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Published on : Friday, August 11, 2017
Latvian airline airBaltic, which was rated among the most innovative airlines in theworld once upon a time, began accepting Bitcoin as payment. Despite being met with some criticism, this was a landmark announcement that undoubtedly paved the way for digital nomads looking to travel with the cryptocurrency.
In the past three years, many airlines and travel companies have followed suit. And
the reasons are obvious.
Bitcoin, with its rapidly growing global appeal, is perfect for travel – both for the
traveller and vendors accepting the cryptocurrency. With Bitcoin, there are no bank
fees, no need to exchange currencies, it is easy to send and receive money, it serves as
a hedge against inflation, and it has a growing value in the marketplace. Paying with
Bitcoin also provides additional security not available with debit cards or credit
cards. It is no wonder that many emerging markets, particularly in Asia and Latin
America, are taking notice.
In 2013, the central Bank of Thailand criminalized Bitcoin, quickly changing its mind
in 2014. Following the decision, Pattaya Beer Garden, a popular watering hole in
tourist-friendly Pattaya, began processing payments made in Bitcoin. In Thailand,
the race to adopt the Bitcoin began very slow, with only a handful of businesses and
restaurants accepting the currency. But it seems as though the tides have turned. In
June, Bitcoin hit 92,000 baht, a record, which led to a nationwide shortage in
This was followed by the news that Kasikornbank will join with IBM (NYSE:IBM) to
roll out a blockchain-based digital financial contracts to promote new business
opportunities within the region.
And Thailand is certainly not the only Asian destination to jump on the Bitcoin
Despite lagging behind most of the world in internet services, the majority of
Filipinos are now on 4G LTE, which could reasonably be the cause of the spike in
Bitcoin popularity in the country.
In the Philippines, Bitcoin is arguably more popular than previously mentioned
Thailand. Adoption of the cryptocurrency has occurred at a rate and scale much
larger than its neighbour. As Bitcoin catches fire in the Philippines, one
platform, Coins.ph, has made tremendous waves, allowing locals, expats, and even
tourists to pay utility bills, tuition, credit cards, purchase cellular phone credit, send
and receive payments, and even withdraw cash at local ATMs using Bitcoin.
The upsurge in Bitcoin use is likely to continue as the island nation becomes
significantly more connected.
On the other side of the world, another Bitcoin movement is taking place, as well.
Mexico may be a perfect storm for the Bitcoin explosion. With a median age of 28,
60% of the population without a bank, and 80% of the population carrying a cell
phone, it is not surprising to see why the 11 th largest country in the world is gaining
interest in the cryptocurrency.
With more than US$27-billion sent to Mexico each year, remittance is another
significant dynamic in Bitcoin’s surge in popularity. Following the election of U.S.
President Donald Trump, many Mexicans living in the United States became
frightened to send money back to Mexico. This fear has ignited a new method of
While Bitcoin continues to gain ground among the citizens of Mexico, it has left
politicians skeptical. Agustin Carstens, Governor of the Bank of Mexico explained:
“The worrying thing is that periodically there are technological, hacking and theft
problems, and that makes us very nervous.” But these concerns are not without
Despite not catering to “Bitcoin tourists” in the same way as the Philippines or
Thailand, the large-scale adoption of Bitcoin could lead to a very prosperous future
for Mexico, as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
In reflecting on the previously mentioned examples, Bitcoin is set to become a game-
changer for developing economies. As regulation is rolled out and popularity of the
cryptocurrency gains speed, there may be a tremendous opportunity for emerging
markets moving forward. Many tourists are already excited about the prospect of
spending Bitcoin in their travels, and accepting it could provide a way for these
economies to gain more of an equal footing on a worldwide level.
Bitcoin could be seen as an equalizer of sorts. Palestinians, lacking their own
currency are turning to cryptocurrencies. Venezuelans are hedging Bitcoin against
unprecedented inflation. Bitcoin is even gaining speed in Africa.