While it may seem that the novel coronavirus pandemic has completely taken reign of our minds, and other news headings have grappled for our common attention rather fruitlessly, some exceptions still apply. An example is the supposed rise of the metaverse. Is it a new step towards making humans go digital? Or is it the beginning of the end instead? Opinions range wildly, but it seems like the middle ground is found when speaking about the degree of metaverse’s influence – both futurists and skeptics agree that it would be substantial. But what about travel and tourism specifically? Will Meta’s creation spur a change in the industry?
It seems so, at least according to some experts. The pandemic has got us accustomed to the so-called “phygital” world. Increasingly, many aspects of our lives take place in online realities – everything from working to talking to friends and family, from gaming to ordering food can now be done virtually, and the (rich) world seems to enjoy it dearly. Why should travel be different?
Spoiler alert – it really is not. Even before covid-19, virtual tourism was picking pace, offering consumers a much wider variety of options than what was accessible to them in reality. The rise of the metaverse technology offers even more perks, for example, the “try before buy” feature letting the future holiday-goers experience their hotel room or a business class flight before the day arrives and make an informed decision on whether they want to buy it. Moreover, several airline companies like Boeing are working with immersive 3-D engineering designs to build the production of airline services under a single digital ecosystem.
The rising climate change concerns also seem to work in favor of metaverse. Genuinely preoccupied with the state of the environment and painfully aware of the large amounts of CO2 emissions their Los Angeles – Bali flight is responsible for, many travelers, especially the younger generations, start to look for alternatives to traditional tourism. Being digital natives, they might as well consider a metaverse at their fingertips a viable, if not exceedingly attractive, option.
How would this impact the industry stakeholders? It is hard to know for sure, as the technology is still in quite an early stage of development, but it is possible grand labor changes will be due, should it begin to gain traction. However it might end, one thing is certain – the travel and tourism industry has had to adapt itself to unprecedented challenges over the past couple of years but, for what it is worth, this might have been just the beginning.