A new survey by online travel agency Booking.com has suggested tourists are interested in leveraging the metaverse to inspire their next vacation.
The survey, which posed questions of 24,179 travellers in 32 countries, found that 43% were keen to use virtual reality to inspire their choices; while almost half (46%) said they were more likely to travel to a destination they otherwise wouldn’t have, providing they could experience it virtually beforehand.
Perhaps the most interesting finding was that 35% of travellers indicated they would happily embark upon a multi-day AR or VR travel experience. Unsurprisingly, those most likely to sample travel experiences in virtual reality were Gen Z (45%) and Millennials (43%).
The news comes just days after the publication of a report focusing on the metaverse market in travel and tourism, which is expected to grow by $188.24 billion between 2021 and 2026. Over this period, augmented reality will account for the highest market share growth, due to the “increasing use of AR-infused navigation for technological destination tours and the growing application of AR to improve local transit.”
Imagining the Future of Travel
Evolving mixed reality (a combination of AR/VR) technologies give rise to the prospect of unforgettable virtual holidays, including to locales that might otherwise be off-limits due to expense or logistical difficulties.
And if you’re sceptical about the life-like experiences that might be enjoyed in the metaverse, you obviously haven’t seen the hyperrealistic depiction of Dutch capital Amsterdam in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
As we wrote back in October, “Watching those Amsterdam scenes on a laptop screen is pretty cool. But imagine the scene in the metaverse, and being able to navigate those iconic cobbled streets and scenic waterways using a VR headset.”
In June, Pew Research Center and Elon University’s “Imagining the Internet Center” showed that several scientists think we will be enjoying travel to exotic and fun locales in a digital simulacrum of the planet by 2040. Given what we already know about the metaverse, that seems like quite a tame projection. After all, major players in the tourism sector are already busy experimenting in this area. Celebrity Cruises, for example, just launched its own virtual experience – the Wonderverse – which lets would-be cruisers “see before they sail.”
The Wonderverse, a collaboration with metaverse platform-as-a-service startup Surreal Events, gives travellers the opportunity to explore one of its newest vessels, Beyond, attend shows and visit destinations the ship sails to, such as Alaska and the Caribbean. There are also plenty of mini-games and activities to enjoy, and you can chat to Celebrity’s president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo in the multi-level Grand Plaza.
While it is probably fanciful to imagine that people will replace real holidays with virtual ones, perhaps tourists will eventually choose to do both, saving VR for specific destinations that might otherwise be prohibitively expensive or unworkable. Of course, there’s also the possibility that VR will give us the chance to explore lush environments that don’t even exist here on Earth, widening our horizons altogether.