Metaverse travel could revolutionise the way that people engage with the travel industry. Picture a scenario where you can explore a hotel in virtual reality (VR) while you sit in your home on the other side of the world. By creating three-dimensional models of real locations, metaverse travel will create new experiences and new ways for people to choose accommodation and activities.

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What is the Metaverse?

The metaverse has become a popular buzzword. Originating in science fiction author Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, the term “metaverse” describes a virtual 3D world that people can explore through the use of VR goggles and other equipment. It’s a broad term for immersive virtual realms where people can interact with each other and the environment. Users can visit the metaverse using fully immersive VR equipment or using augmented reality (AR) systems that project parts of the metaverse over the individual’s real surroundings.

Users will also be able to access the metaverse through mobile devices like tablets and smartphones, or game consoles. This will, of course, be less immersive. The metaverse is still in its early stages, as virtual reality technologies still need to be refined and the concept as a whole is currently evolving. We don’t yet know how metaverse travel may impact the industry.

What is the Difference Between the Metaverse and Virtual Reality?

It’s not clear yet how the metaverse will differ from existing virtual reality experiences. It can be tempting to dismiss the metaverse concept as an attempt by Mark Zuckerberg and other enthusiasts to rebrand the existing concept of VR and put their own stamp on it. While there’s a degree of truth to this, it’s worth exploring the proposed differences between these concepts. The things that differentiate the metaverse as a concept from VR could be described as broadness and utility.

VR games might be fun but they’re limited in scope; you explore a defined game world, engage in a defined range of actions, and follow a game script. In the metaverse, the idea is that you’d be engaging in a wider range of activities — attending meetings, exploring the world around you, engaging with other people who are in the same part of the metaverse, and so on. Metaverse travel would let you enjoy travel experiences in VR.

What Is the Travel Industry?

The travel industry provides services that are related to travel. This isn’t limited to transportation and other services directly related to the act of travelling from one place to another. It also extends to services such as providing food and beverages while travelling and taking care of a customer’s needs once they have arrived. There’s a significant overlap between the travel and hospitality industries. Although they’re closely linked, the travel industry is distinct from the tourism industry.

The tourism industry is centred around providing services for travellers who are travelling to a specific destination and wish to explore and engage with that location. The travel industry is somewhat broader in scope, covering all kinds of journeys for many different purposes beyond tourism. The travel industry includes airlines, rail and coach services, water transport, etc; and travel management includes accommodation and catering for travellers. Metaverse travel could soon be another feature of the industry.

In “Travel Industry: An Overview of One of the Largest Service Industries”, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of this topic.

Metaverse Influence on the Travel Industry

The rise of COVID and the introduction of travel restrictions have changed the way that people look at travel. With many countries blocking incoming flights, stipulating long quarantine periods, or insisting on expensive tests, many people are turning away from physical travel and looking for alternatives. Even when restrictions are lowered, the risk of contracting COVID and other infections has made people reconsider their usual approach to travel.

This change in perspective has naturally led to new travel trends, and a growing interest in VR and metaverse travel solutions. For those who would normally travel as a way of experiencing the world, metaverse travel offers a safer and less costly way to explore new locations. For businesses and travellers with work or study goals, online meetings and classes have become increasingly popular. It’s likely that metaverse travel could fill this niche in the future. The technology isn’t really available to provide a full-blown metaverse holiday yet but it may well exist in years to come.

Video: How the Metaverse Will Transform the Travel Industry

How Could the Travel Industry Benefit from the Metaverse?

On the surface, it might appear that the metaverse could represent a threat to the travel industry. After all, if people can experience new locations in a virtual 3D space, they might not choose to travel physically. Yet it’s unlikely that the metaverse could ever entirely replace physical travel and only become a part of travel technology.

Expanding Travel Inspiration Sources

The most obvious benefit of the metaverse is to provide new and better travel inspiration sources. It’s likely that the metaverse will supplement the travel industry, providing prospective travellers with a taste of what they can experience. It will be possible to let travellers inspect hotel rooms and other spaces before they book, even allowing them to try out the check-in process.

Travellers could take virtual tours and look at some of the main attractions in the area, encouraging them to visit in person and helping them decide how to spend their time and money once they reach the location.

Enhancing the Booking Experience

Metaverse travel could also make the booking experience more pleasant and engaging. While more people book online nowadays, there’s a certain level of engagement that a website just can’t provide.

