We’ve all had that experience before: We finally go on a long-awaited trip with mounted expectations, only to find out on arrival that our destination looks a whole lot different. We decide to make the most of it and stay – but so does the disappointment. We wish we would have made different plans… yet here we are.
What if we could ‘try before we travel’ and get a glimpse into the envisioned experience beforehand?
Thankfully, the metaverse holds the door open for us to enter, allowing us to temper our expectations before we walk out of the door.
What travel use cases welcome us in the metaverse and what can we expect?
Let’s walk in and find out.
First things first, what is the metaverse exactly? The term ‘metaverse’ originated in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson as a blend of ‘meta’ and ‘universe’. The metaverse is frequently connected with users having control over a digital avatar, which is subsequently used to connect with other metaverse participants in a virtual world.
Fast forwarding to today, the metaverse has gained in popularity. A growing number of consumers are interested in making purchases via the metaverse. In fact, a survey performed by Accenture with more than 11,000 consumers across 16 countries revealed that 64% have already purchased a virtual product or enjoyed a virtual experience in the past year. The figure is expected to rise with 83% of consumers interested in making purchases via the metaverse.
It adds that 42% of consumers have visited a retailer in the virtual world to seek advice, make a purchase or explore products and 56% say they plan to.
And the metaverse has grabbed also the attention of the corporate world with 72% of global executives believing it will have a positive impact on their organizations, while 45% see it as a ‘breakthrough or transformational’, according to the Accenture Technology Vision 2022 report. 
As for travel, half of the surveyed consumers are indeed imagining buying or are interested in buying a travel experience such as a hotel stay or activity. More than half of this group (55%) is represented by millennials.
Discovering digital twinning
When we talk about the options that the metaverse offers, we need to talk about digital twinning too. But what is it about?
An example can be found in airports with the focus on maintenance and travel safety. Traditionally, information about everything that happens at an airport is largely available in the more advanced control centers. However, because the various elements are collected and presented independently, it can be difficult to see the overall picture and how all the elements interact. It can also be hard to generate a historical view to review how the airport previously handled disruption caused by bad weather, for example.
Now the digital twinning technology comes into the picture. It provides a status image, a virtual, three-dimensional replica of the airport. This virtual replica helps to identify and resolve issues but can also build ‘what if?’ scenarios to aid future planning.
With this technology, airports can create the operations control interface of the future, bringing together everything that’s happening. That includes arriving and departing aircrafts, the number of passengers involved, queue wait times, escalator operations, passenger satisfaction with restrooms, traffic flows at drop-off and pick-up, and much more.
Some airports, including New York’s La Guardia, are already employing digital twin technology for airport operations. SITA, the IT provider for the air transport industry, plans to roll out the technology.
The next stage in digital twinning at airports is to build in a view of what is going to happen. By feeding in flight information, weather data and other operational information, the airport can use its digital twin to predict what will happen at the airport next.
When it comes to corporate conferences, the Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel & Conference Center is partnering with RendezVerse to develop ‘digital twins’ of the hotel and conference center that will eventually live in the metaverse.
The venue is the largest self-contained hotel and meeting facility in Europe, with nearly 900 rooms and an auditorium that seats 2,000 people. About 75% of the hotel’s business comes from the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) events that it hosts.
The virtual 3D replicas give the opportunity to potential clients to visit the conference in the metaverse before they arrange an in-person visit as these can be time-consuming and costly, from the perspectives of both budget and sustainability.
The Madrid Marriott’s virtual spaces were launched in May at the M&I Spring Forum in Seville, Spain, where attendees were given VR headsets to ‘walk through’ the rooms built on RendezVerse’s RV360 platform. RendezVerse has also developed a token, Ngage, for transactions, loyalty and more.
Speaking of transactions and loyalty in the travel industry, businesses are exploring the metaverse as an option for reaching clients wherever they are, in addition to its social component. In fact, ancillary sales can be increased by using the metaverse technology to virtually show us the products and services we could buy.
Considering the long time that we have not traveled and that many are seeking inspiration while researching and rediscovering our flight options, the airline company Emirates has launched an airline virtual reality app that enables this. This app allows us to view facilities such as the first-class product, onboard lounge, the wider cabin and even the cockpit. The technology was developed in partnership with Renacen, with plans to update the content to include the airline's Premium Economy cabin as well as its latest A380 interiors.
The content can be accessed via the Emirates website, mobile app and most recently via headset. We can also view and select seats via a 3D seat map prior to check in using any VR headset. The carrier furthermore plans to enable us to explore destinations and book and pay for our flight from within the VR app.
Now that we are packed with some new inspiration and plans about where to go next, we are walking out of the metaverse and our own doors to get the real experience.
By allowing us to ‘try-before-you-travel’ and investigate parts of the destination which we haven’t explored yet in real-life, the metaverse can also help create a more meaningful travel experience that meets or even exceeds our expectations.
As more metaverse travel and tourism options develop, and as user adoption grows, the metaverse is likely to play a bigger part in the tourism industry, improving communication and the customer experience.
The metaverse is not intended to replace physical travel, it is to intensify a full experience. As the technology develops, it can become a more immersive, more emotionally powerful means to engage with us and build loyalty than other existing channels.
Like in the mentioned use cases, the option to sit in a virtual first-class seat, experience the lounge or walk around a hotel resort or room opens up opportunities for us to truly engage and get inspired before we actually start traveling.
As such, it could be a rich and interactive way for the travel industry to inspire us to buy, travel and go where we know we want to go. To avoid arriving somewhere disappointed and leaving a less-than-stellar review to never return to that destination again, we can use the metaverse to help set expectations for us in advance that can be met or even exceeded by the travel service providers in reality.
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Banner photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com
 Accenture Technology Vision 2022
 Hotels develop VR "twins" as first step into metaverse | Phocuswire.com