Travel, travel (to the metaverse)

“Let’s be clear, the metaverse can never be a substitute for tourism.said Sophie Lacour, head of the Innovation Tourism Lab chair at Esthua (University of Angers). But it could be a very interesting addition. » An opinion shared by tourism professionals. “The metaverse could be an evolution of the market, but it can’t replace the travel experience, at least not in my life”said Tariq Al Mutawa, Thailand’s country manager for airline Emirates.

The latter created a virtual reality experience compatible with the Oculus Meta headset. Anyone can – for free – board business class, discover the interior of the cockpit of an airplane and “experience the luxury of service with 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 offering also allows, much faster, to visualize with precision its seating area thanks to a 3D rendering of the cabin.

Emirates A380 business class bar tour.© Emirates

“Apparently, the metaverse is against travelpoint by Max Starkov, American tourism consultant. Traveling is about pleasing your five senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing and sight. At best, the metaverse allows you to experience two: hearing and sight. So how will 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 the French Accord team is currently exploring with Microsoft. Finally, to explore very distant or now 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, smells, people, a language… If you can’t visit a place like Machu Picchu in Peru or the Taj Mahal in India, you can imagine traveling there. However, when approaching, discover the historic site through a virtual reality headset or in 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 made with 11,000 consumers in 11 countries, it concluded 40% of those surveyed 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, conducted by Accenture in 35 countries with 24,000 respondents, confirmed this public interest for these virtual immersions.

A visit to Machu Picchu in the metaverse is possible.© Boca Raton Museum of Art

We discovered that 50% of people are interested in purchasing and travel experience such as hotel stay or metaverse activity. This number has risen further to 55% for millennia. On the other hand, it is only 29% for baby boomers. A trend that echoes the fact that 47% of French want to travel in a way that is more environmentally friendly, according to a study conducted 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 deficit, a tight budget or to avoid the fatigue of long trips when getting older we … The reasons for choosing virtual travel can be many.

More than “virtual tours”

“In my opinion, the metaverse doesn’t have to find its interest by visiting emblematic places in 3D, but rather to engage with the journey itself, assured Sophie Lacour. This will make it possible to create advanced websites, which will speed up the preparation of your trip by discovering the detail of the rooms in a hotel, the experiences on offer around the destination, and more. »

Concrete, a hotel – or a chain of hotels – will buy a space in a metaverse, whether at sea (virtual) or near a very busy place (nightclub, luxury brand store, etc. yet) to have access. “Like in real life, you have to choose the right location in the metaversesaid Sophie Lacour. The hotel needs to be redesigned by giving it the same look and by proposing the interior to be rebuilt in different varieties of rooms, restaurant area, lounge, and so on. And offer an overview of additional products, such as excursions. » In this space, the hotel will also be 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 more fun than receiving a promotional delivery”said Sophie Lacour.

The residence of the M Social virtual hotel in the metaverse of Decentraland.© Millennium Hotels

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. If he invites tourism specialists not to wait to try the metaverse, he urges them to limit their investments. “Today, it is still very expensive to start, because the technology is not yet fully developed. No doubt it will happen in five years, but not before. Then you have to choose which metaverse to focus on. 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 is on the line ahead in a few years. In the 1990s, we had Lycos and Club Internet. Who can predict Google and Facebook? »

He estimates it will take five to ten years for the mainstream metaverse to begin. “My advice is: go there and see. Place some marbles, like poker. Buy small land and make small investments in two or three metaverses, at the rate of 4,000 or 5,000 euros each. It would be great to understand how it works and do the first tests. »

Large front line group

Local players, such as the tourist office in Val d’Isère, have already bought the land. The ski resort offers itself a plot of the Next Earth metaverse. Spanish seaside resort Benidorm has created BenidormLand’s Steam online gaming platform, which will be accessible to 140 million users. But above all large tourism groups (airlines, hotel networks, reservation platforms), with huge 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 trips. “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 at someone’s house. people in another country.But it can be limited.he told the Skift Global Forum in the fall of 2021. His main concern is that these technologies can increase people’s feelings of loneliness as Airbnb seeks to bring people from different cultures closer together .

Marriotts, Hilton, Accor… large groups explore different possibilities in the metaverse. In early 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”, the brand said in a press release. You are welcomed by a virtual receptionist there and your avatar can interact with other people who are in the area. He can also attend events organized on the site and even spend the night there. The goal is “redefine modetraditional dHOSPITALITYe “ by making “New exciting 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 earn a Non Fungible Token, usually a work of digital visual art, proving their love of an experience, a building, a beach, and more. The city of Cannes recently tried it.

After the Cannes Film Festival doubled to Fortnite, the city auctioned off some of its legacies 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 mostly on the Artcurial website . About 330,000 euros were collected (including 50,000 euros just for the Palais des Festivals). Every lucky buyer receives digital representation of the area, but also a true 3 D model.

For the municipality, it is “a whole new way of spending on environmental and social actions”. Therefore, 10% of the amount collected was donated to the Cannes Endowment Fund for the development of environment -related projects. According to this principle, we can continue the NFT on 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.

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