Booking in the metaverse might be more like visiting a brick-and-mortar travel agency, allowing users to ask questions of a (real or virtual) agent, negotiate deals, combine products and pay in an easy and convenient way. Even once a customer is at their destination, they could still use the metaverse to raise issues, order food and services, or look into attractions and experiences that they could book via the metaverse.

Increasing Booking Volume

For those who travel to experience different locations, there are some things the metaverse probably won’t be able to provide even with advances in technology. Even the most detailed 3D recreation of a space can’t fully duplicate the experience of being there. Instead, metaverse travel can actually whet a user’s appetite for the real thing.

Travellers who take a VR tour of a location or use VR to try out an experience are more likely to book the real thing. One example would be Thomas Cook’s VR excursions of Manhattan, which offered visitors to their stores a five-minute “taster” of the city. The company saw a 190 per cent increase in related bookings.

Examples of the Travel Industry Taking Advantage of the Metaverse

While the metaverse is still in its infancy, some travel companies are already taking advantage of the new technology.

Immersive Virtual Travelling – VR Tourism

Some organisations are already providing virtual 3D versions of real-life spaces and locations. For example, you can now explore the Louvre Museum, Paris, in VR. Virtual visitors can view exhibitions, enjoy concerts, or even meet friends for a virtual stroll around the museum.

The metaverse can provide people (who might not be able to travel physically) a way to explore the world, either as a substitute for an in-person visit or as a way to prepare for an upcoming trip. Offering virtual tours and excursions via the metaverse is one way that the travel industry can benefit from this new technology.

Augmented Reality in Travel

Augmented reality is different from virtual reality. Instead of being immersed in a virtual world, virtual elements are overlaid onto the real world around you. A familiar example would be the game Pokemon Go, where a user sees the titular monsters overlaid in the real world as seen by their phone’s camera.

In the context of metaverse travel, augmented reality can provide prices and details for a restaurant, historical information relating to a building, train times and connections from a station, and more. This encourages travellers to engage more fully with their location and offers opportunities to make additional purchases.

Read “How Augmented Reality is Revolutionising the Travel Industry” for a deep dive into AR.

Facilitating Online Trade Shows and Expos

Metaverse travel is already providing new ways to conduct trade shows and expos. In 2022, students from Assumption University’s tourism programme designed and realised a three-in-one expo in the metaverse, featuring career, travel and tourism expos.

Event Management students developed virtual exhibition booths to showcase travel brands like Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott-Starwood, focusing on career opportunities. It’s easy to see how this type of immersive online experience could be used for all kinds of trade shows across many different industries, although it’s of particular relevance to the travel sector. Virtual trade shows and expos can help travel companies market their services in a new and exciting way.

Virtual Theme Parks and Other Attractions

With COVID restrictions limiting travel and shutting down some destinations entirely, theme park fans are increasingly turning to virtual versions of their favourite rides and attractions. First-person video footage of rides and other theme-park experiences are nothing new, of course, but the metaverse allows users to experience attractions in a new way.

Imagine visitors booking a virtual tour of a zoo, for instance, or taking a “ride” on a roller-coaster without the queues. Virtual attractions could be a new source of revenue for beleaguered resorts and theme parks at a time when visitors may be unable or unwilling to come in person.

Blockchain Technology and Hospitality

Curious about blockchain technology? This recent innovation is set to change the way that many people carry out transactions online. Blockchain technology is especially relevant for the hospitality and travel industries, facilitating payments and offering new ways to provide ticketing and identification.

Functioning as a virtual public ledger, blockchain technology creates a permanent record of all transactions complete with time-stamps and other vital data. To find out more about the relevance of blockchain technology for the hospitality sector and metaverse travel, read “Blockchain Technology and Its Uses in the Hospitality Industry”.

VR and the Travel Industry

From metaverse travel to quick VR tours, virtual reality is already having an outsized impact on the way that people choose destinations, make bookings, and discover travel inspiration. With VR headsets becoming a common consumer item, VR is rapidly finding its way into many people’s daily lives.

Despite having its roots in the gaming industry, virtual reality is becoming increasingly important to other sectors — particularly travel. To find out more about virtual hotel tours, virtual booking interfaces, VR excursions, augmented reality and more, read “How Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry” today.

While its role is likely to expand in the years to come, it’s unlikely that metaverse travel will ever replace real travel. It seems probable that metaverse technology will enhance and supplement the traditional travel industry, offering new ways to engage with potential customers.

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