THE success of Bitcoin has attracted a lot of attention – but John Attridge has been involved with cashless payments since before the internet.

The businessman first ran a cashless banking platform in his native Australia in 1988.

The Queensland Trade Exchange was run with ledger books and paper statements and was turning over 144m Australian dollars when it was sold in 2001.

Today, he runs the Bournemouth-based UK operation of Business Bank Exchange (BBX), based on harnessing one untapped asset most businesses have – spare capacity.

BBX was started in Australia in 1993 by Michael Touma, who had worked with the Queensland Trade Exchange. Mr Attridge, 56, has been appointed its UK franchisee, with a head office in Bournemouth and plans for 14 regional centres and 63 branches.

He says a large number of businesses could turn their spare capacity into BBX pounds.

“If you take the example of a hotel, there are some weeks during the year when they’re full but for the vast majority of dates, they would have rooms that were unsold,” he said.

“The existing marketing team do their best and have a number of different strategies but if you said to a hotel owner: ‘You’re going to achieve 60 per cent occupancy through the year’ they would be fairly delighted.”

If those spare rooms are offered and promoted via BBX, someone with an account can visit and pay in BBX pounds.

The hotel can set the price and keep the proceeds in its BBX account, minus a commission.

“People come and stay at this hotel because it’s on the platform, compared with paying cash, writing a cheque, paying with credit or debit card with one of the hotel’s competitors who are not on the platform,” said Mr Attridge.

The hotel in his example could then spend its BBX pounds on goods and services from other businesses with an account.

Overnight one day last week, accounts were opened by a business networking group, a business telecoms company, a chain of jewellers, a dental practice and a marketing and PR company.

Mr Attridge argues BBX can be a better option for hospitality businesses than signing up to voucher schemes such as Groupon.

“If you have a hotel selling a room for £100 a night, Groupon wants a minimum 60 per cent discount and they want to take half the revenue. Your hotel is getting 20p in the pound to sell on Groupon,” he said.

Payments are processed via BBX card, with funds transferred immediately. A BBX pound is worth the same as a sterling one and is put through the books accordingly.

“We’re not replacing the cash economy but every business, despite its best endeavours, has most of the time the opportunity to earn extra revenue. If you can squeeze more revenue without increasing fixed costs, that all goes to the bottom line,” he said.