“Let’s be clear, the metaverse will never be a substitute for tourism.said Sophie Lacour, head of the Innovation Tourism Lab chair at Esthua (University of Angers). But it will be a very interesting addition. » An opinion shared by tourism professionals. “The metaverse may be an evolution of the market, but it cannot replace the experience of travel, at least not in my lifetime”said Tariq Al Mutawa, country manager of Thailand for the airline Emirates.
The latter has developed a virtual reality experience that is compatible with the Oculus headset in Meta. Anyone can – for free – fly in business class, discover the interior of an airplane’s cockpit and “experience the luxury of service of a first class passenger”. The idea doesn’t appeal to you more than that, or even leaves you with a bitter taste in your mouth? The virtual offer also allows, more easily, to imagine with precision its seat area thanks to a 3D rendering of the cabin.
“Apparently, the metaverse is anti-travelpoint of Max Starkov, American tourism consultant. Traveling is all about pleasing your five senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight. At its best, the metaverse allows you to experience both: hearing and sight. So how does this affect tourism? One thing the metaverse and travel have in common is that both are social. »
He believed in three ways to unite the two worlds. On the one hand, through virtual and hybrid events, such as concerts. On the other hand, to facilitate professional meetings – one of the ways that the French Accord team is currently exploring with Microsoft. Finally, to explore far away or currently unreachable destinations. Such as an area closed to the public or whose access is particularly limited. In this regard, we can imagine completely virtual visits from under your couch or a more hybrid system, which still involves going to the country. “Tourism is a climate, a smell, people, a language… If you cannot visit a place like Machu Picchu in Peru or the Taj Mahal in India, you can imagine traveling there. But, when it’s close, discover the historical place through a virtual reality headset or an immersive room. We still enjoy the local atmosphere”said Sophie Lacour.
Virtual tourism, real interest
A study revealed by Dynata looks at the metaverse. title New Economic Experience and conducted with 11,000 consumers in 11 countries, it concluded that 40% of those questioned said they were interested in a virtual trip. 51% even said they were tempted by a virtual visit to a museum, art gallery or exhibition. Another survey, carried out by Accenture in 35 countries with 24,000 respondents, confirms this public interest for these virtual immersions.
We discovered that 50% of people are interested in buying a travel experience such as a hotel stay or activity in the metaverse. This number rises to 55% for millennials. On the other hand, it is only 29% for baby boomers. A trend that echoes the fact that 47% of French people want to travel in a more environmentally friendly way, according to a study carried out by Booking.com.
Because we don’t want to fly, because we want to stay in France during a pandemic, as a solution to a shortage, a tight budget or to avoid the fatigue of long trips when getting old we … The reasons for choosing virtual travel can be many.
More than “virtual tours”
“In my opinion, the metaverse does not need to find its interest by visiting emblematic places in 3D, but rather to intervene in the journey itself, Sophie Lacour assured. This will make it possible to create advanced websites, which will facilitate the preparation of your trip by discovering the details of the rooms of a hotel, the experiences offered around the destination, etc. »
Concretely, a hotel – or a chain of hotels – buys a space in a metaverse, if possible at sea (virtual) or near a very busy place (nightclub, luxury brand store, etc. pa) to have access. “Just like in real life, you have to choose the right location in the metaversesaid Sophie Lacour. It is necessary to remake the hotel by giving it the same look and by proposing the interior reconstruction of different types of rooms, restaurant area, lounge, etc. And offer an overview of additional products, such as excursions. » In this space, the hotel is also able to create, animate and manage its community by regularly offering events. “Attending a small concert in the metaverse to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of your last vacation is much more fun than receiving a promotional shipment”said Sophie Lacour.
It’s all still very virtual and imaginary. Even Sophie Lacour admits it. He advises Advanced Tourism, a company specializing in forecasting, artificial intelligence and robotics in the field of tourism. When he invited tourism specialists not to wait to try the metaverse, he urged them to limit their investments. “Today, it is still very expensive to start, because the technology is not fully developed. No doubt it will happen in five years, but not before. Then you have to choose which metaverse to target. There are 25 known, 150 moderately developed and a few thousand pointing at the tip of their nose. It’s hard to know who or where will be next in line in a few years. In the 1990s, we had Lycos and Club Internet. Who can predict Google and Facebook? »
He estimates that it will take five to ten years for the metaverse to start mainstreaming. “My advice is: go there and see. Place some marbles, like a poker. Buy a little land and make small investments in two or three metaverses, at a rate of 4,000 or 5,000 euros each time. It is very good to understand how it works and do the first tests. »
Large group on the front line
Local players, such as the Val d’Isère tourist office, are already buying land. The ski resort offers itself a plot in the Next Earth metaverse. The Spanish seaside resort Benidorm created BenidormLand on the Steam online gaming platform, accessible to 140 million users. But above all large tourism groups (airlines, hotel networks, reservation platforms), with large financial resources, will explore the many possibilities of virtual worlds.
Brian Chesky, the boss of Airbnb, however, remains realistic about the limitations of these virtual tours. “These digital experiences act as bridges for me. People can, through the metaverse, try Airbnb for $10 or $20. They can connect with a host without having to fly and stay in someone’s home person in another country.But this may be limited.he said at the Skift Global Forum in the fall of 2021. His main concern is that these technologies will increase people’s feelings of loneliness as Airbnb seeks to bring people from different cultures together. which is closer.
Marriotts, Hilton, Accor… large groups are exploring different possibilities in the metaverse. At the beginning of May, Singaporean chain Millennium Hotels opened M Social Decentraland, a first virtual hotel. “It sums up the essence of the M Social brand with an avant-garde lifestyle”, says the brand in a press release. A virtual receptionist welcomes you there and your avatar can interact with other people in the area. He can also attend the activities organized on the site and even spend the night there. The goal is “redefine modetraditional d‘HOSPITALITYe” by making “new floating experiences”.
The appeal of NFTs
If the metaverse is still in its infancy, NFTs, on the other hand, are already attracting tourism professionals. The idea is to offer resort lovers the opportunity to get a Non Fungible Token, usually a work of digital visual art, that proves their love for an experience, a building, a beach, etc. The city of Cannes recently tried it.
After the Cannes Film Festival doubled in Fortnite, the city auctioned off some of its heritage in the form of NFTs during the Cannes Lions Festival. The Boulevard de la Croisette, the Palais des Festivals, Port Canto, Sainte-Marguerite Island, the underwater eco-museum, Malmaison, the Old Port, Forville market, Le Suquet, Pointe Croisette and the Georges-Méliès campus are sold almost exclusively on the Artcurial website . About 330,000 euros were collected (including 50,000 euros just for the Palais des Festivals). Each lucky buyer receives a digital representation of the area, but also a real 3 D model.
For the municipality, it is “a new innovative way of financing environmental and social actions”. Therefore, 10% of the amount collected is donated to the Cannes Endowment Fund for the development of projects related to the environment. According to this principle, we can continue NFT with a trip to the Maldives, an excursion to the Svalbard Islands in northern Norway or a trip to Nepal… There is no doubt that it will attract tourists. A new factory of memories, in short.