California-based travel agency CheapAir.com has announced that it is expanding its service to allow bitcoin users to book hotel stays with the cryptocurrency.
CheapAir has been accepting bitcoin for flight bookings since November when it partnered with Coinbase, however until today, users have not been able to pay in bitcoin for its extensive hotel inventory.
Speaking to CoinDesk, CEO and founder Jeff Klee voiced his enthusiasm for becoming the "first company in the US" to allow bitcoin users to book hotel stays with the virtual currency:
"Bitcoin gets a bad rap in mainstream media. What I found is that the people who use bitcoin are great, they're passionate and they're looking to solve a lot of the problems inherent in the economic system and the world."
The news garnered a largely positive reaction on reddit and the BitcoinTalk forum, with ambitious bitcoin users even suggesting they would pass the news along to other travel companies that have expressed a cautious interest in bitcoin.
Klee indicates that the decision to expand its program to include hotels was due to a "better than anticipated" response from the community after it began accepting bitcoin payment for flights.
“For it to become a really big part of our business, bitcoin itself needs to grow. We think it will.”
"We had no idea what to expect, however, it generated a nice enthusiasm," Klee recounts.
Klee did not share specific numbers, but did say that bitcoin customers are more likely to become loyal than traditional customers, and that his company receives "a nice volume of emails from bitcoin customers". Still, despite these benefits, he won't call bitcoin a game-changer for CheapAir just yet, though he thinks CheapAir's position could change as the currency gains more loyal users.
How CheapAir pays hotels
For CheapAir, paying hotels and flight providers is still a challenge, but one they find worthwhile given the currency's dedicated customers and engaged base. Klee noted that in order to process transactions, CheapAir must accept the bitcoin and exchange it for fiat currency before paying hotels. This means certain hotels, those that require patrons to pay at checkout, will still be off limits to bitcoin customers.
Klee notes that "once in a while you'll see a hotel on our site that won't have a bitcoin logo by it", but that the majority of properties on the site will see the bitcoin logo clearly displayed on its listings.
CheapAir's next stop
Klee noted that CheapAir is not specifically seeking out partnerships with the bitcoin-accepting hotels that are increasingly popping up near major destinations. But, the CEO didn't exactly close the door on the possibility, noting "We're open to anything". He did mention, though, that this could mean eventually broadening its bitcoin acceptance yet again.
Klee suggested that CheapAir is looking to add cruises to its catalog of hotels and flights, but that the company is "pretty far away" from implementing these new offerings at present.