How the Metaverse Could Change the Travel Industry

October 31, 2022 Mihaela Lica Butler

The metaverse offers tremendous possibilities for applications within the travel industry; however, user adoption is not there yet. Furthermore, it will take time for this emerging trend to take off because it depends widely on VR technology and headsets.

To put things into perspective, there were only 16.44 virtual reality (VR) headsets worldwide in 2021, which will probably surpass the 34 million mark by 2024. But when you compare these statistics with a global population of 8.0 billion, you realize that the market penetration of VR headsets is slow. However, the metaverse market will reach $800 billion by 2024, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.

VR headset pricing may play a role in this slow evolution: the least expensive high-end virtual reality headsets are around $150, while the most expensive can reach more than $1000. Moreover, most VR headsets require powerful PCs or gaming consoles, which are costly, too.

Low-quality experiences make no sense in the metaverse. Still, for smartphone users, they are more affordable. For example, Google Cardboard VR headsets can be as inexpensive as $8.95 and work on Android 4.1+ and the latest iOS smartphones.

Still, despite being in its infancy and facing tech and adoption hurdles, the metaverse can be a game changer in the not-so-far future. And while right now, the metaverse only allows for sound and visual interaction, the expansion of 5G technology may lead to multisensory, fully immersive experiences.

Metaverse Applications for Travel and Tourism

Although the metaverse is not adopted at scale, forward-thinking hotel brands and other hospitality businesses already have a foot in the game. We can already see how the metaverse could change the travel industry from these applications.

Marriott Bonvoy partnered with artists TXREK, JVY, and Erick Nicolay in December 2021 to create three non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are blockchain-based tokens that each represent a unique asset - Marriott Bonvoy's case digital art, inspired by the company's Power of Travel campaign - an "interpretation of travel from the artists' unique experiences, illustrating how travel has an unmistakable impact on the human spirit."

citizenM bought LAND in The Sandbox to build a hotel in the metaverse. The hotel will then feature an exclusive collection of digital art NFTs with real-world rewards attached.

Pixlr Genesis is a decentralized art museum of NFTs - the first art-based metaverse in the world. And to put things into perspective as to how valuable NFTs (although they come only as digital items) can get, Artnet reported that "The Merge" by digital artist Pak sold for $91.8 million in December 2021 on Nifty Gateway, a digital art online auction platform for NFTs.

Some hotels already encourage guests to make hotel bookings in the metaverse on platforms like Navitaire and SkyNav.

Mytaverse offers immersive metaverse 3D multiplayer experiences with excellent solutions for business travellers: virtual spaces for meetings, events, showrooms, coworking spaces, and much more. The company wants to make business travel obsolete by eliminating hassles like jet lag, airport security checks, costly flights, etc.

Ariva Wonderland is a travel metaverse game - a blockchain-based tourism world - where users can create avatars and travel to virtual cities and through time, earn cryptocurrencies, buy NFTs, own property, construct tourism centres, and interact with other users in real-time.

Google Earth VR helps travellers discover destinations worldwide before they plan their trips and book real-world tickets. Virtual experiences like these may also inspire future in-person travel plans. Travelers can decide what to see and do during their real-world vacation, what hotel to book, etc.

The see-before-you-go advantage offered by the metaverse can lead to savings, less planning stress, and a clearer overview of the destination for all the participants in the journey. The virtual experience will also present the destination and its attractions in 3D with precise details, unlike images, videos, or promotional travel brochures.

Are Travelers Ready for the Metaverse?

As already pointed out, the metaverse is not ready for wide adoption because of technology constraints (software but also 5G network) and the cost of headsets and PCs capable of offering a high-definition experience. But there are also other factors that keep users at bay.

Cheaper VR Technology

Credit: Morning Consult

Morning Consult surveyed 4,420 U.S. adults and identified data privacy and cyberbullying among the most significant concerns keeping the public out of the metaverse. Here are some key findings where the numbers represent major concerns for the users:

  • 55% of respondents were concerned about tracking and misuse of their personal data;
  • online abuse and cyberbullying concerned 44% of the survey participants;
  • 39% of the people care about personal safety in the metaverse;
  • 38% of the respondents worried about sexual abuse;
  • impacts on mental health were worrisome for 35% of the participants;
  • while 29% feared motion sickness from the VR headsets.

Add to these statistics the impact on the environment due to energy consumption that bothered 28% of the respondents, and you get the whole picture.

The interest in the metaverse could be low because travellers are not yet familiar with it. Perhaps travel companies that already have a presence in the metaverse should step up their marketing efforts to promote their VR offerings where the travellers are (for example, social media) instead of just issuing press releases picked up by specialty publications.

Whether travellers are ready or not, the potential metaverse applications for the travel industry are endless. There are no doubts that the metaverse will play an essential role in the future of travel.