According to Bloomberg, the virtual reality segment of the stock market will be worth $800 billion by 2024. However, as we journey to this virtual new world, we’ve discovered a hybrid, where the our current interactions with the metaverse are composed of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) experiences, activated through smartphones and other devices.
With 74% of Americans interested in the metaverse, travel and tourism businesses are quite rightly taking note. Major players like Qatar Airways and Disney are already using VR and AR to optimize processes, boost tourism, offer immersive customer experiences. Qatar Airways launched their virtual QVerse last year to provide virtual tours to customers, complete with the world’s first MetaHuman cabin crew, while Disney debuted its first-ever augmented reality (AR) movie.
VR and AR are paving the way to the metaverse, and many in the hospitality industry are already along for the ride. So, how can those keen to conquer this new frontier begin to make their mark?
Experiential Is Here
For businesses that want to differentiate themselves and add value to their customers, a video tour no longer sufices. Hospitality marketing is now experiential. If sales is about solving someone’s problem, VR and AR have arrived to take things to the next level.
Want people to book their conference at your venue? Then help them leave the guess work behind with a 3D conference configurator. A VR or AR tour in this instance has become a sales enablement tool, designed as a digital twin for potential customers to fully immerse themselves into the experience of hiring your conference venue. No longer would a planner have to travel to better understand the logistics of how 3,000 people might flow through a venue. Digital tools now mean they could run simulations on how to avoid congestion in hallways in between talks.
Creative uses of VR and AR are helping people to better understand exactly what they’re buying. Luxury yachts are another example of where AR boat-building tools are enabling the consumer to make more informed decisions before making significant purchases. In the case of yachts, the process of selling might not differ greatly from 2D materials, but the customer’s challenge of styling their boat is more effectively solved. Businesses can then leverage immersion and engagement to drive more word of mouth customer acquisition
Facing (Virtual & Augmented) Reality
When you learn of Van Gogh’s tragic backstory, does it make his art more meaningful? While the answer will be different for everyone, for many, it’s definitely value added. For others, VR experiences included in the digital exhibitions of Van Gogh’s work have been much welcomed. The increasingly popularity over the last few years indicate that a fresh way to engage is much sought-after.
VR and AR experiences are providing an immersive layer for users to get more out of their experiences. In hospitality and the travel and tourism industries, this doesn’t mean replacing but rather enhancing guest experience. Cities, hotels, and businesses that enable their customers to have fun and engaging encounters during their stay are more likely to generate higher revenues, see a return customer, and maybe even have that customer refer a friend.
Through smartphones, tablets, and other digital displays, the virtual world is coming within reach and helping us diver deeper into what we already have. Compared to a busy tour with a hard-to-hear operator, a self-guided AR tour of a city or museum, complete with interactive educational elements, could be preferential for a family with young children, for example.
So, How Do We Get There?
Getting ready for the metaverse starts with first identifying the small steps you need to get there that can also put you ahead of the competition. The most successful VR and AR adopters don’t try to use these new technologies in every facet of their business, but rather see how they can solve specific problems.
Embracing the metaverse will require being practical. Whether you’re selling conferences or yachts, creating 3D assets of your product will help you step confidently into the metaverse. Many product companies within the hospitality industry will already have CTA files they can convert in a 3D asset, while the service industry already has an abundance of training materials that can be used.
With 3D assets in place, you can start to explore creative applications of digital technologies. However, businesses should be wary of trusting any tech-provider that sell themselves as the big thing. Learning from the Google Glasses that never really took off to social media platforms like Snapchat and Vine that fell out of popularity. Businesses considering new tech or software should definitely conduct thorough market research before investing too heavily in an idea.
It’s hard to know yet if we’ll reach the metaverse, or where our travels may lead us. But, as they say, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that counts. The only thing that will matter for businesses in the hospitality industry, is to be buckled up for the ride.
About the Author
Jason is an experienced entrepreneur and digital marketing professional with over 13 years of experience as the owner and operator of Bonsai Media Group, serving top brands such as Samsung, Amazon, Supra Boats, and CTG. He is the Founder and CEO of Social Bee, a travel AR app that combines elements of Pokemon Go and Trip Advisor to enhance the travel experience. Jason is also a leader in developing in-person digital experiences (IPDEs), including 3D product configurators, AR apps, and branded scavenger hunts, for clients worldwide. He provides valuable insights and strategies for brands seeking to become metaverse ready.