Mobile- first China tackles cryptocurrencies

The Chinese government’s plans to launch its own digital currency, while clamping down on existing providers, could influence how travel is transacted in the future, according to the Top 100 City Destination Ranking WTM London 2017 Edition.


This September, the People’s Bank of China introduced measured effectively declaring initial coin offerings (ICOs) illegal. ICOs are a way for start- ups to raise capital by selling digital tokens, similar to shares, to investors. The tokens can be bought using currency or other virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.

The ICO market – described by Bloomberg as a cross between crowdfunding and an initial public offering – is unregulated. Earlier in 2017, the PBOC said it was planning to launch its own digital currency as part of the of cial money supply. The idea is that consumers will use the currency to buy goods and service via a digital wallet. This allows the Chinese economy to continue its digital revolution, while the PBOC keeps control over the financial market,” Euromonitor International, the report’s author, says.

For travel, the implications are potentially far-reaching. “The impact on the travel industry could be immense, not only in the way people pay for travel, but also by simplifying loyalty schemes and through smart contracts,” the report suggests. While cryptocurrencies are part of the future, the present is about mobile-first. China continues to innovate from a position of strength, particularly when it comes to the all-in-one app. The report highlights the breadth of options available to the 750 million users of WeChat as an example of how far mobile- first has developed. “WeChat allows its users to find and book trips, check in for flights and hotels, contact customer services, book activities or restaurant tables, and scan QR codes to buy products or turn on the lights or TV in their smart hotel room,” the report explains.

Multi-functionality within apps increasingly important, it continues, as “80% of our time is spent on just three apps.”

The “mobile first mind-set” is spreading, the report adds,to China’s Asian neighbours, including Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand. “Governments and consumers in developing economies are turning to the mobile device to establish digital connectivity because of the cheaper network investment and falling mobile device prices,” it said.

WTM London, Senior Director, Simon Press, said: “China’s influence on travel goes beyond the 100 million plus outbound travellers it contributes to the global travel industry. It has led the way with mobile development and is now at the forefront of bringing digital currencies into the financial mainstream, and many aspects of travel as we know it might change as a result”.