Everyone sees the Metaverse as a very important part of the technological future. For example, the Gartner consultancy predicted that by 2026, a quarter of the world’s population will spend at least one hour a day in the Metaverse to work, shop, study or simply entertain themselves.
In fact, the Metaverse is being driven by large companies such as Meta, Facebook’s parent company. In 2021, Meta spent $10 billion on its Reality Labs division, in charge of the metaverse project development.
A new world
As a result, tourism companies are exploring this new world of the Metaverse, seeking to offer new experiences to their customers and to develop alternative business models.
It is not about virtual travel replacing real travel, but about finding open pathways to grow within the Metaverse and become a pioneering sector.
Many destinations and tourist establishments can be integrated into the Metaverse to allow customers to preview what awaits them in the real destination before they travel physically: something similar to a virtual tour, but with the possibility of interacting in this digital world as if they were actually there.
Business trips can also take advantage of the Metaverse to complement or replace this type of travelling, allowing companies and organisers to save costs without reducing revenues, as business contacts are maintained within the virtual world.
Tourism and Metaverse
We are at an early stage in the relationship between the tourism sector and the Metaverse in which the basic links on which this relationship will develop are being created.
In the report carried out by Segittur and Turium, “The Metaverse and the Soul: Journey to the Next Tourism Challenge”, different experts analyse how the use of metaverses and their impact on the tourism sector can affect human beings and society.
In this text, the authors reflect on the present and future of this new technology both in general and in relation to tourism. This is a statement that shows a certain general feeling on the study:
“The metaverse in all its forms has enormous potential in education and tourism, opening up great opportunities. And, like any technology, it has its risks, which can only be prevented and reduced through good management and regulation of social use, just as there are laws to regulate coexistence in the real physical world”.
A new way of tourism
The potential of the metaverse is immense in all sectors, something that is clear to tourism, as was shown at the last edition of Fitur, where the Helixa community was launched, a virtual ecosystem for the exchange of knowledge and business that was born with the aim of becoming the epicentre of innovation in the field of the metaverse for Spain and Latin America.
This first step will take place at the Helixa Summit, a congress that will also take place at IFEMA at the end of the year, where knowledge and trends will be shared, and where the changes, challenges and opportunities faced by companies, in this case in any sector, will be discussed and analysed in the face of the revolution brought about by the new technologies of the meta-economic environment.
Spanish companies, especially those in the tourism sector due to its power and importance worldwide, are already exploring ways of working in the Metaverse, and some of them can already be enjoyed.
Tourism and Metaverse. Examples
Although this is an incipient relationship, which has only just taken its first steps, we can already see some of the results of this tourism-metaverse binomial, which is sure to bring great benefits to the sector.
- Cuenca and the Metaverse: Cuenca is the first World Heritage City in Spain and one of the first in the country with a presence in the Metaverse, following the launch of “Cuenca Land”, a virtual space promoted by the City Council that aims to serve as a tourism promotion tool. “Cuenca Land” recreates different spaces in the city’s Old Town, such as Plaza Mayor, San Pablo Bridge, Casa del Corregidor or Severo Catalina Street, through which the different avatars can move and interact.
Another example of a city that is taking the final steps to promote itself in the Metaverse is Benidorm, one of the great meccas of tourism, which will soon launch its Benidorm Land.
- Hotel Riu Plaza España: This hotel, located in Madrid, has opened in the metaverse, as an outpost of all that this virtual world can bring to the hotel sector in Spain. This five-star hotel can now be visited at AltSpace and offers elements that combine reality, such as the receptionist Michael or the views of Madrid from the rooftop, with spaces recreated using digital technology.
- The offering to the Virgin of Pilar: The pandemic prevented many festivities and traditions from taking place, including the offering to the Virgin of Pilar on 12 October. For this reason, in 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the Zaragoza City Council, together with the company Imascono, decided to create a metaverse of the Plaza del Pilar and the Ofrenda de Flores (Flower Offering), ofrendadeflores.com. At that time, 31 million hits were obtained from a project that has been growing, both in terms of visits and user options, as in its third edition it allows interactions with other users and the possibility of challenging family members and friends with the new mini-games scattered around the 3D space.
- Vueling: the airline Vueling is a pioneer in the sector in its development in the Metaverse. To this end, it has teamed up with Next Earth, and the Spanish shared mobility services start-up, Iomob, to open a sales channel in the metaverse. The idea is that these companies will work together to develop tools and services that enable “Next Earthians” to visualise and plan trips in the real world. From now on, users will be able to track carbon emissions and book “carbon-positive” transport through the complementary app Metaverse and Iomob.
These are examples of the great potential that the Metaverse can bring to the tourism sector, which is full of possibilities, as has been the case in recent years with all the technological proposals that have been added for the benefit of its customers.