With the grand unveiling of the Apple Vision Pro, as well as the previous PSVR2 and Meta Quest 3 news, it’s time once again to look at what’s possible (and what’s practical) for the next-generation internet. While an article could solely focus on the metaverse applications – that is, the use of AR, VR and MR interoperable digital spaces – to enhance wellness, we rope in web3 and blockchain technologies here because there’s many interesting overlaps.

Undoubtedly there is some skepticism about the applicability of these two emerging fields for hotels, especially in the near-term where so many tech tasks take precedence. This is why we have focused this discussion specifically on wellness, a space where hotels are already excelling at adding more value to the guest experience and where there’s still tremendous potential.

What we also emphasize with the intersection of web3, metaverse systems and wellness, is to consider what economists call induced (or latent) demand. It isn’t just about developing a hotel in the metaverse or upgrading the spa to capture more of the current total addressable market (TAM) relative to the comp set; it’s about understanding that as these fields mature, access to more robust out-of-the-box solutions will emerge and prices will drop, consequently leading to an increase in customer demand. The pie will get larger, as they say.

With respect to induced demand, first consider Apple Vision Pro’s visionOS. This spatial operating system will likely serve a similar role as the original app store, enabling developers to make progressively more useful tools purpose-built for Apple’s mixed reality headset, in turn opening more doors to further development and newer applications for all metaverse devices – a virtuous circle. Analogously, as wellness techniques become more mainstream and scientifically proven to be beneficial for one’s health, more practitioners and researchers will enter the field, leading to more access and newer discoveries that will further propel more interest.

Alas, these are mere predictions and, to be our own devil’s advocate, no one really knows which way the wind will blow. Nevertheless, by ideating all the possibilities, it will help hotels to narrow the field down to the probabilities.

Next-Generation Loyalty & Rewards

Blockchain-based tokens are often proposed as a way to take hotel loyalty or rewards programs to new heights, with the key advantages of reduced administration costs and points interoperability that will boost perceived value through the creation of secondary, market-making exchanges for these points. Regardless of the data piping that allows guests to earn or redeem, though, the program is only as good as the hotels and offers behind it.

Wellness offerings can enter the picture here because they encourage significant ancillary spend and work to fulfill the desire for experiential travel, all of which can be made more conveniently accessible to customers on the loyalty platform through tokenization that can seamlessly convert between local currencies and different property management systems. Moreover, think about third-party, non-hotel wellness businesses that may have their own loyalty programs where web3-governed interchangeability can synergize cross-selling for your hotel from their customer base. Finally, wellness offers might also bundle perks in the metaverse, all of which can be tokengated via NFTs for lower cost administration.

Mixed Reality Wellness Onboarding

As demand for hotel wellness products grows, what becomes the rate-limiting step is not price or facility costs per se, but access to skilled labor. Just as many other roles can hire for passion then train for skill, this rule can also apply to wellness-oriented recruitment processes, but some of the procedures are so specific that onboarding time then becomes a challenge.

Where all the fancy metaverse-related tech comes into play is by offloading much of the training from live sessions or shadowing, allowing rookies to train virtually and on their own time. As the sensing hardware gets more advanced and cheaper, this opens the doors for AI or remote-human-assisted tactile guidance and testing for all SOPs. Furthermore, because we live in the age of information access and not necessarily information retention, having a library of AR or VR tutorials can help with rapid onboarding just prior to the service delivery. Call it bite-sized learning, as enabled and gamified by cutting edge tech. This becomes especially important when hotels attempt to cross-train across departments as an incentive to retain good team members through continuing education.

Exercise & Physiotherapy

On the guest-facing side of mixed reality, movement tracking and working out in a digital environment are the obvious applications, especially with the growth of wellness-secondary travel broadly defined as people wanting to stay active while traveling for other purposes. Again, labor challenges dictate that the best way to do this at scale is through on-demand exercise programming where guests can work out from their rooms or the gym while being personally guided by AI or remotely by a trainer.

While there will be many direct-to-consumer services that specialize in the above for in-home fitness, differentiating a hotel brand will come through access to top-tier practitioners educated in various schools of physiotherapy or bodily alignment. A foremost scenario where MR tech can help is by reconnecting a guest with the same instructor across multiple properties within a brand.

For instance, a guest develops a rapport with a physiotherapist at a branded resort on one Caribbean island, then is able to get a virtual reassessment by that same physiotherapist when visiting another resort in the same brand, with in-person assistance from another practitioner for a hybrid, value-added experience. And on the note of hybrid, on-prem trainers might use an AR-guided AI for more precise body tracking and exercise recommendations, where this aspect is already showing lots of promise in sports training.

Web3 Fractional Ownership

All these futuristic opportunities to use next-gen tech to enhance your wellness programming are nothing without the capital to get them started. While fractional ownership as a means of fundraising can be completed without putting everything on the blockchain, the key advantages of web3 include reducing administration costs via smart contracts, increased asset tradability as an incentive for purchase and the establishment of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) for voting rights on future project direction.

Applying tokenization to fractional ownership can be quite complex, both algorithmically and legally. There’s no avoiding those challenges, but one source of trepidation that can be overcome is the misperception of cryptocurrencies as having extremely volatile values. To escape this, an ownership token need not be diluted down to an amount designed for everyday transactions, but kept in the five-to-six figure range which will limit total subscriptions and ensure the DAO remains ‘thoughtful’ with its balloted decisions (or multipronged decisions which can involve quadratic voting).

Virtual World Previsualization

Here’s where the term ‘try before you buy’ enters the picture. That is, the more a customer interacts with a product beforehand, the more likely they are to make the purchase. Imagine setting up a lifelike digital twin of your wellness facilities that guests can access via a portal as part of the prearrival upselling process, allowing them to tour the spaces but also preview select treatments. Such twins might also integrate with a tokenized loyalty or rewards program from the previous use case.

Then on the management side, virtual renderings of wellness spaces can aid in modeling a new build or renovation. Drafting software to generate floorplans will still be needed, but digital twins help to reduce costs by allowing decision makers to better envision how the space will work so that consensus is achieved faster and there are fewer corrections needed later on in the development process.

Mixed Reality Experiences

To close out, the key obstacle that hotels will face when trying to grow new sources of revenue beyond increasing ADRs will come down to labor supply in order to render services complete. Applying a hybrid approach that aids existing teams through immediate access to tutorials or remote AR guidance can then help with other wellness-oriented experiences like cooking classes, aromatherapy, sound therapy or guided mindfulness sessions.

While many of these examples may seem impractical for today, overall the point here is to show the wide range of possibilities that together will drive more consumer acceptance of next-generation technologies like blockchain and the metaverse, which will then inevitably increase access to vendors that can turn these hypotheticals into fully realized profit centers. It’s often hard for humans to evaluate exponential trends where the principle of induced demand throws current TAM estimates under the bus, so for now just follow the news and develop a strategic approach for when the time is right.

Larry Mogelonsky
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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