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How can blockchain technology improve the travel and tourism industry?

According to robust data, the travel and tourism industry is the second-fastest-growing sector in the world, after manufacturing. The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) concluded that in 2018, travel and tourism increased by 3.9%, more than the global GDP growth of 3.2%. As we speak, the Coronavirus outbreak generates a degree of uncertainty related to how and when the travel and tourism sector will get back to normal. However, we consider that destinations around the world begin to accept this delicate situation with a number of precautionary measures in place. Besides recommended measures coming from local authorities, such as social distancing and proper hygiene, we believe that travel and tourism organizations have the proper resources to integrate innovative technologies, such as blockchain and cryptocurrencies.

If used accordingly, blockchain and cryptocurrencies can contribute to the comfort and safety of a traveler’s journey. It can provide a new experience in terms of booking travel tickets and hotel rooms, removing intermediaries out of the way. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to explore different applications of blockchain technology in the travel and tourism industry.

First, what is blockchain technology exactly?

Even if it might sound confusing at first, it is actually pretty straight-forward to understand the basics of it. It can be looked at as a list of public records, also known as public ledger, with transactions between parties listed or stored in a transparent manner. Individual entries are encrypted and grouped into blocks that form a chain, therefore leading to the blockchain terminology.

The main characteristic and differentiator of the blockchain technology is that data is decentralized, meaning that it becomes available throughout the different nodes or computers part of the network. Copies of the compiled information are available on individual devices that are part of the network. In other words, the information stored is shared across a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. It is completely transparent, and it cannot be altered without the permission of the entire network and without modifying all subsequent blocks.

Applications of blockchain in Travel and Tourism

Recently, blockchain has gained a lot of interest in the travel and tourism industry. An increasing number of major companies have incorporated this technology in their list of offerings. Below, there are different ways in which blockchain technology might be used in the travel and tourism sector.

  • Lower transaction costs

The implication of intermediaries has inevitably been one key issue in the travel and tourism sector. These third parties involved in the booking process of hotels, airlines and other travel service suppliers result in additional fees for the end-user (tourist or traveler). TripAdvisor is an example of a third party that charges additional fees for their available services.

With the employment of blockchain technology, the long chain of intermediaries that results in delays and financial losses can be simplified. It is an ideal way to close the “gaps” made by different payment providers. At the moment, travel agents wait on average 60 days to earn their commission after a client checks out, because of the many parties involved in the payment cycle. Commission reconciliation can be a real hustle among travel agents. Travelport, a B2C travel service provider decided to adopt IBM’s Hyperledger Fabric to assure commissions paid to travel agencies. The main purpose of this partnership is to decrease the number of third parties involved in the payment cycle, by relying on blockchain in the process of a booking.

  • Trucking luggage

I bet that some of you that are reading this post have experienced issues with claiming a luggage, especially when dealing with international destinations. It’s definitely not a good start for a holiday or business trip. A traveler’s baggage is subject to several automated and manual processes, before being picked up at the final destination. This luggage itinerary is stored in a non-standardized form by the parties involved and these parties include airlines personnel, transportation companies, airports, and local authorities.

Blockchain, with its online-record keeping system stored on a peer-to-peer network can be a game changer and step up the way in which airlines tackle the problems of lost luggage. This way, both customers and airlines can track a luggage in all stages of its transfer process, offering full transparency to the process. Therefore, if a bag is mistakenly left behind, airlines can easily access its entire journey and identify the exact point where it went missing and the reason for that.

Back in 2017, Air New Zealand partnered up with Winding Tree, a decentralized Swiss travel start-up. The main purpose of this collaboration was to explore applications of blockchain technology in the airline’s business. Their mission was to improve  security and efficiency of services, such as baggage tracking and ticket booking.

  • Traveller’s identification

As blockchain does not store information on a central database, the customer identification process can save up a considerable amount of time by using this technology. It can even replace passports and become an industry standard for storing such personal information.

