Surf Air, the innovative, all-you-can-fly membership air travel company, announced the establishment of VOY — a new blockchain rewards platform for the travel industry with a primary focus on the 83% of the industry that is comprised of small businesses who typically cannot afford to implement a loyalty program (US Travel Association).
Surf Air is at the fore of the emerging trend of established companies identifying and embracing crypto solutions to address problems within their industries. The company has raised over $120 million of institutional capital from premier venture capital and asset financing firms since its 2013 launch. The creation of VOY, and its utilization of blockchain technology, provides the perfect platform for creating customer loyalty and satisfaction. This announcement comes on the heels of last week’s news that Surf Air is undergoing a significant global expansion with the creation of a national and global subscription platform partnering with select premium operators.
VOY addresses a significant pain point for most travel businesses – the fact that they are not large enough to afford to build and manage their own points-based loyalty programs. For larger companies that do have a loyalty program, a cryptocurrency-based rewards program eliminates a number of existing inefficiencies including illiquid balance sheet liabilities, no consistent market price when exchanging points between partners, significant in house technical resources to run proprietary systems and customer dissatisfaction when they find it hard to redeem their points within a limited number of outlets. Originally born as a solution to the internal demand from Surf Air’s members’ need and desire for a rewards program, VOY will provide a loyalty platform for travel companies of all sizes including hotels, restaurants, car rentals, airport lounges and much more that will all be able to access a global network of travellers.
While developing the project in stealth mode, VOY has assembled a strong team led by Silicon Valley tech veteran Richard Jordan and former head of British Airways (The Americas) Simon Talling-Smith, along with an established group of travel industry and technology advisors. Travel advisors include Fred Reid, the former CEO of Virgin America & President of Delta and Lufthansa, Gerald Lawless the former CEO of the Jumeirah Group and the Immediate Past Chair of the WTTC and Tourism Council, L.A. hotelier Jeff Klein of the Sunset Tower and Ed Mady, Regional West Coast Director of the Dorchester Group. Technology and crypto advisors include Justin Schmidt, founder of Translunar.one & early employee at Home-away, Micah Winklespecht, founder of GEM, John D’agostino, founder of Digital Assets Working Group and Bill Woodward the founder of Macromedia. The company has technical partnerships with leading block chain firms GEM and CoinCircle.
“Rewards programs are a perfect use case for the blockchain,” said Sudhin Shahani, Chief Executive Officer of Surf Air and VOY. “A rewards program essentially is a combination of a currency and a simple set of business rules that can be coded into a smart contract and we are building VOY to disrupt the global travel rewards program market with an initial focus on complementary premium brands to ours, many of whom we already work with. Our VOY token coupled with our VOY rewards application layer as the loyalty program builder will make it easy for brands to set up their own programs.”
VOY will launch Summer 2018 for Surf Air’s members both as a payment method and a rewards program. In addition to private travel, Surf Air memberships at higher tiers can include travel services from a wide range of partners ranging from air partners like Blade and JetClass to Surf Air preferred Hotel partners like the Dorchester collection, the Waldorf Astoria and many others.
“By harnessing the power of the blockchain, VOY’s platform will enable partner companies to rapidly add and maintain loyalty partnerships without adding complexity to their programs,” said Richard Jordan, President of VOY. “While blockchain is best known as the technology behind bitcoin, it is simply a mechanism for creating an immutable, decentralized ledger of transactions, shared across a network of participants. This removes the need for explicit trust-based relationships between all parties in the loyalty ecosystem and allows even small companies to have programs that scale tremendously. The blockchain lets VOY empower businesses to break out of the old loyalty program mold, of narrowly defined one-size-fits-all programs and limited redemption options.”
With VOY, customer data privacy is a top priority — and customers are finally able to control access to their data by travel providers through a single, easy-to-use, portal. All blockchain interaction, the idea of cryptocurrency wallets, and most of the technical aspects that might intimidate customers, are contained within the user-friendly platform, which is designed to allow both travel providers and customers a successful, stress-free experience.