The evolution of
decentralized identifiers (DID) and self-sovereign identity (SSI) will
transform a fragmented travel experiences market during the next decade.
will allow individuals and groups to connect on a near peer-to-peer basis to
plan, shop for, execute and savor integrated seamless travel experiences.
that evolution will occur is uncertain; that it will occur is not.
reason: There is economic value created by DID/SSI for consumers, suppliers,
intermediaries and service providers individually and collectively. By whom and
how that value will be captured and/or shared is uncertain. The incentive to
capture it is real and certain.
significance of DID/SSI
time the evolution of DID/SSI is likely to be a travel industry game-changer,
enabling travelers to manage their own personal information to maximize
personal economic effect and protect personal privacy.
DID/SSI effort is already gaining a foothold in the banking and medical
industries. Like travel, these are sectors that need to engage with consumers
of all types en masse while requiring proof of identity prior to the certified
exchange of digital documents.
The awareness and adoption of SSI was further accelerated by two newsworthy
COVID epidemic created the urgent need to digitally communicate health status
for travel and for entry to restaurants, bars and shops.
increasing awareness and use of cryptocurrencies, which introduced the
technologies of blockchain and digital wallets to many people for the first
Consumer benefits for travel
Expansive versions of DID/SSI could lead to more
personalized, seamless and contactless travel experiences
for travelers. This would produce numerous personalized, facilitated and optimized consumer benefits
shopping for rates and travel services (e.g., via loyalty, associations and
ownership and control over verified, real-time, personal information
and value-adds from suppliers and intermediaries
of benefits across industry verticals (e.g., bank cards, shopping sites)
for NFT (non-fungible tokens) for travel-related use
international travel with verified identification, passport, security and
- Contactless check-in and boarding (airlines),
room access (lodging) and car rental pick-up and return
information among travelers for business and leisure group and event travel
Travel industry advantages
- There are significant advantages for travel suppliers and
intermediaries, including: cost savings; the ability to provide more
personalized and value-add services for customers; reduced dependence on
intermediaries; and improved capacity to work with industry partners to provide
seamless travel experiences.
Potential additional benefits for suppliers and intermediaries include:
real-time, verifiable consumer information for improved customer relationship
verified credentialed shopping to better serve loyalty program members and to
attract new, loyal consumers
seamless/contactless travel experiences without intermediaries that improve
service, reduces labor costs and produces operational efficiencies
cooperative service / product partnerships among travel and retail suppliers to
facilitate seamless, differentiated travel experiences for travelers
OTC/intermediary sales commissions and increased market share of direct sales
A major consideration is whether travelers will support and
use DID/SSI applications for travel. The likelihood is they will. Less certain
is how and how soon.
industry participants such as travel service providers, intermediaries and
integrated destination service providers like tour operators and
government-sponsored destination marketing organizations (e.g., DMOs) have a
win-win incentive to encourage consumers to adopt and use them. This could
incentivize willingness to legally cooperate among suppliers and competitors on
issues such as technology standards and modernized business practices.
in the near term, there are two major impediments to integrated DID/SSI developments
via cooperation among suppliers and intermediaries: (1) existing individual
activities to secure and retain consumer loyalty and (2) reliance on legacy
technologies. These impede efforts to partner, cooperate, and integrate
technologies that are needed to support DID/SSI developments.
Securing consumer loyalty
airlines and car rental firms use their loyalty programs and credentialed
access (e.g., corporate and association rate programs) to incentivize direct-to-supplier
reservations and avoid intermediary fees. The major objectives
have been to secure current and future business from consumers and to reduce
the levels of margins and fees paid to intermediaries. The multi-year effort to
“drive business direct” by major hotel chains is representative of this effort.
