Expedia Inc. (EXPE:US) will start accepting bitcoins for hotel purchases, becoming the largest online travel service to adopt the virtual currency.
Expedia said it partnered with San Francisco-based startup Coinbase Inc. to let travelers pay for bookings by converting bitcoins into money in response to customer requests, especially from international travelers. Expedia may start accepting bitcoins for airline tickets and trips if there’s demand, Michael Gulmann, a vice president at Expedia, said in an interview.
Web retailers such as Tiger Direct Inc. and Overstock.com Inc. already accept bitcoins to appeal to tech-savvy consumers using the virtual currency. CheapAir.com, another online travel agency, began accepting bitcoins in November.
“We think there’s growth potential for bitcoin as a currency,” Gulmann said. “We see it now as something that’s growing that we want to be a part of. If you look back 14 to 15 years, PayPal was a strange thing that was out there in e-commerce, and now it’s fairly mainstream.”
Bitcoin users can already buy everything from digital cameras online to cupcakes in regular stores. Internet merchants are adding bitcoin services as governments examine how to regulate the virtual currency, which has no central issuing authority and uses a public ledger to log every transaction.
Dish Network Corp. said in May it will start accepting the digital money later this year. Earlier this month, Apple Inc. indicated it will let developers create mobile applications for bitcoin transfers, and EBay Inc. Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe has said payment service PayPal will integrate bitcoin at some future point.
Bitcoin has rallied almost 80 percent since touching a five-month low on April 10, according to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, as more merchants adopt the virtual currency.
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