Why the metaverse (really) matters for travel

Miafrica Metaverse for travel
December 25, 2022

After taking a fantastic trip to Venice last summer, my family and I decided to go back. This time, via the metaverse. We honestly couldn’t believe it. The experience was so realistic, with the ability to navigate around the city just like we did when we were there in person. And the metaverse can open our eyes to things we may have missed during a quick visit by allowing infinite time to explore on our own terms.

Virtual tourism experiences like this probably come to mind first when you think about the metaverse for the travel industry. After all, discovering the world in a digital manner is transformative for people whose opportunities to travel are limited by physical, economic or political boundaries—the metaverse can bring such people together to share new experiences. But as profound as this is, virtual tourism is only one of many reasons the metaverse matters in Travel.

Welcome to the future of travel

The metaverse is the next defining moment for the Travel industry and also MICE. We see the metaverse as a continuum that spans the spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities and business models.  It applies across the business, from consumer to worker, and across the enterprise, from reality to virtual and back; from 2D to 3D; and from cloud and AI to extended reality, blockchain, digital twins, edge technologies and beyond. The travel industry can reimagine how people experience travel in new ways.

From the dot-com boom of the ’90s that built an Internet of Data to the rise of social with the Internet of People in the 2000s and the Internet of Things in 2010s, the metaverse signals the next wave of digital transformation as an Internet of Place (shared virtual experiences) and Internet of Ownership (verifiable digital identities). Leaders should begin today to prepare for how to create opportunities with the metaverse.

Most travel leaders we surveyed as part of our annual Accenture Technology Vision executive survey are beginning to consider the possibilities of the metaverse. Fifty-three percent of Travel executives state that the metaverse will have a positive impact on their organizations, with 25% expecting a breakthrough or transformational impact. Even in the early days of the metaverse, I think this percentage will grow fast.

The metaverse in Travel isn’t simply about cool games, fun avatars, and branded exploration. It can generate breakthrough value for stakeholders and the business—including new revenue streams. Today is just the beginning, but the metaverse has the potential to change every aspect of every business, revolutionizing the customer experience, how work is done, what products and services companies make and distribute, and how they operate their organizations.

There’s something here for everyone

Relevant to all travel stakeholders and segments, the metaverse will operate as an enhancement of today’s world for customers, employees, and investors in aviation and hospitality. The opportunity to “try before you buy” appeals to business and leisure travelers, as well as to travel and event planners who can explore locations in advance without the time, money and hassle that often goes along with pre-screening.

The metaverse can also offer new ways of engaging with customers, including integrating 3D games on a cruise ship and providing new services such as connecting with guests between sailing trips. Through virtual spaces in the metaverse, customers can explore room configurations and ship enhancements, and engage with the brand in new ways.

Hotels will find value in streamlining the guest experience through the metaverse as a one-stop-shop for guests to access anything from purchasing entertainment to meeting logistical needs. This could include booking theater tickets through a virtual concierge, adding room upgrades and amenities, and airport transfers.  

Airlines will use the metaverse to enhance existing tech to streamline operations by enabling immersive engineering, driving faster aircraft repair and increased efficacy with collaborative design capabilities and test simulations of a metaverse-based digital twin.

Across the enterprise, it can also enhance employee experiences. I am so excited to be part of a company has brought on 150,000 new hires into the metaverse on their first day as part of their new joiner experience through Accenture’s The Nth floor. For global companies like ours, imagine how they can create an inclusive onboarding and training experience, visiting different office spaces where colleagues across many different cultures can meet without the barriers of physical borders or time zones.

The art of the possible is already…possible

There are so many possibilities because the metaverse is so expansive, and the time is now to create the world you want to live and do business in. As these developments challenge our basic assumptions about technology and business, we must ensure the metaverse is designed with responsibility at the core. It’s time to build and shape the worlds of tomorrow.

The Metaverse Continuum is already transforming travel companies in five ways, changing…

  1. How travel businesses interact with customers. When Millennium Hotels and Resorts opened M Social Decentraland, the company became the first hospitality group to open a hotel in the metaverse. The virtual hotel blends real and virtual experiences in ways designed to intrigue and engage. Guests can tour the hotel, which resembles real-world Millennium properties, with an avatar. Anyone who takes the tour can win surprises in the physical world.
  2. What products and services travel companies offer. A virtual reality pioneer in the travel industry, Emirates is launching what it’s calling “signature metaverse experiences” for customers. It is also developing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) both for utility and collectible purposes. As part of its commitment to innovation, the airline also repurposed its pavilion at Expo 2020 into an innovation center focused on NFT, metaverse and Web3-related initiatives.
  3. How travel companies get work done. To improve its aircraft turnaround time, KLM began offering their cleaning crew virtual fleet tours on an iPad using a VR headset to familiarize them with each cabin. Opting for immersive 360° images instead of the standard 2D rendering on a sheet of paper increased overall efficiency, allowing staff to finish cleaning 15 minutes ahead of schedule and free of errors. After a successful test run, the airline now uses this technology for all cabin crew and caterers.
  4. How travel companies make and distribute products and services. Disney has marked its foray into the metaverse, viewing it as a natural “canvas” that extends its strong storytelling legacy and provides a new way to deliver experiences at its global theme park and resort properties. The beloved travel destination and entertainment giant has appointed its first-ever senior vice president for Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experiences.
  5. How travel companies operate their organization. Through virtual reality simulations, MGM Resorts is giving prospective hires a flavor of what customer service roles are like. This is part of an effort to attract new talent, differentiate the brand and give people a realistic sense of what to expect. The company is also incorporating virtual reality into employee training partly to help its people get comfortable working through difficult client interactions.

Credit: Accenture by Fannelie Gerard (MANAGING DIRECTOR – STRATEGY & CONSULTING, TRAVEL)

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