Winding Tree is a blockchain-based distribution platform for the travel industry that provides a decentralized alternative to the current concentrated travel distribution landscape. It has now gained Etihad as a new partner – besides other renowned players in the travel industry.
Switzerland-based Winding Tree has teamed up with Etihad Airways to lower the costs of travel. The blockchain-based open-source travel platform will provide its technology to the United Arab Emirates’ national carrier to distribute products and services without the need for third-party intermediaries.
Tristan Thomas, Etihad’s director of digital and innovation, comments, “Winding Tree is […] an opportunity for us to disrupt a traditionally siloed market dominated by major distribution systems. Very few have chosen to disrupt the distribution world and that’s because those are major players with very significant margins that have acted to keep it a closed shop.”
Winding Tree aims at breaking the travel industry’s concentrated distribution landscape
Although the travel industry seems incredibly competitive, most travel websites work with the same global distribution systems (GDS), for example Amadeus or Sabre. These systems employ real-time inventory technology to collect data on flights and hotel rooms and provide these data to travel agents or corporate travel bookers.
They take a big chunk of the profits, up to 20 percent, which makes it difficult for new cost-efficient market entrants to gain market share. As there are just a few large middlemen that dominate the market, costs for travel suppliers, and therefore the prices for travelers, are higher than they should be.
Winding Tree’s open-source platform for booking and securing transactions offers an alternative to GDS. It provides a set of smart contracts that live on a blockchain. It can be integrated into any POS system via an API, allowing anyone to directly list and find inventory.
As a result, providers like airlines and hotels can publish available inventory to potential customers directly without the need for B2B intermediaries that cause double marginalization and inflate the prices.
Lower costs for consumers: Winding Tree’s platform is growing
Besides Etihad, Winding Tree has also partnered with several airlines and hotels over the past years. Large players such as Air Canada, Air France, and Lufthansa as well as aviation services company Swissport, and hotels such as Nordic Choice, citizenM Hotel chain, and Airport Hotel Basel are on the list as well.
Although retail consumers cannot use the platform directly, travelers will ultimately benefit from travel providers bypassing intermediaries’ fees. It will result in lower costs and a more diversified market, as barriers to entry for new companies will get reduced.
Pedro Anderson, Winding Tree’s chief operating officer and co-founder, says, “Anybody who has traveled today knows that it’s not the most pleasant experience. The entire process is backward. We have experimented with new solutions on the platform. Ultimately, that benefits the consumer. When there’s innovation, there will be disruption and competition which results in better prices for the consumer.”
Winding Tree is public and permissionless, allowing anyone to source inventory from the platform. Although initially positioned as a B2B platform, blockchain-savvy users will also be able to book directly through the blockchain.