A Q&A With Kalpesh Patel: Bringing Bitcoin to the Hotel Industry With BookWithBit
Kalpesh Patel is a living testament to the fact that anyone can contribute something to the Bitcoin ecosystem. You don’t have to be a computer genius or a financial expert to participate in this economic experiment.
“You’re missing the point of Bitcoin if you feel left out. You can be as involved as you want to be, just go make something happen — find something you think needs doing, recruit some people to help if you need help, and do it. Are you waiting for an invitation or permission from somebody?”
Patel moved to the United States from India in 1998 when he was just 18 years old. Since then, he has worked in the hotel business. In 2002, his family opened their own hotel. Now, Patel and his family owns two hotels in Oklahoma.
In 2013, Patel learned about bitcoin for the first time, and wanted to accept it at his hotel. However, he had some difficulty getting things set up for bitcoin on his website due to personal concerns his webmaster had about the digital currency.
After failing to find a platform that let people book hotels with bitcoin, Patel decided to jump in and make his own contribution to the Bitcoin ecosystem. Enter BookWithBit. Founded in late 2013, Patel’s project is a hotel booking service that only accepts bitcoin. Once the service goes live, hotel owners will be able to add their business to BookWithBit, advertising their accommodations for people looking to book a stay with bitcoin.
Although this idea is fairly novel, Patel faces some steep competition in the hotel booking industry. Expedia, a very popular booking service, began accepting bitcoin in 2014, taking Patel’s late 2013 idea to the mainstream. This news generated a lot of excitement in the bitcoin community, and Expedia’s new payment option proved to be a great success. A month after Expedia’s announcement about accepting bitcoin, executive vice president of global product Michael Gulmann told CoinDesk that bitcoin sales were exceeding their initial estimates:
Despite the big competition from Expedia, Patel is confident in his project’s ability to bring in businesses. He believes that his bitcoin-only model offers advantages that cannot be matched by Expedia and it’s fiat-bitcoin hybrid model. In a Q&A session with Patel I got the chance to ask him about these advantages, as well as BookWithBit’splans for 2016.
Booking a Hotel With Crypto
Editor’s note: Kalpesh asked us to edit these typed responses for spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. While we did not change the content of his responses, what you are reading is not 100% verbatim.
Give us a little bit of background information on BookWithBit
I am a hotel owner myself. We own two hotels in Oklahoma. when I came across Bitcoin in 2013, I wanted to accept bitcoin for our hotel. So, I called my webmaster to add the bitcoin payment option. They had their own concerns about it, so they refused to add the payment option. Then I was looking other platforms where I couldn add my hotel so we could accept Bitcoin, but could not find one. So then I thought, “why don’t I build something like booking.com and accept payment with bitcoin only?” So, Hotel owners like me who want to accept bitcoin at their hotels can get added on BookWithBit .
Why should people use bitcoin for their travel expenses instead of fiat?
Bitcoin offers people the ability to book hotels around the world. Any payment can transfer around world at a fraction of the cost or no cost (it depends on how the hotel wants to receive the payment). Inside any country, when a person travels and uses bitcoin there are no payment processing fees. So, hotels save 3% to 4% and some cases higher.
International travel will get easy with Bitcoin since people don’t have to exchange one fiat to other fiat. In developing countries, many hotels still do not accept credit cards, if they do there are high fees. To recover those high fees, hotels have to add them to the room rate, so hotel guest have to pay more. If person pays using bitcoin, then hotels save money on processing fees. So the guest can ask, or the hotel can offer that saving to the hotel guest.
People will ask, why not pay cash if we want to save money? Cash works inside one country. But a person traveling outside one country has to convert one fiat to other fiat, which costs money as well. Exchange brokers offer free exchange for fiat, but it is not free — it is hidden under exchange rate. Traveling with cash, there is risk of losing cash, stealing, robbery, anything can happen. So cash is very risky to carry around.
Now for hotels, when they accept cash payments, they have risk also. Employees can steal money since it is cash, cash notes can be counterfeit, hotels can get robbed as well. Hotels have to do extra paperwork for cash. They have to have change all the time in drawer. They need to deposit in bank, they will need to count cash again. When entering a bank, the bank teller counts it again. So a lot of time can get wasted.
Bitcoin is good because provides solutions for all the problem I have mention above. Also, it allows hotels to save money, and thereafter hotels can pass saving to guests directly or indirectly.
What advantages does BookWithBit offer over Expedia, which is a very popular booking service that also accepts bitcoin?
First advantage for us is that we are going to work directly with hotels. So our inventory will come directly from the hotels, so there are not many people dividing the of pie, so costs for hotels are going to be less. We are charging only 5% to hotels and 5% to guests. We will be very transparent in what we do.
Another benefit for hotels is that they don’t have to pay fees for credit card payments. Expedia’s commission rate is 18% to 25%, depending on how many hotels a person or brand has. On top of that, they pay hotels with credit cards, so hotels have to process the payments and add a 3% to 4% cost. So the hotels’ cost of selling rooms with this channel is 22% to 29%. Hotels add this cost in the room rates to be able to pay this middle man and keep the door open. For more information on this topic, please read this article written by me.
Expedia accepts bitcoin, but they are not promoting it and they are not offering any savings to hotel guests or partner hotels. We are doing this and that is why we are different. We are promoting bitcoin, Expedia is not.
What does 2016 look like for BookWithBit?
We are going to launch our service for beta testing. We have 40 or so hotels mainly in the USA to start with. Once we do reach out to hotels and we make our case, we are confident that we will get more hotels onboard with us. At the same time, are we reaching out to bitcoin community so we are sure that the bitcoin community will choose us over any other OTA . We are loyal to bitcoin.
What do you think about BookWithBit? Let us know in the comments below!