How To Attract More Bookings Using The Latest Tech

In this podcast, Liam introduces a series on essential tools for hosts, featuring Cynthia Huang, CEO of D Travel, discussing the role of Web 3.0 in securing direct bookings. D Travel focuses on empowering hosts by giving them control in an industry dominated by online travel agencies (OTAs). Cynthia shares her journey and the industry's need for change. 

Web 3.0, utilizing blockchain and cryptocurrency, allows hosts greater control, especially during crises like COVID. The conversation highlights the benefits of peer-to-peer transactions, emphasizing the security of crypto payments. Cynthia anticipates user-friendly Web 3.0 applications and encourages hosts to explore solutions like D Travel for seamless integration.

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[00:00:00] Liam: Hi, welcome back to the Boostly podcast. This is the podcast that gives you the tools, the tactics, the training, and most importantly, the confidence to go out there and get yourself some direct bookings. Today, we've got the spotlight mini-series where we look at services, people, and things that you need to know about basically as a host that can help you with your hospitality journey.

[00:00:18] Today, our special guest is going to be talking about Web 3. 0. We're going to be talking about how you can connect and attract direct bookings using the latest technology. So let me introduce my special guest. We've got Cynthia Huang. She's the CEO and co-founder of D Travel. And I'm going to not take anything away from her introducing her business.

[00:00:39] So let's get started and dive straight in. Cynthia, welcome along.

[00:00:43] Cynthia: I'm super excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Liam. Big fan of Boostly. Excited that we're talking.

What is D Travel

[00:00:49] Liam: Thank you for being here. Um, so take us through, first of all, what is D Travel?

[00:00:55] Cynthia: Yeah, so maybe, but actually, yeah, I'll start with D Travel and I can share my story a little bit later, which led to D Travel, but D Travel is a little bit different from probably other companies that people have heard of because we call ourselves an ecosystem of products and.

[00:01:11] Essentially at the core of it, we're trying to give ownership and control back to hosts and property managers because, you know, short-term rentals have been around for a long time. But I think in the last 15 years, the industry has exploded with the increase and introduction of OTAs.

[00:01:29] But with that, even though the industry has grown so much you guys know this, Owners and operators have had less and less control, and there's just been an oversaturation of the market. And so all of our products within our ecosystem are designed to move owners and property managers away from OTAs through tools and infrastructure that help them with things that they wouldn't be able to otherwise, like creating a direct booking website, getting distribution to other channels, but still being a direct booking.

[00:01:59] And I think the most important part of it all is just our mission to empower direct connections between hosts and property managers and guests.

Why start the business?

[00:02:07] Liam: Why have you, uh, decided to, start this business or be a co-founder of this business? And, uh, yeah, if you can share some of your story.

[00:02:17] Cynthia: Yeah, I know you're a big fan of quotes.

[00:02:18] So there's a quote that says, You know, founders who start businesses don't do it because of the money. It's because they want to change the world. And I think for me, that's really what travel is about. I've been an owner-operator for the last decade, and I started on Airbnb as a host in 2014 in Vancouver, Canada, still very new at the time.

[00:02:38] That was a new market for them because they had focused primarily on the US. And I remember renting out a room in our house and just loving the experience so much that I wanted to continue hosting and I wanted to be the best host possible. But the problem was at the time, if you looked up being a short-term rental host or vacation rental host, all you came across were horrific.

[00:02:58] Newsletter articles about, you know, people's place getting trashed and not a lot else. And so I decided that along with my husband, we created a forum called Air Host Forum, which is still running today. It's one of the largest and longest-running independent forums for vacation rental hosts, but we wanted to meet other hosts in the industry.

[00:03:17] And so that was just amazing because we got to meet people from all over the world and learn from them. And connect with people. And, um, I think that's what this industry is all about. And so with D Travel, as I think the industry has matured and also shifted, there's been kind of a move away from that personalized feeling of a short-term rental or vacation rental stay.

[00:03:40] And so I was in crypto previously or in Web3 previously from 2017 onwards, and I saw that the technology could help with a lot of the problems that exist in the industry. And so that was how D Travel was formed, was taking my experience as an owner operator, and then my background in Web3 as well.

What is Web 3.0

[00:04:00] Liam: I mean, this is great. Segway into what, what is web free? Cause I, I know there's going to be people listening to this who are hosts and maybe not techie. I'm not a techie person. So what, what is web free?

[00:04:12] Cynthia: Yeah. So web free is the underlying technology is blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. And that is the foundation of what kind of makes up Web3.

[00:04:22] But I think more importantly, and I say this all the time, is that it's not the technology which is so important, because that's just a facilitator of change or enabling technology, but it's what's driving Web3 that I think is special. Because You know, we had Web 1.0, which was really about getting access to the Internet.

[00:04:40] And then we had web 2. 0, which was about connecting people all around the world through platforms and marketplaces. And that's why you have companies like Airbnb and Uber, et cetera. Web three is about taking back ownership. Because I think what we've seen over the years is that you get access to free services because you are the product.

[00:04:58] So they sell your data, they sell, you know, your information to advertisers. And in Web three, what we're saying is we want to take that control back. And instead of you being a user, you become an owner of the products and ecosystems that you're using, and you can contribute to it. And a concrete example of this is if we look at the short-term rental industry.