The World Economic Forum along the governments of Canada and the Netherlands launched a pilot program for paperless journeys between the two countries. This new project, entitled Known Traveller Digital Identity (KTDI), is the only solution to use digital identity for international trips, giving the traveler’s full control over how their own data is used. Personal data that is usually stored on a passport’s chip is replaced by encrypted data stored in a traveler’s digital wallet and it becomes available on mobile devices. Compared to old-fashioned ID systems that are operated by centralized authorities, KTDI is based on blockchain technology.

  • Secure and traceable transactions with Cryptocurrencies

An increasing number of companies in the travel and tourism sector begin to realize that accepting cryptocurrencies as a payment alternative creates a seamless purchase behavior. The major benefit that cryptocurrencies brings with it is that it eliminates traditional payment methods that rely on third-party payment apps. This way, transactions can occur between two entities directly involved. Payments based on blockchain technology will also decrease the time needed for completion of payments, resulting in faster transaction speed and more sales.

Another benefit is that cryptocurrencies replace the need of exchanging money into the local currency. It eliminates currency exchange commissions and users can take advantage of the same value no matter where they are. Forget about spending part of your allocated budget on bank commissions.

Given the various benefits of accepting crypto payments in travel and tourism, there are still some gaps that need to be addressed. It is not enough for a single entity to accept cryptocurrencies. For example, a travel agency that accepts crypto payments will still have to exchange those to Fiat money to contract services from providers that do not accept digital currencies. It is a matter of time until other parties involved will realize the benefits it brings with it.

Final thoughts

There is no doubt that blockchain technology has enough features and resources to revolutionize the travel and tourism industry. However, this innovative technology is still in the early stages of its life. To take advantage of its unique features, such as personal identification, governments and other authorities should have a good understanding of the benefits that it brings to the table. Anyway, many organizations from the travel and tourism industry begin to find out its applicability and that’s obviously a good sign for those involved in it.

How to organize safe events during a global pandemic?

Being an event planner during a global pandemic might be the worst nightmare that you can ever think of. However, these are things that we have little control over and require us to adapt accordingly. As we get used with living under imposed government restrictions, we can see several precautionary measures being removed from our daily lives.

Unfortunately, this new virus is directly related to mass gatherings, which are at the forefront of hosting events. Among the first precautionary measures imposed by governments was to restrict and put on pause the world of live events. During these challenging times, members of the meetings industry create complicated scenarios and endless debates on what it takes to organize events in such a global pandemic.

Therefore, this article is going to focus on different measures that can help our beloved world of live events to get back to normal during these unprecedented times. It is important to keep in mind that precautionary measures are extremely important, and we will only succeed by following strict guidelines. As we speak, an increasing number of events are either cancelled or postponed. Those that are postponed will soon have to take place and event organizers should be prepared to host them accordingly.

Pre-event safety measures

  • Implement attendance policies and restrictions

Stay up to date and determine which countries may experience an upward trend in terms of Coronavirus cases. The John Hopkins live-tracker is a great tool that keeps you updated in real time. Try to impose restrictions and limit potential attendees that visited in the past 60 days countries with a high-risk of infection.

  • Filter participants based on country of origin

It might be a good idea to require international attendees to bring their passports for an additional layer of safety. Those participants that visited a high-risk country in the past 60 days should not be allowed to enter the event premises. However, make sure to consult local travel restrictions and guidelines before taking such decision.

  • Provide flexible cancellation policies given the current situation

If for some reason you decide to postpone or cancel your event, show that you care and enable participants to use tickets for future editions or apply refunds if there will be no future editions anytime soon.

  • Consider hosting a Hybrid event

In our previous posts, we’ve talked about the benefits of hosting hybrid events. Given the current situation that we all deal with, that of a global pandemic, hybrid events might be the answer to deliver events to a broad audience. This way, those failing the screening process can attend the event virtually from all over the world. Streams.live is a streaming solution designed to accommodate the needs of a hybrid event and it can keep your audience engaged with little to no effort.

  • Public health tracking through data collection waivers

Follow global privacy regulations and collect necessary information from your participants. If any incidents occur during your event, public officials should at least have a name and a contact number from those attending. In the given context of a global pandemic, this information is required to conduct epidemiological investigations. With Oveit, relevant data can be collected through registration forms (GDPR compliant) and attendees are required to fill those details before they receive their electronic tickets.

