With more than half of 2022 already behind us, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far and what’s ahead.
Since the new year, we’ve been laying the foundations for a completely new short-term and vacation rental model, one that combines the freedom of direct stays with the simplicity of online travel agencies (OTAs) to create a unique web3 travel ecosystem.
From the beginning, we knew we were venturing into largely uncharted territory. Travel bookings on the blockchain powered by smart contracts are an industry first, and something for which there’s no precedent or guidebook.
Within just six months, we’re proud to have developed a community of passionate short-term rental operators, early adopters, and a working beta product that has successfully processed the world’s first smart contract-powered travel booking.
Here’s the breakdown of how we got there!
In January, core team members from around the world convened in person to discuss the direction of Dtravel over a three-day strategy event. These meetings refined our goals and documented our ambitions, from which emerged the blueprint for Dtravel v2.
In February, we shared our short-term rental operator research from the previous months and announced our updated product direction in the form of Dtravel v2 and what it meant for operators and guests.
In March, we launched our Beta Program and welcomed our first batch of short-term rental operators who collaborated with us and provided invaluable feedback on ideas, design, and the user experience. These operators continue to play a crucial role in the success of Dtravel as we build and experiment with new concepts.
In April, we detailed our key insights from the first month of the Beta Program and announced our first property management system (PMS) partnership in Hostaway. As one of the leading PMS options available on the market, with around 2,000 property managers and over 40,000 properties, onboarding to Dtravel via Hostaway is a simple, time-efficient process.
In May, it was all hands on deck to deliver a Q2 launch of Dtravel v2. We also started the process of integrating with our second PMS partner, Uplisting, which is now live as an option alongside Hostaway.
In mid-June, we released Dtravel v2, enabling short-term rental operators to register their properties for on-chain bookings. Our partnership with short-term rental community-building and education platform Rent Responsibly was also announced, with Dtravel named alongside other partners — such as Expedia Group — to promote a sustainable future for the short-term rental industry.
In July, we processed the world’s first-ever on-chain hospitality booking, powered by a smart contract through Dtravel v2 — a momentous occasion for the team and both the travel and blockchain industry. Not to be overshadowed, we also released the Merchant Page update that compiles each operator’s properties in one place, making it easier for guests to explore and book properties listed by each short-term rental operators.
Challenges & Learnings
During our Beta Program, we encountered some challenges and came away with learnings that will be critical to our next stages of product development in preparation for scaling Dtravel.
Using a PMS
One of the main friction points currently is the requirement for operators and property managers to use a PMS in order to list their properties on Dtravel. We recognize that this isn’t immediately suitable for all operators, and we’re working on enabling properties to be listed directly on Dtravel without a PMS.
Not all short-term rental operators are familiar with the benefits of a PMS, which may create a hesitancy to pay the subscription fee. However, this initial PMS-only route was taken for a few reasons.
- Instant bookings are critical for the guest experience. Other projects have failed because they lacked calendar availability, and travelers had to "request to book" asynchronously, leading to poor traveler experience because of double bookings and listings not being available after requesting to book. We're the first project to take this PMS connectivity first approach, and it will be a key to our success, even if it limits early scalability.
- The short-term rental operators and property managers vetting process is a critical part of providing an exceptional guest experience. With PMS connectivity, we could be certain that only verified listings would be listed on Dtravel, ensuring the safety of our community.
- We wanted to create a product that would work with an operator's existing workflows instead of making them use something entirely new. Deploying listings on Dtravel via a PMS significantly simplifies the process.
The Accessibility Gap
A challenge many startups using new technology face is making the experience accessible. There’s a large learning gap between web2 and web3, and most operators will require time and education to reach a comfortable level of proficiency.
In light of this, we’re designing a more familiar onboarding experience for both operators and guests that makes use of traditional log in options like email. This experience will include revised user flows that decrease the barrier to entry from a technical perspective (e.g. removing the requirement to connect a non-custodial wallet), as well as an in-platform operators onboarding flow that walks through the registration and listing process step by step.
The goal of this is to ultimately expand the user base by creating an ecosystem for all levels of proficiency, with features that allow Dtravel to be used as a predominantly web2.5 or web3 platform. By providing guidance, educational materials, and support, short-term rental operators and guests will be empowered to progress their way up from web2 → web2.5 → web3.
We believe this direct booking model has the potential to liberate short-term rental operators from the increasingly strict policies of online travel agencies and short-term rental platforms. On the other side of the equation, guests will be able to receive better prices and have more meaningful interactions with operators. Think of what we’re building as a decentralized Shopify (but for short-term rentals), where short-term rental operators truly own their own direct booking business, set their own rules, terms, and policies.
Discovering Dtravel Properties
Guests can currently view and book properties by visiting each operator’s unique Merchant Page. Like traditional direct booking sites, these are direct links that require marketing efforts from each operator. Here are a few Merchant Pages of some early adopters:
View Amir's Listings - London
View Tom's Listings - UK
View Seven's Listings - Kansas City
View Parker's Listings - Atlanta
View Blake's Listings - Utah
View The Stay Hub's Listings - New Zealand
View Thi's Listings - Vancouver, CA
View Matthew's Listings - Florida & Virgin Island
However, the overarching goal of Dtravel is to build a web3 travel ecosystem, a key part of which involves interconnecting listings in a metasearch engine that allows guests to easily discover properties around the world (i.e. the Shopify directory style of aggregating merchants we mentioned above).
The metasearch engine will differ from web2 OTA search engines in that the data is received from individually owned direct booking sites rather than originating from the website itself. This doesn’t make Dtravel an intermediary, as the booking is facilitated between the operator and guest directly via smart contract. Rather, the metasearch engine will consolidate property listings and redirect travelers to each listing — similar to Tripadvisor or Skyscanner.
Where We’re Heading
Dtravel v2 is just over a month old now, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what we want to achieve. We now have the foundations, we’re aiming high, and we’re determined to build a better short-term rental ecosystem, block by block.
Over the next 6 months, our focus is on the following:
- Build a metasearch engine to function as a guest discovery portal for listings
- Increase the number of web2 and web3 signup options
- Develop alternative ways to create a Dtravel listing
- Expand PMS and channel manager integrations
- Drive supply, demand, and growth with conferences, events, and advertising
- Introduce a Dtravel Advocate Program
- Implement operator and guest rewards
- Add TRVL to Dtravel as a payment option
We’re ready to kick it up a notch for the second half of 2022, with so much exciting work being done behind the scenes that we can’t wait to share with you all.
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