Bellevue, Washington-based Expedia just announced that it will start accepting bitcoin for hotel bookings. The online travel site is embracing the volatile, virtual currency on what it calls a "test-and-learn" basis.
Effective immediately, the digital currency will be a payment option, but only for hotel bookings on the company's U.S. site. Expedia vice president Michael Gulmann said the travel company likes to try new things "in small steps."
"Hotels are a very large part of our overall business," Gulmann said. "This allows us to really gauge what the demand is. It allows our consumers to speak with their wallets, if you will."
Expedia plans to immediately convert its bitcoin revenue into old-fashioned dollars through an exchange called Coinbase.
Gulmann said the online travel agency doesn't expect a windfall off the bat, nor does it want to make a political statement. It is about "allowing our consumers to pay however they want to pay."
He said a modest number of consumer requests along with curiosity amongst the in-house engineering team prompted the bitcoin embrace.
The bitcoin payment option launched Wednesday morning.
"The first numbers out exceeded our expectations, as far as the number of transactions we got in through bitcoin," Gulmann said. "But it is still a miniscule amount compared to Expedia's overall bookings for the day. While it is very, very small for now, I expect that to grow over time as it becomes more widely adopted globally."
Expedia is by far the largest Pacific Northwest company to accept bitcoin. It may, in fact, be the largest retailer globally to embrace the cryptocurrency.
Other early adopters include Salt Lake City-based Overstock.com and the online store operated by Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman.