While some experts have no hope that the metaverse will last, some travel companies still see its potential, even if only as a marketing ploy.
Tripadvisor plans to release a metaverse experience later this year.
The idea is that users will be able to virtually visit attractions in popular destinations — like Paris, Dubai, New York City, Chicago, and Atlantis Paradise Island in the Bahamas — before they book their trips.
“Traveling around the world or traveling in your backyard or traveling across the country, whatever it might be, is one of the most expensive things that you can purchase without actually trying it beforehand,” said Adam Ochman, global director of marketing solutions for Tripadvisor. He also helped establish Wanderlab, Tripadvisor’s content marketing agency.
“[It’s] about democratising travel and giving our community … an opportunity to try-before-you-buy and experience from the comfort of your own home as you’re dreaming and planning and aspiring.”
The company is contracting MeetKai, a company that creates metaverse and AI products. MeetKai announced the plans this week at the CES conference in Las Vegas, along with plans for a retail metaverse experience for the National Basketball Players Association.
It’s still too early for the company to share specifics on exactly how it will look, but the plan is that Tripadvisor will partner with travel bureaus and companies to create digital spaces that users can explore. It could include some ecommerce, gaming, and social elements.
In Paris, for example, the team could create digital twins of the Eiffel tower or the catacombs beneath the city to give travelers a better idea of tours they could book. Or there could be recreations of shops to focus on the city’s famous fashion and retail.
“How we bring that to life with our partners — the sky’s the limit there,” Ochman said.
Peter John Alexander, chief business officer of MeetKai, said the long-term vision is that metaverse users will be able to access everything that Tripadvisor offers now on its traditional website.
“All that functionality will eventually be able to be executed and explored on the metaverse,” Alexander said.
The digital twins of real places are constructed from a variety of sources. The metaverses are web-based, meaning they’re accessible on mobile devices, desktop, and even virtual reality headsets. Users start by creating a custom avatar using photos of their face. Multiple users can visit the metaverse and interact with one another.
The Metaverse and Travel
Travel companies have been building and experimenting with the metaverse for a few years.
Marriott Bonvoy, for example, created a virtual park within the Fornite metaverse as a way to market four of its hotel brands. And Travelzoo is building its own metaverse in-house, focusing on three aspects: time travel, such as ancient Rome; hard-to-reach places like Mars or Mt. Everest; and fantastical places, like Atlantis.
It’s unclear how well these projects will stick, and the metaverse buzz certainly is not what it was a couple of years ago. Tech expert Ed Zitron wrote an “obituary” of the metaverse last May for Business Insider, highlighting grandiose promises that were never delivered.
But Alexander of MeetKai is still confident that the metaverse is here to stay despite the naysayers.
“If you really think about this just as the future of the web and a mix between 2D and 3D experiences, that’s where it’s going to be,” Alexander said.
Innovation at Tripadvisor
Tripadvisor has been changing core products and evaluating the future of its platform since Matt Goldberg became the new CEO in July 2022.
Goldberg has said the company is making changes to improve planning tools and introducing new formats to increase monetization and user engagement. Tripadvisor has been pairing recommendations from experts with advice from travelers.
The company released an itinerary creation tool powered by generative AI. Goldberg in November said that those who had used the tool had generated three times more revenue than those who hadn’t.
The Daily Newsletter
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Photo credit: Users could virtually visit places like the Eiffel Tower in Tripadvisor's future metaverse. Pete Linforth / Pixabay