Metaverse and Virtual Reality are seen as “real opportunities for territory and experience discovery”.
Staying in a hotel from the living room or skiing down a ski slope without having to put on your skis: Tourism and hospitality professionals are increasingly interested in the possibilities that new technologies offer to interact with their customers.
“The first reflex is to see something new as a threat. But these are actually real ways of discovering areas and experiences, especially when the client is in the imagination of their trip,” said Vanguelis Panayotis, President of MKG Consulting, a French expert in the tourism sector.
Experts might fear that some of the potential travelers in the future would prefer to dive near the Great Barrier Reef or visit the Taj Mahal via a virtual reality helmet. In fact, the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption. And the general reflection on the harmful effects of Tourism on people and the environment in the most popular travel destinations can encourage people to travel less.
Offer new opportunities
Gilles Maillet, Director of Travel, Travel and Mobility at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, does not share this fear: on the contrary, he felt the Metaversum at the Food Hotel Tech Show in Paris on June 7th and 8th, according to his statements professionals new opportunities.
Entering the metaverse is now a reality for Dutch hotel chain CitizenM, which opened its first establishment on The Sandbox in March.
“Right now this is a learning phase to understand what a customer-centric experience can look like in an increasingly digital world. But we think experience can live alongside what we do in the real world, not compete with it. This can allow us to interact with our audience just as much as we do in the real world,” a spokesman for the group told AFP.
Virtual Reality at Club Med
Club Med (holiday club stays around the world) relies on virtual reality: since 2017, customers have been able to visit the club with their helmet on before booking. More recently, the group ran a communication campaign by outfitting several influencers with Ray-Ban Stories glasses, designed with Meta, to film themselves on the slopes near their clubs in the Alps.
In addition, “we are using a new tool that allows indoor and outdoor visits at different times of the year and at different times of the day for our customers who want to purchase chalets in our new project,” explains Club Med.
An immersive visualization that allows “calming and accelerating decisions” and that sticks to the development of habits: “Previously, 80% of our sales were made face to face”, but since using this visualization “half is done away.
hybridization of experiences
However, these uses remain anecdotal at the industry level, even if “all hotel chains are working to bring the real and virtual worlds together,” assures Julien Maldonato, Financial Industry Consulting Partner at Deloitte. Because the opportunities are important, according to professionals who envisage a hybridization of experiences, real and online, that would allow travelers to live their stay differently.
“We can consider gear that will allow us to go where we didn’t want to go. For example, plan a stay on the Red Sea or a Nile cruise and visit the pyramids in virtual reality, with sensory sensors for sound environment and smells,” explains Vanguelis Panayotis.
Or offer customers a complete experience through a digital replica of the hotel, who “could interact in the digital version to order services, visualize the spa before going there, or the sandwich before ordering it. The hotel might be better off selling and promoting other products and services, Mr. Maldonato estimates.
The hotel industry could thus reestablish a direct connection to customers, which is currently being monopolized by booking platforms. “This Web 3.0 poses a serious risk of intermediation for the big platforms”, believes Vincent Maldonato, with “more freedom” for customers and “a more direct relationship for hotels and even closer”. “The most powerful platforms are already thinking about how to further develop their craft,” he says.
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