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Metavers, virtual reality: hospitality and tourism explore new worlds

Staying in a hotel from your living room or going down a ski slope without even having to put on your skis: tourism and hotel professionals are increasingly interested in the possibilities offered by new technologies to interact with their customers. .

“The first instinct is to see a novelty as a threat. But these are actually real opportunities to discover territories and experiences, especially when the customer is in the fantasy of his trip”, says Vanguelis Panayotis, president of MKG Consulting, French expert in the tourism sector.

Professionals may fear that some of the potential travelers in the future would prefer to dive near the Great Barrier Reef or visit the Taj Mahal via a virtual reality headset. In fact, the pandemic has accelerated digital uses. And the global reflection on the harmful impact of tourism on populations and the environment in the most popular destinations can encourage people to travel less.

Gilles Maillet, director of travel, travel and mobility at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, does not share this fear: on the contrary, he felt at the Food Hotel Tech show in Paris on June 7 and 8, the metaverse can, according to him, offer new possibilities for professionals.

Entry into the metaverse is now a reality for the Dutch hotel chain CitizenM, which opened its first establishment in March, on The Sandbox.

“Right now, this is a learning phase to understand what a customer-centric experience can look like in an increasingly digital world. But we believe this experience can live alongside what we do in the real world, not in competition with. This can allow us to interact with our audience as much as we do in the real world”, detailed for AFP a spokesperson for the group.

Club Med (stays in holiday clubs around the world) is betting on virtual reality: since 2017, customers can visit the club, helmet on, before booking. More recently, the group carried out a communication campaign by providing several influencers with Ray-Ban Stories glasses, developed with Meta, to film themselves on the slopes near their clubs in the Alps.

In addition, “we are using a new tool allowing interior and exterior visits, at different seasons and different times of the day for our customers wishing to acquire chalets in our new project”, explains Club Med.

An immersive visualization which makes it possible to “reassure and accelerate decision-making” and which sticks to the evolution of habits: “before, 80% of our sales were realized face to face” but since the deployment of this visualization “half is done remotely.

These uses remain despite everything still anecdotal, at the level of the sector, even if “all the hotel chains are working to bring together the real and virtual world”, assures Julien Maldonato, financial industry consulting partner at Deloitte.

Because the possibilities are important, in the opinion of specialists, who envisage a hybridization of experiences, real and online, which would allow travelers to live their stay differently.

“We can consider equipment allowing us to go where we have not planned to go. For example, planning a stay on the Red Sea or a cruise on the Nile and visiting the pyramids in virtual reality, with sensory sensors to the sound environment and the smells”, explains Vanguelis Panayotis.

Or, through a digital replica of the hotel, offer a complete experience to customers, who “could interact in the digital version to order services, visualizing the spa before going there or the sandwich before ordering it. For the hotel, it’s potentially better selling and pushing other products and services,” said Maldonato.

The hotel industry could thus recreate a direct link with customers, currently monopolized by booking platforms.

“This web 3.0 creates a serious threat of intermediation for the major platforms”, believes Vincent Maldonato, with “more freedom” for customers and “a more direct relationship for hotels, and even more proximity”. “The most powerful platforms are already thinking about how to evolve their business,” he says.

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