Alongside the frankly embarrassing Mt. Gox collapse, a wild rodeo of speculation-driven price changes, and the seizure of the Silk Road, Bitcoin has spent the last few months quietly going legitimate, and gradually finding new niches in which it is actually useful to real people who couldn’t tell you what a hash rate is. It’s not there yet, and it’ll be an awkward minority payment option for a long time, but progress is being made. The latest windsock of change is travel-booking-chain Expedia, which announced earlier this week that it would begin offering hotel reservations for Bitcoin.
As with most of the recent adopters of Bitcoin, Expedia will be working with CoinBase to implement the feature. CoinBase runs an intermediary service that makes accepting Bitcoin feel exactly like accepting credit cards to the end user: Bitcoins flow into CoinBase, and cash flows out to the end user. It’s easy, it’s cheap, there’s no risk of chargebacks, and it gives a free bump of publicity from articles just like this one: It’s a home run for businesses like Expedia, and it dramatically expands the pool of potential CoinBase users. Expedia is starting with hotels, because it sees the most demand in the space – the site has allowed people to book their hotel reservations from the site for years, so accepting Bitcoin is a natural expansion of the site’s functionality.
It’s not just about hotels, though. The site has plans to eventually expand its Bitcoin acceptance to its other services, like flights and car rentals, depending on how well the hotel trial goes.
The CEO of Expedia, Michael Gulmann, was enthusiastic.
He said, “The path Bitcoin is on is in some ways what PayPal was on. At first it seems strange … but it’s going to become more mainstream […].
It does make Bitcoin a little more serious. From our viewpoint, Bitcoin is young, but it is a cryptocurrency that’s here to stay.”