Future of Travel Retail: Travel’s ‘stepping stones’ to entering the Metaverse

Future of Travel Retail: Travel’s ‘stepping stones’ to entering the Metaverse

Travelport conference in Dubai heard from independent consultant Steve Bambury

Virtual trips to the past, the future or even to fantasy worlds could become a reality within 15 years in the Metaverse, Travelport’s Future of Travel Retail was told.

Independent Web3 and Metaverse consultant Steve Bambury said what the move to create a new virtual world represents is the “evolution of computing”.

The Metaverse is a persistent virtual reality world where people will be able to interact with other people in many ways and in connected spaces which they will move between.

Bambury said for travel the “stepping stones” of adoption of the Metaverse will start with virtual 3D and 360 degree tours offering a ‘try before you buy’ experience.

He said agents and travel brands will then acquire valuable real estate within the Metaverse, setting up virtual stores to attract visitors.

The final “crazy idea”, which he said may be five to 15 years away, is holidays in the Metaverse.

“Do I go to France for a couple of days, or do I go to Ancient Rome, do I go to Hobbiton? As ridiculous as it seems this is a distinct possibility – virtual trips to the past, to the future.

“They will not replace real life tourism, people will not stop taking real life trips, they will supplement their real travel.

“Innovation is the change the unlocks new value. This is change that unlocks new value. It’s opening a whole new world in the way we interact with digital content.”

Bambury added: “In Meta everyone is a world builder, including brands. Everyone will have land, shops and places to reach customers.

“This does take time. It’s not like throwing out an image on TikTok. If you are going to build a virtual world it’s going to take time.”

Bambury said the Metaverse is more than just a buzzword and is not simply a video game, although the concepts behind it have been developed in games like Roblox and Minecraft.

And he said it is not just about Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook which he renamed Meta, to the consternation of many in the virtual reality community.

“It’s kind of been a zenith for everyone in the VR industry,” said Bambury.

At the heart of Metaverse is technology and concepts related to Blockchain, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) or non-replicable digital assets, and next-gen internet iteration Web3.

Bambury said it is “device agnostic” and although commonly associated with VR headsets does not require them to be experienced by users.

“Most platforms are device agnostic. They work fine on your laptop, you will be able to interact with them, it won’t be as immersive but it opens the door.

“We are almost running before we can walk with headsets. Headsets are not there yet in terms of mass adoption.”

With brands like McDonalds, Pepsi, Coke, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana already seriously investing in the Metaverse, Bambury said it is not a bubble that is about to burst.

“There’s some bubble around NFTs, but this is the evolution of computing. This is special computing. Why? Because our world is 3D, so it makes sense to engage with it in 3D.”

Bambury told Travelport delegates that studies have shown in education that VR can aid memory and the retention of information.

“If you’re trying to make your customers remember an experience or piece of marketing, it is worth bearing in mind that there is no medium that has come before that has the emotive power that VR has,” Bambury said.

“We are talking about inspiration and demonstration. You can give your customers an emotive experience, a sense of being there.

“The technology is at a nascent stage and has a long way to go, but we are talking about future-proofing your industry and appealing to a younger, new type of consumer.”

Examples Bambury cited of early adopters in travel including 3D exploration site Brink, Wander, Google Earth, and trip planner Sygic Travel.