The Metaverse is rapidly emerging as an alternative tool for businesses in the travel and hospitality industry, offering new opportunities for advertising, immersive e-Commerce, and B2A marketing. As entrepreneurs and hotel operators begin to explore the possibilities of this new technology, it's crucial to understand if and how it can enhance the guest experience and drive loyalty. Together with the Polybius Evangelists, we created a list of possible real business use cases.
AR in Hospitality
One practical application of the Metaverse in the hotel industry is the ability to deploy digital, immersive overlays of information, new services, marketing, and guest experience enhancements to hotel, resort, or restaurant locations. This can be done through location-specific AR activations, allowing guests to access a wealth of information about the area around their hotel, including restaurants, shops, and transportation options.
Digital Twins and Meta-Communities
Another critical application is enabling pre- and post-stay digital twin experiences of a property or destination. Hotels that provide leisure stays should comprehend that the virtual experience should be used to enhance the existing physical experience, not to replace it. For example, hotels could offer a virtual tour to their guests before arrival to build their expectations and excitement. And a follow-up virtual experience after their stay to conclude their trip and "entice" them to book another one. The Metaverse also has the potential to drive utility, engagement, and loyalty through the design and deployment of immersive, persistent marketing and brand experiences as digital destination metaverse hubs, where loyal customers can congregate and interact with the brand or other guests. This can help hotel operators build deeper connections with their customers, foster a sense of community, and drive repeat business.
Another practical application of the Metaverse in the hotel industry is using avatars as native advertising. For example, Tommy Hilfiger partnered with Ready Player Me (the avatar company that allows Metaversians to use the same avatar in various worlds, such as Spatial.io, VRChat, or Somnium Space) and created free-to-mint avatar outfits, showcasing the brand across different metaverse platforms. They also launched a physical clothing line identical to the digital one so that people could wear the same outfits as their avatars. While the cost of creating virtual custom spaces remains high, metaverse advertising is a more feasible way to establish a presence in the Metaverse without over-investing. For example, Deliveroo's use of avatars dressed as food delivery drivers in Animal Crossing exemplifies native advertising in an immersive experience without the need to build anything. The "Infinite Loop Marketing" concept is also interesting, focusing on the seamless transition between virtual and real-world purchases.
The Right Metaverse?
With the "Datafication of Everything," that turns everything around us into data that can be collected, analyzed, and used to make decisions, and Immersive CommerceCommerce (iCommerce), the Metaverse has the potential to revolutionize the way we do business. It is crucial to pick the right platform, according to the company's nature. One m-world to keep an eye on is, of course, Horizon Worlds, which is expected to be released worldwide this year and will enable the creation of worlds with professional tools such as Blender and TypeScript. This will make it even easier to create digital twins of hotels, landmarks, and, more importantly, immersive experiences that allow customers to explore and connect with brands. Another platform is OVER, which enables businesses to digitize, create and publish geolocalized experiences by scanning their physical locations autonomously and with a smartphone.
Open and Closed Metaverses
It's important to differentiate between use cases related to the open Metaverse and those associated with the industrial Metaverse. The open Metaverse is a virtual reality that is open and accessible to everyone. In contrast, the industrial Metaverse is a virtual reality for specific purposes and is typically closed and only accessible to particular individuals or professionals. Examples of open metaverse use cases include marketing activations, real estate, events, and iCommerce. Examples of industrial metaverse use cases include training, simulation, and manufacturing. With many industries already delving into this revolutionary technology, now is the time to experiment and test. While it's still being determined how, when, and whether extended reality projects will converge and integrate to become the vision of the Metaverse, destinations have already started tracking it to improve sales and marketing strategies, enhance guest experiences, and create experiential marketing opportunities for travelers.
Some case histories
The synergy between tourism and the Metaverse is inextricable, as seen by the ability to create digital representations of real-world objects and environments, and virtual reality will be just one of the ways to access the Metaverse. One example of a brand utilizing the Metaverse is Millennium Hotels and Decentraland partnership, where they offered a virtual hotel experience for players to rest and relax in. Another example is MullenLowe Singapore's partnership with Millennium Hotels, launching M Social Decentraland, making it the world's first hospitality group to operate a hotel in the Metaverse virtual world. Disney is an excellent benchmark for destination marketing. Since December 2021, they have started filing patents for virtual simulators that can assist in creating virtual and augmented versions of their theme parks. In addition, Disney is integrating physical, digital, and virtual worlds with its MagicBand+ wrist device, allowing guests access to their favorite Disney pastimes. They also recently revealed a sheer interest in investing in the Metaverse and generating unique content for the simulated environment, naming it "the next great storytelling frontier."
Big tech companies, including Amazon and Microsoft, are already exploring their versions of the Metaverse. And smaller companies such as Equinox and Delta Reality are interested in working with tourist agencies to develop interactive and even game-like augmented, virtual, and mixed-reality content highlighting various destinations. YouVisit (EAB group) Virtual Tours help students explore and experience their campus from anywhere. Virtual billboards can be created within many platform, such as VRChat, to promote products and services. This can be especially effective in virtual worlds and gaming environments, where users are already engaged and looking for new experiences. For example, Gucci has teamed up with product and entertainment company Superplastic to create a limited series of collectible NFTs. Ralph Lauren sells clothing for avatars, and Nike makes NFTs that link to their real-world counterparts. That big-name fashion brands are selling digital-only clothing and accessories, following in the footsteps of gaming platforms that have sold similar items for many years, may point the way to opportunities for the broader business landscape. In B2A marketing, companies like AltspaceVR provide a platform for businesses to connect and network with other businesses in a virtual setting through virtual trade shows and networking events. Virtual training and education are other areas where the Metaverse can be a business opportunity. Companies like PIXO VR create virtual training and education programs for businesses, such as virtual classes and workshops.
In conclusion, the Metaverse presents a wide range of opportunities for businesses across different industry, including ours. It will take time for the it to take off. Still, even at embryonic stage, the Metaverse has the power to fundamentally alter travel and tourism and be a sought-after experience in itself.