity takes me to places where these few few have gone and enjoy the frontier, both travelling and on the internet. So yeah, curiosity, which is a superpower everybody needs in the future, I think.

Know more about our guests

Luca: Trips Community

Simon: AJL Atelier

Emanuele: Instagram

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