Blockchain Startup Hopes to Disrupt Short-term Rental Market

Dtravel has processed its first short-term rental booking on the blockchain, but its native token is still down 90% since its launch


Source: DALL·E 2


key takeaways

  • The blockchain-powered platform claims it’s roughly 15% cheaper than centralized alternatives
  • Although these kinds of platforms have so far been unsuccessful, Dtravel’s head of growth believes that times have changed

Blockchain startup Dtravel, which wants to insert smart contracts into the short-term rental ecosystem, has just processed its first hospitality booking

The concept behind Dtravel is to enables property owners to directly transact with guests and renters without an intermediary, as is the case with Web2 booking platforms.

Property managers on Dtravel can manage bookings — including price, duration, cleaning and cancellation period — within a smart contract unique to the listing.

Once a guest makes the reservation, an agreement is cryptographically signed and a transaction is sent to the listing’s smart contract. Funds will be released to the host once the cancellation period ends. 

The protocol is currently running a beta pilot program, Cynthia Huang, Dtravel’s head of growth, told Blockworks. It generates revenue through a 5% booking fee that is covered by the host — but that money is currently being returned to hosts through the TRVL utility token in the beta testing stage.

“On other platforms, the total booking fees range anywhere from 15 to 20%,” Huang said. “And that’s usually split between the host and the guests.”

The platform’s first booking was for a London apartment owned by Amir Sadjady. Although it is uncertain which payment method was used in the transaction, Dtravel currently accepts UDSC, USDT and BUSD and plans to add more cryptocurrencies in the coming months.

TRVL, which currently only exists on Ethereum, has floundered since its launch in November, currently down 96% from its record high and more than 90% below its initial list price.

Dtravel wants to succeed where other blockchain startups have failed

Dtravel is not the first protocol that has wanted to revolutionize the short-term rental industry. Bee Token, a blockchain-based, open-source housing platform had a similar vision until it eventually had to halt its operations. 

“The technology at the time just wasn’t what it was today,” Huang said. “[Bee Token] had to launch on the Ethereum mainnet because there weren’t any layer-2s, but now we have many more options.”

Transaction costs are a lot cheaper now and there is a greater appetite for cryptocurrencies in the mainstream market than there was previously, Huang said. 

On the short term rental side, Huang believes that last minute cancellations and lack of transparency after Covid-19 rocked the rental market made hosts less trusting of intermediaries.

“There’s a general desire and awareness that hosts need to move off platforms and have more direct control over their property listings,” Huang said. 

This sentiment is shared by Sadjady, one of the first hosts in the UK to list his properties using Dtravel. “There have been occasions when I’ve been overcharged by a centralised platform, or not paid at all, and getting this money back, is a real nightmare, and even impossible on a couple of occasions,” he said. 

“The blockchain allows renters and hosts to transact directly, in a secure and transparent fashion, without the need for a third party. Hosts can make more money, renters can save money, it’s win-win.”

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