[00:05:21] It is so community-based, right? You have so many different groups all around the world where hosts come together and help each other. They share resources, they do meetups, and that all happens organically because they're trying to help each other. It's just such a beautiful community, and that's why I've always really loved it.

[00:05:36] And that's what Web3 is about, is about these communities of people who can come together and do different things, and even potentially run organizations. And so, if we take Airbnb, for example, if you thought of them more as like a Web3 company, which is kind of what D Travel is trying to build, our community members, our hosts, our guests, Our customers, they essentially become community members who can make different decisions within our ecosystem.

[00:06:04] And if you think about Airbnb, I think they've moved away a lot from being host-centric. And I think guests would argue that they're also moved away from being guest-centric. But imagine if hosts and guests could make decisions about Airbnb. So if you could vote and say, No, we don't want to have this change, or you could We want this new feature.

[00:06:25] I mean, that's powerful. And that's really at the core of what D Travel is trying to do. And we use blockchain and cryptocurrency to be able to do that.

[00:06:32] Liam: I mean, I could deep dive into the stuff. I love talking cryptocurrency and stuff like that, but it wasn't until I understood what the difference is with the blockchain about, you know, how you can't.

[00:06:43] You can't copy it, you can't pack, you know, it is something which is created and it's direct to, am I right in saying this direct, you can direct user to user basically, and it's, um, the control stays, like you say, with the host and with, um, well, with the guest, I guess as well, is that right?

[00:07:03] Cynthia: Yeah, so I'll give you some concrete examples because I think whenever we talk about technology, it can be a little bit amorphous and vague, and so concrete examples always help.

[00:07:13] If you think about COVID, right, I think this was a really big watershed moment for our industry because that was the moment that a lot of hosts and property managers realized that relying on OTAs was dangerous because overnight their business vanished and they had, especially if you didn't have a direct booking website, now you have no way to take payments.

[00:07:31] Right. And with blockchain, what happens is, let's say that you have a direct booking site built on blockchain, even if we decided that we wanted to, like, no longer enable that, because on the blockchain, if you own a booking contract that's built on the blockchain, you are the person who owns that forever, and so you can continue to process payments through that, even if the travel no longer exists.

[00:07:57] And that's powerful. The other thing is, If you live in a region where let's say, a company decides to pull out, whether that's the OTA itself or a payment processor, now again, you're very vulnerable because you can't run your business anymore. But if you have a blockchain-based smart contract, again, you can continue to run that even outside of, um, anybody else.

[00:08:20] And so it becomes very censorship resistant in a way because you can run it forever. And not have to depend on a payment processor and OTA to continue to run your business.

Where should hosts get started?

[00:08:31] Liam: Where should hosts get started? I mean, like, to me, I look at the opportunity being big. I've got that fear. And I imagine a lot of our listeners would do as well.

[00:08:43] What advice would you have to them for them to reassure them that this is the way forward and that this is, um, I guess, safe to do?

[00:08:52] Cynthia: Right. Well, you talked earlier about, um, the payment is between a host or property manager and a guest directly. We call that peer-to-peer. And so, um, that's something that happens on D Travel, where the payments are always direct between a host and property manager or a guest.

[00:09:12] And the really beautiful thing about that is with crypto payments, it's a final settlement, meaning that there's no chargeback. And we know that that's a really big problem in our industry. When I think about… The Web Three industry is sort of maturing. I think more and more we're going to see good applications that essentially abstract away all the complexity of blockchain and web three.

[00:09:32] So that as a user, you don't even know that you're interacting with the blockchain. It's going to be so seamless and easy to use that it doesn't matter. You just get the benefits of that. And, um, I'm not sure if you Follow Web 3 News. But Starbucks, for example, is a good example of a company, a massive, widespread, popular company that has used blockchain for, um, these collectables that they have.

[00:09:59] So they have these stamps that people can purchase. And it's been a popular and successful rollout. And When you're buying a stamp or getting a stamp as a user, you don't know that you're interacting with the blockchain, right? It's a seamless experience. And that's the same approach that we've tried to take at D Travel where You don't need to know that you're interacting with the blockchain.

[00:10:18] You just need to get the benefits of it. And, um, we're super design-focused in terms of trying to make the user experience as beneficial and easy to use as possible. And our head of design was actually from Airbnb. So he brings a lot of that experience in terms of user design and trying to make it easy.

[00:10:39] And so I would say, uh, in terms of starting, if you want a direct booking website, then definitely come to do travel. But even in terms of crypto payments, more and more, we're seeing digital nomads and a lot of people who work in Web3 and even people from countries where For whatever reason, they're holding cryptocurrency instead of their, um, country's native currency.

[00:11:00] There's more and more demand for people who want to pay in cryptocurrency. And so there are lots of ways for you to be able to accept crypto. But I think the challenge is that generally they're not integrated with the PMS and they're not built for the vacation rental industry, whereas we are. So I would say like, you know, definitely comes to the travel, but there are also other solutions that you could potentially explore if you feel like that's something that you're interested in, and which I would highly encourage because I think.

[00:11:26] The world changes fast and you know, the more that you can diversify your business, the more sustainable of a business you end up building.

[00:11:35] Liam: Having a blast. Gonna get it on the Boostly

[00:11:37] podcast.

[00:11:38] Bruce Lee. Let Bruce Lee 'cause it's so hard on the tees. Loosely. I looked up those rhymes. Don't write it, just do it loosely.