Are these companies' well-timed announcements a marketing ploy to drive attention to their own travel ventures? Probably, but it is also the start of a trend that other companies will follow -- for however long the bubble blooms.
Travel industry mogul and founder of space travel company Virgin Galactic Richard Branson is a big fan of Bitcoin. And today he announced that the first company to take regular travelers to space will also accept Bitcoin as payment.
Bitcoin is a decentralized digital currency that can be traded online. Users avoid bank fees, their accounts can not be frozen, and there are no prerequisites to getting started.
Branson draws a comparison between the criticisms of Bitcoin and the doubts that Virgin Galactic still faces today. He writes in a blog post today:
Bitcoins aren’t yet formally recognized by governments as a currency but with some regulation I hope that it will become more widely accepted. A few years ago many people had doubts about whether Virgin Galactic would ever get off the ground. Now we have gone supersonic, are a long way along the testing process, and are looking forward to launching commercial space travel.
The first pioneer to purchase a Virgin Galactic ticket using Bitcoin was a flight attendant from Hawaii. Branson thinks many of the people who jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon will also be itching to get on a Galactic flight:
A lot of the people who have joined Bitcoin are tech-minded people, as are many of our current future astronauts. We would be delighted to welcome more of the Bitcoin community as future astronauts.
A seat on a Virgin Galactic flight costs $250,000, or approximately 354 Bitcoins today.
Travel Companies Adopting Bitcoin
Virgin Galactic is not the only travel company looking to make a name for itself by accepting Bitcoin payments. Today, online travel agency CheapAir.com also announced it is accepting the digital currency.
The company first considered the idea after a customer asked whether it was possible to pay with Bitcoin. The opportunity to be the first in a competitive space to do so motivated the website to move quickly.
CheapAir.com CEO Jeff Klee says it is the first world’s first booking website to accept Bitcoin for flight purchases. The company plans to soon extend the payment option to include hotel reservations and flights booked on its iOS app.
Other websites including WordPress, Reddit, and OkCupid also accept Bitcoin payments.
Here is a brief explanation of Bitcoin shared on the Virgin Galactic website:
And here is latest Branson video promoting Virgn Galactic’s space trips:
Photo credit: Entrepreneur Richard Branson waves a model of the LauncherOne cargo spacecraft from a window of an actual size model of SpaceShipTwo on display, after Virgin Galactic's LauncherOne announcement and news conference, at the Farnborough Airshow 2012 in southern England in this July 11, 2012 file photo. Luke MacGregor / Reuters