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Mark Zuckerberg has shouted out to the world that Facebook wants to be the WeChat of the world outside China. One thing he must have realized early on is that China has the likes of WeChat and Alipay because the country doesn’t have an entrenched credit card payment system like the U.S. does, thereby enabling entrepreneurs to build a digital wallet infrastructure.
By leading the development of a new payment infrastructure using blockchain technology, Facebook is in effect creating a new alternative to the decades-old practice of paying via networks such as Visa and MasterCard. And the first product — no surprise — is a digital wallet available in Messenger and WhatsApp and as a stand-alone app, slated to launch in 2020.
Facebook is recognizing what superapps in Asia had woken up to much earlier. Nearly 70 percent of small businesses in emerging countries lack access to credit, it said, and $25 billion is lost by migrants every year through remittance fees.
Whoever does not have an e-wallet in these markets will lose out big time. Just ask WeChat, Alipay, GrabPay, AirAsia’s BigPay, and dozens of others in Asia that are vying to be the currency of choice for customers. What does this mean for travel? Read below to find out.
Skift Stories and More Expert Insight
Vietnam’s Homesharing Surge Creates Bargains for Travelers: The Vietnamese are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. A growth spurt in homesharing listings shows how eagerly they have sought a share of the tourism boom. But yields are falling even as the supply of homes and hotels are continuing to increase. Crunch time is near or perhaps even here.
Facebook’s New Libra Cryptocurrency Could Solve Travel Payments Dilemma: Cryptocurrency is only in its early days, but already it’s easy to see how its mission to democratize the financial system might be co-opted. And do currency reformers really need Facebook, with all of its baggage, leading this Libra effort?
Emirates Is First Major Airline to Launch Basic Business Class Fare: Emirates has fired the first salvo in unbundling business class fares. Now you can buy just the seat, with none of the other trimmings that travelers are used to with top-tier carriers. It’s a pragmatic strategy, one that gives more choice to travelers. The challenge will now be maintaining that great luxury brand halo and still letting the premium cabins do the marketing hard yards for the carrier.
Airbnb Expands Experiences Into Multiday Adventures: A 10-day Nepal trek to Annapurna base camp and a four-day walk with elephants in Chiang Mai are among Airbnb’s new adventure offerings. For multiday adventures to fly, it’s even more critical for Airbnb to earn the trust of consumers on issues such as safety and professionalism. That doesn’t mean Asian tour operators should give this a shrug. If these tours are exclusive to Airbnb, it just puts more pressure on traditional players to be unique and even more creative.
RateGain Acquires BCV, Gains Momentum in Hotel Tech Consolidation: India’s RateGain, a travel technology company backed by private equity, wants to consolidate hotel technology vendors into its fold to create an array of capabilities it can offer to hotels. In this it is not alone. Shiji, Amadeus, Accel-KKR-backed Travel Tripper, Sabre, and Jonas Software are all doing the same.
Asia Editor Raini Hamdi [email@example.com] curates the Skift Asia Weekly newsletter. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.