The form setup. You can choose from text, dropdown lists, email, dates and file uploads
  • Keep attendees updated with special event rules

Make sure that participants are well-informed and aware of any uncommon precautionary measures implemented. It can take the form of a newsletter and most organizers send these updates two-weeks in advance, one-week prior, three-days prior, one day prior and a small recap during the event day.

Impose day of event precautionary measures

  • Temperature screenings at the event venue

As you already know, one common Coronavirus symptom is high body temperature. Therefore, before entering the event premises, staff members should screen attendees with thermal scanners to decrease the risk of infection. Those with temperatures higher than 37.8C must be escorted to an isolation room for additional investigations.

  • Designated isolation holding room

Together with health agencies, event organizers might have to prepare an isolation holding room for suspected cases. This room should follow strict disinfection procedures and medical staff must be present.

  • Regular deep cleaning throughout the venue

Contract an experienced cleaning team that gets the job done. Make sure that high-touch areas, such as door knobs, stairs handrails, chairs, registration areas and bathrooms are cleaned more often. Appropriate disinfectant substance should be used for deep cleaning.

  • Display health notices at the venue

Place health notices throughout the venue, especially in areas where attendees tend to crowd. These should include social distancing reminders, frequent hygiene practices, and other relevant precautionary measures.

  • Safety measures for Food & Beverage providers

Communicate with food vendors well in advance and educate them on best practices on how food should be served during your event. For example, instead of open buffets, advise them to serve individually wrapped food. If your F&B providers insist on using open buffets, make sure that they use splash and sneeze guards or other relevant food safety measures.

  • Hand sanitization devices around communal areas

Forcing people to use bathrooms for hand hygiene is not a good option since it compromises social distancing rules. Instead, a good backup plan is to place hand sanitizer dispensers in key areas, especially nearby meal, and beverage stations.

Follow-up after the event

  • Post-event surveys

Use these surveys to analyse your event’s success, but also to find out if any of those who attended are feeling unwell to avoid the spread of the virus.

  • Prepare attendee data if necessary

If public officials need the attendee data to conduct an epidemiological investigation, make sure that you have it handy and ready to go. Time is extremely important in such investigations.

In summary

Remember, these are general guidelines and before applying any of them make sure to double check with local authorities. We hope that events will get back to normal as soon as possible, but before that, better be safe than sorry.

At Oveit, our mission is to help event organizers accomplish their goals, even during challenging times. We try to find innovative ways in which our technology can be used in force majeure situations. Hopefully, these guidelines will help you get back and running.

Stay safe!

How to make event venues safe with Cashless Payments?

There is no doubt that the world of events and hospitality has been seriously hit by COVID-19 and the imposed lockdowns. Major festivals around the globe got postponed or canceled. Across Europe and not only, governments begin to realize that imposed restrictions are indeed an efficient way to limit the spread of the virus, but they also realize that such restrictions can only harm economies in the long term. So, should event organizers implement cashless payments as a precautionary measure to limit the spread of the virus?

As economies get back and running after weeks of lockdown, many of us face unprecedented situations in terms of conducting business and daily activities. Even before this pandemic, it was obvious that the use of cashless payments solutions around the world is on the rise. But guess what? In a post-COVID-19 world, cashless payments might be more important than ever.

It is predicted that a new type of customer will emerge from this pandemic. We already saw an increase in demand for cashless payments solutions over the last years, but the differentiator lies in how providers deliver those expectations and how it separates them from other competitors.

Facts about COVID-19 and Cash handling

Government officials have strongly advised us to avoid cash handling during the coronavirus outbreak. It is well-known that cash is notoriously covered in germs, but what is the reality when it comes to COVID-19 and cash? According to many experts, the chances of being infected after handling cash is still low compared to other ways of spreading the infection. According to a recent post published by Reuters, the U.S. Federal Reserve started quarantining physical dollars coming from Asia, before allowing it to recirculate in the U.S. market. It was treated as a precautionary measure against spreading the virus among U.S. citizens. Although there is no hard evidence saying that handling cash increases the risk of infection, many retailers decided to advise their clients to use cashless alternatives.

At Oveit, we’ve decided to upgrade our closed-loop payment solution and add two additional features, very relevant in the given context. These two are related to real-time footfall tracking capabilities and an App which enables attendees to act as their own cashiers.

End user App (Wallet) for Cashless Payments

Without an end-user App, attendees would still have to visit a physical top-up point to add money to their digital wallets. After many years of experience and feedback coming from our partners, we concluded that building an end-user App (wallet) can bring more value in return, for both event organizers and participants. The purpose of this App is to create a seamless top up process for the end-user (attendees), allowing them to use their own smartphones for comfort and security purposes.

For the event organizer, this alternative decreases the number of cashiers required on-site and therefore reduces the event costs. Attendees are empowered to act as their own cashiers with the entire process being automated. Moreover, by activating the ‘Auto top-up’ feature, participants can assure that their digital balance will never fall under a pre-defined amount.

Also, the withdrawal process is simplified. Traditionally, the process required attendees to visit physical top-up points and receive cash in exchange. The top-up was done by either card or cash payment, but the only option to withdraw the remaining amount was by receiving cash back. The end-user App (wallet) removes this step and enables participants to withdraw the remaining balance on their own or even use it at another event. 

Footfall Tracking

Recently, we’ve received a request from one of our clients. He wanted to know if it’s possible to track in real time the number of attendees in specific areas of the venue. 

With the current social distancing rules in place, we believe that being able to track footfall in real-time can contribute to a safe and responsible event. This way, you can benefit from a modern alternative to control the number of attendees inside a venue. How does it work?

1.       Attendees arrive at the event with their electronic tickets ready to be scanned

2.       A designated staff member hands in NFC wristbands/cards/badges for every participant

3.       By using the Oveit Pay App on an Android device, a staff member simply scans the QR code on the ticket and pairs it with a wristband/card/badge

4.       Before passing the entry point, participants are required to tap their NFC tags on an NFC enabled reader

5.       The same process applies for check out. Participants tap their NFC tags on NFC enabled readers placed at all exit points

Final Thoughts

Among event professionals, we’ve seen continuous debates on whether the event industry will change in the future and how it will change. As retailers get back and running, B2C and B2B interactions look different, with several precautionary measures in place. It’s the aftermath of a global pandemic and it’s our responsibility to act accordingly.

As we are eager to see events coming back to normal, we strongly believe that Oveit can contribute to a safe and responsible way of hosting large gatherings. Of course, other parties must get involved to achieve that, but in terms of safe payment practices and access control, we got you covered!

Why are Podcast hosting solutions so important for content creators?

Do you wish to share your podcasts to a broad audience? If so, that’s a great plan! However, before reaching that level, it’s important to be aware that podcasting is not as simple as recording some audio and simply upload it on major podcasting platforms, such as iTunes, Spotify or Google Play.

Instead, podcasters should look for a podcast hosting provider to get started. Choosing the right one can be a long and exhausting process since there are plenty of options with similar features and tools.

In this article, we’ll go over some of the major podcast hosting sites and we’ll stress out different reasons related to how important it is to go with a podcast hosting solution rather than uploading your episodes on your own.

What is Podcast Hosting?

First, it is a dedicated platform where you can store and distribute your podcast’s audio files. They offer a podcast RSS feed (like a playlist with all your shows) that enables you to submit to a bunch of podcast directories, including Apple Podcasts. Besides that, these hosting platforms usually come with analytics, web players, scheduling tools, monetization options and editing features.

A podcast is a sequence of audio files that are compressed into a single file. Most of the time, they require a lot of space and bandwidth to be stored. Personal websites are hosted by servers with limited storage capacities. For this reason, a podcast hosting site is a critical tool for storing files and sharing it with a broad audience.

Podcast hosting vs. Podcast directories

Podcast directories include services like iTunes, Spotify or Google Play. These solutions receive your podcast files, RSS (rich summary site) feeds and move them into their front-end systems. Such directories enable listeners to find episodes by downloading a podcast app, by searching for it on a computer or by listening to it on an Android or Apple device. Podcast hosting and directories platforms are interconnected. How does it work exactly? As a podcaster, you simply upload your audio files and as soon as the directory detects new shows, it downloads the files and transfers the latest episodes for the end user. In other words, podcast directories such as iTunes simply read the RSS feed that is created by your podcast host and automatically transfers them to the chosen platforms.

What are the main benefits of Podcast Hosting solutions and why do you truly need one?

1.   Quality

Unlike storing podcasts on your own server, hosting platforms don’t force you to choose between quality, speed and storage space. If any of these are left behind, the quality of your podcasts will likely be deteriorated. Hosting platforms come with inbuilt servers designed to host large podcast files while maintaining the highest quality.  

2.   Lower Storage Costs

To host a one-hour audio podcast yourself will end up costing you a lot more than uploading it on a host platform. Hosting solutions take care of cloud storage for you and it will certainly end up being cost efficient. However, if your plan doesn’t come with unlimited bandwidth and your audience keeps growing, you might have to upgrade or pay the extra fees. The good news is that podcast hosting sites come with fixed pricing based on your storage needs. Comparing storage pricing with monetization potential, you’ll certainly pay a bargain to use a hosting platform.

3.   It’s Faster

Unfortunately, people in general are not patient enough, especially when it comes to download speed. If a video or audio file won’t start in 30 seconds, most of us will simply leave it behind and move on. It goes the same way for podcasts. Too much buffering or low speeds will have a negative impact on the listener’s interest and willingness to wait. This way, you might lose them and one of your competitors might captivate them instead. Thanks to a fully dedicated host for your podcasts, you hardly run into such situations. Hosting sites provide unlimited downloads to your episodes and bandwidth or speed are not a challenge at all.

4.   It comes with Analytics

We live in a world where data is the new gold. With podcasts, knowing how long your listeners stay engaged, the number of downloads per episode, where they are located or from which devices they listen to your shows is extremely important. Most of these platforms come with an in-built data analytic tool. It enables podcasters to make quick decisions based on listener’s preferences.

5.   Security

Security breaches are a serious problem nowadays. While running a podcast, it’s very unlikely to afford your own security layers. It requires a state-of-the-art security system in place when hosting episodes on personal websites. On the other hand, hosting sites come with in-built security measures that are included in the monthly subscription price.

Top Podcast Hosting software’s

There are a lot of companies that provide podcast hosting services. Anyway, we’ll be looking at the ones which are user friendly, easy to use and that come with great tools and support.

–          PodBean

Many consider PodBean as the best hosting service provider out there. Among their plans, podcasters can opt for unlimited audio upload and bandwidth. Different design tools enable users to customize their own hosted website. The PodBean podcast player can be easily embedded into WordPress posts and pages. Its podcast promotion tools will automatically share your recorded content to all top podcast directories. The advertising marketplace comes with monetization opportunities, connecting podcasters with a variety of sponsors.

Pricing: Free with limited storage and paid plans start at $9/month with unlimited capacity

–          BuzzSprout

This one is much appreciated by beginners. If you are a newbie, you’ll find this one extremely easy to use. All you need to do is upload your media files and the automated system takes care of the rest. You don’t even have to press another button to share your files to other directories. If you don’t want to build your own website, they can do the work for you. The only limitation is that even their paid plans come with limited storage and bandwidth capacity.

Pricing: Free plan with limited storage for 90 days. Paid ones start at $12/month for 3 hours of upload

–          Blubrry

This one is meant for new and experienced podcasters. It comes with a well-known WordPress podcasting plugin called PowerPress, making it easy to control podcasts straight from your WordPress site. It comes with other features, such as monetization options, podcast statistics, social sharing features and the list goes on.

Pricing: It starts at $12/month with 100 MB included

Final Thoughts

All in all, if you are an early podcaster or an experienced one, using a podcast hosting solution is the best way to connect with a broad audience and deliver high quality audio and video content.

At Streams.live, our mission is to create a dedicated platform for content creators, including podcasters. By looking more into other innovative solutions available on the market, we consider that our available features align with the needs of content creators and podcasters willing to stand out from the crowd.

Stay tuned for more!

What are the most popular podcast topics and how you can choose one?

