Tulleys Farm, who host the world famous Shocktoberfest every year, have become the first UK attraction to accept cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin as payment for tickets.
And owner Stuart Beare believes it will be common place soon. Cryptocurrency hit the headlines this week when Rishi Sunak announced the government government wass exploring the possibility of creating a new digital currency that the chancellor touted as ‘Britcoin.’
The Bank of England and the Treasury announced on Monday they will work together to assess the benefits of a central bank digital currency. It comes as cash payments are generally on the decline, partly as a result of the Covid pandemic
And in anticipation of this, Mr Beare and Tulleys Entertainment group, in Turners Hill Road, Crawley, moved to cryptocurrency payments as an option on their website on Friday (April 16) and they have had more than 100 transactions using that method.
Tulleys uses a system called Coinbase Commerce for customers to make payments, and currently takes six types of cryptocurrency - Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, USDcoin, Bitcoin cash and Dai.
But Bitcoin is not something new to Mr Beare, he has been watching it for many years now. "Personally I kept a very close eye on it in the last five years. I invested in cryptocurrency back in 2017 for the first time," he said.
"But I had kept an eye on Bitcoin probably three or four years before that. I thought ‘is this going to become a thing?’
"And now the more digital and connected we have become and things are easier to trade, even stocks and shares are easier to trade with the apps on your phone, you can drop in and out of something rather than having to phone your broker.
"The trading of cryptocurrency runs 24/7 seven days a week so there is no market close on it so you can go to sleep and wake up a lot poorer or a lot richer the next day!"
Tulleys have a reputation of being at the forefront of technology and innovations - in 2008 they were one of the first attraction to introduce online ticketing. "As a business we try and be at the forefront of what’s next," he said.
"We were one of the first business to get into online ticketing. In 2008 we did that and it transformed the business because it meant we knew when and how many people were coming. It gave us a real element of control which has really helped us in the last 12 months.
"All those systems were in place for that and it was the next logical step to be offering payment in cryptocurrency.
"A lot of people have made a lot of money in cryptocurrency in the last 12 months and they are probably wondering what do with it.
"We thought if anyone is out there still wondering what do with it, this is the answer.
"It’s almost like a free ticket for them. We didn’t know if we would sell any at all but there has been uptake on it.
"On the ticket release day last Friday there were several people using the system."
Cryptocurrency works on the exchange rate basis and what the spot rate is on that day or at that time, that’s what you pay for your ticket. If the rate goes up on Bitcoin you effectively get your ticket cheaper. Mr Beare added: "It can be quite volatile. It’s a bit of a risk but we are not relying on that for our income.
"The blockchain technology which it’s all based on, I think there will be so many people using that as a basis. It’s incredibly clever and incredibly secure. I think that's the way the world is moving and it will get there very quickly."
Mr Beare takes pride in being innovators in the UK tourism industry. When lockdown kicked in last March, within three days they had opened a drive-through farm shop which proved incredibly popular.
And when they realised they could not host Shocktoberfest, their Christmas festivities and other annual attractions, they introduced drive-in cinemas and pick-your-own sunflower and pumpkin eventts. These were hugely popular events for people on Instagram.
"From the UK’s perspective we take our lead from farm attractions - or as it’s called Agri-tourism in the States and Canada.
"We have been travelling out there a lot in the last 25 years and we have made a lot of connections and friends out there and that’s who we take our lead from and hopefully businesses in the UK are taking their lead from us. And that is certainly what is happening with the seasonality approach we take.
"A lot of people think we are a farm park and we are here all the time.
"But we have some of the best Escape Rooms in the country, we have got the best Halloween event ion the country, hopefully we are being the leaders of the industry in the UK rather than the followers. Hence why we thought we would try cryptocurrency. It’s taken us a little while to work out how to do it but we are there.
"The accounts team are trying to work out how the VAT works on something so volatile!"