Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 19 2014

Is This The Attendee ATM Of The Future?

By David McMillin

Bitcoin has been a big conversation point among financial experts over the past five years. The virtual currency, which was developed in 2009 and operates without a need for printing physical money or dealing with banks, is no longer confined to underground online purchasing. Major companies such as Amazon, Target and CVS have started to accept bitcoin for purchases, but retailers aren’t the only ones buzzing with excitement over bitcoin. One member of the meetings industry just jumped onboard, too.

The George R. Brown Convention Center installed a CoinVault ATM on the second level of the facility where attendees who own bitcoins will be able to easily turn them into cash. Rather than swiping a debit card and entering a PIN number, the CoinVault ATM scans a QR code on an attendee’s mobile device and dispenses cash.

Dawn Ullrich, President and CEO, Houston First Corporation, expects the ATM to be particularly useful for international attendees traveling to Houston. Rather than carrying large amounts of physical currency with them, the ATM will lighten their loads. While attendees may be accustomed to paying ATM fees at traditional kiosks, Ullrich says the CoinVault ATM is not an attempt to make a few extra bucks off each attendee.

“We are not doing this as a money-maker,” Ullrich says. “This is revenue neutral. We view this as an amenity for convention-goers visiting the GRB.”

SEE ALSO: 5 Key Trends That Will Impact Convention Centers In 2015

Will Your Attendees Embrace Bitcoin?

Bitcoin isn’t going to replace hard currency tomorrow, but there are signs that the general public is willing to embrace virtual currency. The Massachusetts Division of Banks recently surveyed more than 1,000 consumers on their attitudes and understanding of virtual currency, and 18 percent of respondents indicated that they are likely or very likely to use a virtual currency. The next generation of attendees is more excited about the possibility of ditching dollars. Forty-three percent of respondents in the 18 - 24 age bracket indicated that they are likely to use virtual currency.

SEE ALSO: 3 Secrets To Attracting Millennial Attendees

Cash Is Changing

The industry’s first bitcoin ATM isn’t the only piece of progressive financial news this year. As more consumers start using Apple Pay to make purchases, meeting planners will need to consider how mobile payments will impact the attendee experience.

Have any of your attendees inquired about paying for registration with bitcoin? How are you preparing for the potential for a bigger shift toward virtual currency and digital payments? Go to Catalyst to share your thoughts.

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