Whether you’re just getting started in terms of podcasting or you are already an experienced professional, it might be tricky to come up with catchy podcast topics for your listeners. As a rule of thumb, podcasters should focus on their passions and expertise to deliver valuable and inspiring content.

In our previous post, we went over different ways in which podcasters can monetize their shows and episodes. This type of content is consumed by an increasing number of listeners around the world. To make sure that you stay on track, this article will cover the most demanded topics in terms of podcast consumption. Keep in mind that a good topic means nothing if the host is not passionate and enthusiastic while sharing it with others.

Before jumping into podcast topics, let’s go over some critical questions that you as a podcaster must ask yourself before making a final decision.

Who is your audience?

Remember! You are NOT creating content for you, instead you are doing it for your audience!

Even if it’s very important to create podcasts based on your passions and expertise, we are human beings and we can always adapt. Where possible, tap into unclaimed data regarding your listeners, such as demographics and interests. They might have a challenge to overcome that you didn’t know about. If that is the case, you can now do your research and act as a healer through your podcasts. And who knows? Maybe you’ll find out new topics that interest you based on your listeners’ needs.

What interests you?

If your audience is interested in a podcast idea in which you are not, there’s a good chance of burning out and losing listeners. For this reason, ask yourself how much do you care about a podcast idea?

Like other podcasters, you most likely have a job and other life responsibilities, meaning that you create content in your spare time. If you spend your free time on topics that don’t align with your goals and perspectives, it won’t last long until you realize it’s not worth continuing. Therefore, be aware that in the beginning you have absolute control over your prospective listeners. Your first podcast topic will bring together an audience that it’s worth creating content for in the future.

How can you stand out from other podcasters out there?

The reason why top podcasts on major platforms such as Apple Podcasts or Google Play have such an impact is because they are unique. To find your differentiator and stand out from other podcasters, try to narrow down a broad topic. If you are passionate about marketing, don’t talk about it in general. Instead, refine it to ‘eCommerce marketing on Shopify’ or anything else that aligns with your interests.

Now that we’ve covered some questions to ask yourself before deciding on a podcast topic, let’s go over some untapped ideas to get you started.

1. Discuss your favorite topic

You must have a favorite book series, TV show or movie series. If that’s the case, it might be a great starting point. You should be able to comment on plot twists and provide your listeners with personal views.

2. True crime

Just as dark tourism creates a real hype among travelers, podcasts covering true crime stories seem to be very demanded by listeners. Major podcasting platforms often have 3 podcasts about murder mysteries in their top charts.

In 2014, Serial started this true crime podcasting trend and it hasn’t dipped in popularity since. Numbers from 2018 show that it reached an impressive number of 340 million downloads.

3. Chat shows

Usually, these types of shows have multiple hosts with episodes including discussions on various topics. In chat shows, hosts tend to be influential people with strong personalities and beliefs. They are easy to listen and record, lasting for about 30 minutes to one hour.

4. Global news

In the past 20 years, the way in which we consume news has drastically changed. Newspapers got replaced by the internet and keeping up to date is more accessible than ever. More recently, news podcasts increased in popularity and number of listeners. In response, BBC developed their own news podcast station, the so-called Global News.

5. Sports

Among various forms of sports media, podcasts are one of the most unique ways to deliver such content. Ranging from motivational content for gym addicts to inviting famous athletes as hosts, podcasts finally have a saying in the sports world. The Totally Football Show is UK’s leading football podcast with over 60 million listens and counting.

6. Food

We all have our favorite dish, don’t we? There is no shortage in terms of food podcasts. Restaurant reviews, new recipes and even weird cooking challenges are available on different platforms. A show about fast food and chain restaurant called Doughboys is perhaps the most successful food podcast out there!

7. Paranormal

Compared with ‘true crime’ podcasts, paranormal podcasts talk about things that may or may not have happened. It seems that an increasing number of listeners are eager to hear mysterious stories related to unexplained disappearances, alien encounters and everything in between.

All in all, the most important thing to remember before deciding on your next podcast topic is to ask yourself if you are truly interested and passionate about what you are sharing with your listeners. If you make sure that you enjoy it, good results will certainly come along the way!