TravelTech Show: 'Don't wait for the ribbon cutting to work out your presence in the metaverse'

TravelTech Show: 'Don't wait for the ribbon cutting to work out your presence in the metaverse'

Ahead of her keynote at the TravelTech Show in London this week, Meta head of industry Karlijn Vogel-Meijer tells Lee Hayhurst that all travel firms should be testing to work out what the metaverse will mean for them

All travel firms should be testing what they’re presence in the metaverse should be now, delegates at the TravelTech Show in London will be told this week.

Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, head of travel industry at Meta (formerly Facebook), is lined up to speak on the first day of the event this Wednesday (June 29).

She will say there won’t be any grand ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the official opening of the metaverse so firms should not wait before deciding what it means for them.

Vogel-Meijer, who previously worked for airline KLM as director of social media, said the metaverse is about “being present”.

“We [Meta] don’t own it, we are just one of the big players in it where you can actually be together with people and actually sense that you are together with people.

“This is a new virtual universe popping up where you are actually in it and you can feel that you are in this different environment. It is about presence, being present in there.

“The good thing is when everybody’s testing it out because it will, in a certain sense, change part of the travel journey.

“There will always be this combination of physical presence and virtual presence. I don’t believe it will take over travel as a whole, but it will offer additional facets.

“I believe, right now, it’s finding out what it’s all about. It is really about trying to understand what it means.

“There’s going to be no such moment when someone’s going to cut the ribbon and say ‘welcome to the metaverse’

“So the most important thing is to start testing, find out that if you create this environment who are the people that come, what are their experiences, how do they respond.

“Do they like it? Do they think it’s difficult to find? It’s more about that than it is, if I don’t do it, I won’t have a spot in the metaverse.

“The metaverse is so huge, we don’t know where the boundaries are. I don’t think there are any limits.

“It’s more about how do you want to position yourselves and what does it actually means for your existing customers or new customers. How are they going to find you?”

Vogel-Meijer said the COVID pandemic has changed travel and people are now increasingly looking for brands that can deliver them more personalised, seamless journeys.

“Digitisation has really accelerated the amount of requests coming in for personalised journeys,” she said.

“We see people either wanting to either travel with the airline or hotel of their choice and this has been accelerated by the opportunities that digitisation offers.

“For companies there’s a huge opportunity popping up around customer lifetime value and instead of focussing on just deals on how you create loyalty with your customers.

“Loyalty is up for grabs. There’s an interesting trend where the loyalty customers used to have for specific travel companies has suddenly changed.

“Since COVID other things have become more interesting. People want to know the company they’re travelling with is offering sustainable travel, is looking after their health.

“If you take the whole customer journey, that is where we believe Meta is really strong with its platform of apps.

“For inspiration you can use Facebook or Instagram, if you talk about customer servicing then you have our messaging platforms, and we are now focussing on the metaverse.

“In the travel industry right now, if you really want to be the winner it makes sense to look at the entire travel journey because it’s actually what the customer is asking from you.

“They want this seamless journey and if, as a company, you are able to deliver this to clients then it will create the loyalty that the customer is looking for.

“But this requires from your end a couple of things. First of all, make sure you have the right measurement in place because it is getting more complicated.

“And, second of all, there’s the metaverse coming up and that is going to force everyone to look at things in a totally different way.

“People are not expected to go into the metaverse and look for a brand as is, but they might go in to say ‘I’m pregnant I’m looking for a maternity hub’.

“You really need to start thinking from a customer perspective instead of always focussing on your own perspective.

“Be prepared for the future. Start testing, start making sure that you understand what it’s all about.”

Vogel-Meijer says in this new world influencers and creators are going to have increasing power to guide consumer decisions.

And she said travel firms have an opportunity either to tap into this trend by working with the right influencers or, as experts in the sector, to actually be the influencer.

“People are on Instagram are looking for inspiration. The question is who are they going to follow? Who are the people they are going to trust?

“There is an opportunity for peer-to-peer influencers but also professional influencers like travel companies and agents.

“We see creators becoming more and more important on Instagram where people trust a certain person because they are travelling in the same way they would like to travel.

“Creators or influencers are going to play a more and more important role and you see that all across social media. You see them everywhere.

“This is where travel companies should think hard about how they work with the right influences, the right creators.