It’s been a long day. You’ve been hassled by customers all day long, your lunch was bland, the drive home was lame, and you are just tired – you need a vacation! Since you’re short on funds you decide to try the next best thing – a VR (virtual reality) simulation tour of the top destination on your bucket list. The possibilities are endless. The future of travel is slowly pivoting towards virtual reality experiences as the Metaverse leads the way. As this new phenomenon continues to grow, how might the travel and tourism industry be impacted by Meta’s proprietary venture?
We are increasingly witnessing the large amounts of investing and development that companies are placing on this revolutionary technology, suggesting that it is here to stay and could have eventual tolls on travel as we know it. Meta, previously known as Facebook, created the newly developing “Metaverse,” an immersive environment where one can explore anything and everywhere in the comfort of their home by means of a 3D headset. The concept of VR causes the participant to physically feel like they are in the location, either literal or imaginary. While this may sound like something straight out of the show “Black Mirror” or “The Twilight Zone,” it is certainly real and evolving rapidly causing many to believe it to have implications on travel and tourism.
While it may not be an instantaneous shift from traditional travel to the Metaverse, it isn’t incommensurable to envision a future where the Metaverse replaces or tanks travel entirely. Considering the exorbitant costs associated with travel, purchasing a headset and the various experiences that go with it may be better suited for those interested in travelling on a budget. One could likely see a dozen destinations via the Metaverse in the time it would take to travel to one destination traditionally.
Some people live their entire lives without exploring the world because it can often be challenging, stressful, and costly. The Metaverse would allow people to experience the same sights and sounds, but skip the headache of booking flights, waking up early, and dragging luggage around. Imagine having the capability to continue to travel amidst the worldwide shutdowns in 2020. Not to mention, some travel destinations that are notoriously deemed unsafe could be seen without leaving your comfort zone. Hey, history buffs may even add supplemental informational materials to their experience, saving on those pesky tour guide fees. It’s no doubt, if the Metaverse succeeds, the travel industry will really have to evolve and adapt in order to keep up, or they will inevitably suffer.
Given the popularity and progression of technology, it isn’t farfetched to think people would opt entirely for a VR travel experience over the real thing. We are already seeing the constant tech immersion with gaming and social media, so is it that much harder to envision people spending even more time with their electronics than they already do?
On the other hand, some may argue that VR will never be as good as real travel because it does not indulge all of the senses. Eating, after all, is many people’s favorite activity while traveling. While it may be a while until sensory overload is achieved in the Metaverse, if ever, the VR experience can complement travel and tourism in many ways rather than threaten it. Some positive implications that VR can have on travel would be trying out the experience before booking the trip. Or you may travel to Italy via the Metaverse and decide you have to see it in person next. This would lead to more bookings for the industry and a heightened interest in world exploration.
Ultimately, the implications of the Metaverse are unpredictable until the public reacts with it on a larger scale. VR gives us a chance to interact with new people, discover cultures, and see places from new perspectives. Travel is truly one of the greatest pleasures in life, so whether it is experienced in a simulation or physically, having a fun and accessible option is an exciting idea to look forward to.