As the calendar flipped to the new year, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky asked his 403,000 Twitter followers what his company should launch in 2022. Out of the 4,000 suggestions he received, the top request was for the mammoth vacation rental company to accept cryptocurrency. He was enthusiastic, noting, “Crypto payments is inclusive of a variety of token ideas,” and “Our existing payments volume = $336 billion processed since 2013.”
That his Twitter followers were clamoring for crypto payment options did not surprise Chesky, who is fully aware that any Venn diagram of Bitcoin owners and Airbnb users would show significant overlap, thanks to Morning Consult Brand Intelligence. Both groups skew younger and tend to be early adopters of technology.
“Not only are Bitcoin owners more likely than the general population to be aware of Airbnb, but they’re also more likely to hold favorable views of the vacation rental brand than the average American,” according to Morning Consult’s travel and hospitality analyst Lindsey Roeschke. “The reverse is also true: Airbnb users are more aware of and more favorable toward Bitcoin than the general public.”
But Roeschke says that observation goes far beyond Airbnb users. Travelers in general are significantly more likely to own Bitcoin than the general public. About one in six U.S. adults (16%) say they personally have invested in, traded or otherwise used a cryptocurrency, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. Meanwhile, one in four travelers (25%) who take between one and four trips a year own Bitcoin, per a new Morning Consult study. And notably, frequent travelers — those who travel at least five times a year — are more than twice as likely to own Bitcoin (33%) than the general public.
“While Bitcoin ownership may not necessarily translate to an increased appetite in using cryptocurrency to pay for travel, the correlation between frequent travel and Bitcoin ownership could point to opportunities for travel brands, which can position themselves as trailblazers by being early adopters of alternative payment methods,” writes Roeschke.
At least one-third (36%) of small to medium-sized businesses in the United States now accept Bitcoin as payment for goods and services, according to a recent survey by Hartford Steam Boiler.
But, as of now, very few travel brands have expanded payment options beyond fiat currencies. No major hotel chain or airline permits crypto payments. In 2014, Latvian airline airBaltic became the world’s first carrier to accept Bitcoin, but the practice has not spread in the industry.
A standout exception is the online travel agency CheapAir.com, which has allowed customers to pay in crypto since 2019 and has steadily expanded its crypto options ever since. “CheapAir.com is in for the long haul – committed to the crypto community and helping to foster adoption around the globe,” the company noted in a 2020 blog post.
And since 2020, travelers have been able to choose between more than 30 cryptocurrencies to book more than 700,000 Expedia Group hotels on Travala.com, thanks to a partnership with Expedia Partner Solutions (EPS).
Will 2022 be the year when Airbnb or another major travel company hops on the crypto train? In November, Chesky hinted on The Verge’s Decoder podcast that he is weighing it. “We are definitely looking into it. Absolutely,” he said. “Like the revolution in travel, there is clearly a revolution happening in crypto.”