Expedia announced today that they are going to start accepting Bitcoin for hotel bookings.
This makes Expedia the first major travel booking company to begin accepting Bitcoin and if things go well the company has said it might start accepting Bitcoin for other travel related services they are offering including airline booking.
“This is one of those ideas that seemed to have sprung from three different places all at once,” said Michael Gulmann, Expedia’s vice president of global product, explaining how the company arrived at the decision. The company’s engineers were starting to think about bitcoin, and the company’s product and business developers were as well, he explained. They also were hearing from customers.
The company is starting with hotels essentially as a test of the system, he explained. “We want to start at a reasonable, small place,” he said, and see if it will be feasible to expand it to other parts of the business. If the trial works well, and if customer support is there, he expects the company will start taking bitcoin for other bookings as well. “Absolutely, absolutely, absolutely,” he said.
Expedia will be using Coinbase for payment processing of Bitcoin and at this time will be converting back to fiat dollars.
“We are pleased to partner with Expedia.com to welcome them into the growing community of forward-thinking companies that have opened their businesses to accept bitcoin payments,” said Fred Ehrsam, co-founder of Coinbase. “By accepting bitcoin as a form of payment, Expedia is giving a wider community of users the opportunity to book hotels from their site’s inventory of properties all around the world quickly and easily.”
When asked about using Coinbase Gulmann made the following statement, “Bitcoin is still a relatively new technology with a small user base compared to the other more traditional types of payments we use today. Because Expedia is not interacting with Bitcoin directly, there’s limited risk to the company in making this choice. We offer customers hotel prices in U.S. dollars with an option to pay in bitcoin. We then rely on Coinbase, our bitcoin payment processor, to handle the bitcoin transactions. It’s quite similar to how we accept other forms of currency, particularly PayPal. A customer comes to our site, wants to pay for a hotel, decides to use PayPal, we indicate to PayPal that there’s a customer ready, PayPal conducts the payment, and sends us an indicator that the customer has paid, and we can provide the customer a receipt. Pretty easy, overall!”
One that immediately popped out was about refunds. Sometimes travel plans change so what is Expedia planning on doing about refunds with Bitcoin. Gullman was happy to answer, “Plans change all the time these days and you shouldn’t have to be locked into a hotel reservation just because you paid for it using bitcoin. If a customer decided to cancel a hotel room paid for in bitcoin, she would receive a refund in bitcoin, provided the booking was for a refundable room. The refund would be based on the amount (in U.S. dollars) that was paid for a room, and Coinbase would refund the customer that amount based on the current bitcoin exchange rate. Depending on the bitcoin market place, the amount of bitcoin received in a refund could be higher or lower than what was initially paid, but the dollar amount reimbursed would remain the same. It’s quite similar to other refunds you’d receive from Expedia.com.”