Subscribe to our newsletter below
this trend has been the need and value of intermediaries to support packaging
and opaque discounting that protect individual supplier rate structure
integrity. Intermediary packaging hides the price of individual supplier (air,
hotel and car) prices with a comprehensive single package price quote. This reduces the ability of consumers to view discounted
(package) prices that are lower than the potentially higher prices they could
have paid or did pay.
discounted opaque pricing allows suppliers to provide lower rates to
intermediaries, where the rates given to the intermediary are not revealed to
such pricing schemes, the consumer is shown a single bundled price that
includes both the rate given to the intermediary and the fee charged by
intermediary for the transaction. The supplier’s rate to the intermediary is
never displayed. This too reduces the ability of consumers to view prices that
might be lower than the prices they could have or did pay under other
circumstances. Cooperation among suppliers and intermediaries with DID/SSI
developments could still preserve this important OTC feature.
on legacy technologies
travel suppliers such as hotel chains, car rental firms and airlines have made
significant investments over time in operating, reservations, information
(e.g., customer relationship management databases), channel distribution and
revenue management systems.
many cases, these systems have links with one another and with external systems
such as global distribution (GDS) and intermediaries (e.g., OTC) systems. To
modify or replace these systems and the links among them to “integrate with”
and/or “make them open” to DID/SSI technologies could be costly and cumbersome
in the near term. This is despite the potential future advantages and
industry forces for change
are several industry forces for change. These include:
- Technological epiphanies
within individual travel supplier, intermediary and service supplier
- Commitments to DID/SSI by
major technology firms like Microsoft and IBM
among major travel industry organizations
- Appearance of new
entrants or disruptors in the technology and service providers spheres
is highly likely that strategic thinking and planning is already underway related
to DID/SSI within many travel industry organizations. Because there can be
potential competitive advantages for individual firms associated with DID/SSI
adoption, internal thinking and planning may remain confidential for now.
essence of such strategic decision-making about the value of industry
cooperation is the determination of financial, operational and temporal
tradeoffs of insular DID/SSI developments versus cooperation and partnership with
other suppliers and intermediaries to accommodate integrated applications.
Commitments by major tech
Beginning in 2018 both Microsoft and IBM made public commitments
to develop and participate in standards development for a set of decentralized
identity management technologies across multiple industries.
They continue to be
active in moving forward developments and gaining industry participation. Specific
to travel, in 2018 Northern Block began working with
Canadian government to produce a suite of self-sovereign identity products that
facilitate the adoption of digital trust ecosystems. All of these
stakeholders envision the opportunity to gain financially by enabling
developments within the travel industry.
among major travel industry organizations
are already forming among major players within the technology and travel
industry related to DID/SSI. Some are vertical between suppliers and
intermediaries. Some are horizontal across suppliers and competitors. One recent (October
2021) example is collaboration between the World Economic Forum, Accenture
and several industry players and governments to
envision a future for cross-border travel and co-design a trusted, shared and
mutually beneficial system. Another is IATA One ID, a project sponsored
by IATA for airlines, airports and governments to improve staff productivity by reducing time spent on manual
ID checks plus real-time visibility of where passengers are in the airport.
The evolution of DID/SSI
applications and its potential benefits for consumers and suppliers is likely
to spawn a set of new entrants and innovators in the technology space. We are already witnessing some of that
activity. Examples include Affinidi, a firm providing applications enabling cross-border travel
with verification of digital health credentials; Indicio, a start up with the
objective to produce a comprehensive, trusted
digital ecosystem equipped with pre-built components and interoperable systems. Similarly, Trinsic is a platform to implement decentralized identity in any
industry using verifiable credentials and other interoperable protocols.
For the consumer, Danube
is a new entrant producing technology to place individuals in direct control of
their online relationships and transactions. Liquid Avatar and Mattr provide SSI verified users with services to
manage, control and benefit from their digital identity. Spherity is
producing a cloud-based identity wallet designed for secure and tamper-proof business
These are just a few of the many emerging firms and
startups entering the SSI/DID space.
are some steps forward for the industry?
The evolution of SSI/DID is already underway
and its impact on the travel experience market will be significant. The timing,
structure and pace of the market transformation is less certain. Yet, there are some actions that current
market players – firms and organizations – can do to protect their future
financial and strategic interests and gain a share of the market value the
evolution will create:
- Make the evolution of SSI/DID a part of
internal strategic planning.
- Understand, support and fund activities that
enable the SSI/DID evolution in the travel industry by attending conferences,
reading blogs, reports, etc., and by joining DIF’s Hospitality
& Travel Special Interest Group.
- Evaluate options for partnerships, acquisitions
and arrangements with intermediaries and service providers to optimize future
benefits, value creation and market share.
In summary, travel experience providers and
their technology partners should get educated and get involved – now.
About the author...
is the CEO of travel industry consulting firm Marketing
Economics and a senior analyst for
Phocuswright. He thanks Nick Price
and Gene Quinn
their contributions to this article.