The tourism sector is taking a look at the meta-verse

If you have nothing planned on May 22, how about a return trip to Benidorm … without leaving your home? On this date, the famous seaside resort on the east coast of Spain, on the Costa Blanca, BenidormLand, launches a metaverse (or metaverse), which will be available to the 140 million users of Steam’s online gaming platform. The promise of this pilot project, developed with the Spanish company SIX3D? An immersion in the city, between beaches and skyscrapers, as if we were there.

Tourism players are still not very interested in the meta-verse in France

Benidorm is the first European tourist destination to announce its positioning in the metaverse, this immersive and interactive virtual world, which has gained momentum since July 2021, after Marc Zuckerberg announced the construction of a metaverse of Facebook (renamed Meta, by the way). “This development of the Internet is part of a context where social networks are in a very competitive environment with the arrival of new entrants. There may be a saturation of users who need to change platform or experiment with new ways of communicate on. “comments Naïma Aïdi, PhD student in information and communication science specializing in tourism.

Cities in Asia, including Seoul and Tokyo, have also announced their arrival on the metaverse. South Korea’s capital plans to open its own metaverse in 2023, which will offer a tour of the city’s main attractions, from Gwanghwamun Square to Namdaemun Market to Deoksugung Palace.

Deoksugung Palace in Seoul will be part of the “Seoul Metaverse” project, which is expected to open in 2023. Tuomas A. Lehtinen

In France, tourism operators are still wary of the metaverse. While the director general of the Val d’Isère Tourist Office announced the acquisition of land on Next Earth, a decentralized virtual world, for its own funds, the city of Cannes announced in early April on Twitter to be “the first city in France and Europe to invest in the meta-verse”. Specifically, a partnership has been established with a Cannes company specializing in artificial intelligence to store certain emblematic Cannes sites in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT).

The places that will be appreciated will be the Palais des Festivals de Cannes, the Boulevard de la Croisette, Port Canto, Île Sainte-Marguerite, the underwater eco-museum, Malmaison, the old port, the Forville market, Suquet, Pointe Croisette and the Campus Georges- Méliès “, says City Hall. During the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, next June, an auction will be organized to acquire these first 10 NFTs. “Buyers will receive a 3D rendering of the object. The 11th will be offered to a resident of Cannes as part of a raffle,” concludes City Hall.

A parallel tourist offer

Still beginning, the meta-verse is a new playground for the tourism industry. So what can we expect from products in this virtual world? “We can imagine extraordinary catalogs, in 4D, of the destination where it will be possible to walk around. As with augmented reality, we can also imagine being able to go back in time and discover what the monuments were like before.”describes Sophie Lacour, general manager of Advanced Tourism.

“Metaverset can be a promotional tool for brands and destinations, a re-creation of what they offer.” Sophie Lacour, General Manager for Advanced Tourism

“The added value of the metaverse is to offer things that you can not offer on the spot, such as walking around old destinations, interacting with period characters”, adds Sophie Lacour. The metaverset could also be a way to encourage tourists to return to a destination they would not have had time to fully explore, thus encouraging the phenomenon of “repeaters”, those tourists who visit at least twice the same destination.

Tourist destinations invented in the metaverse?

The specialist goes even further, and wonders whether it will not be possible in the long run to invent tourist destinations in the metaverse. Many artists have already created their own universe in the meta-verse, such as MoyaLand, the artist Patrick Moya’s virtual universe on Second Life, which has existed since 2007. This tourist virtual universe has, among other things, a tourist office, an airport, but also various museums. “With the meta-verse, it is tourism that needs to be redefined”excites Sophie Lacour, who still wants to be careful.

5 to 10 years, before you see a successful offer

According to the consultant, neither the servers nor the people are really ready for a democratization of the meta-verse. At present, only technophiles and “early adopters” seem to be interested in these new worlds, although studies are encouraging. For example, a Yougov survey conducted on 24 and 25 February 2022 reports that almost every second young person (47%) between the ages of 18 and 24 would be curious about visiting a tourist destination through a metaverse.

“It requires hardware, perhaps glasses – equipment that not everyone has – as well as powerful machines to make the experience enjoyable. For now, the metaverse is not for everyone. The world, for technological and sociological reasons, is related to this disruptive technology… the case for another 5 to 10 years “thinks Sophie Lacour.

For this reason, the consultant advises his clients in the tourism sector to be very careful. “The question is also to invest in the right metaverse, the one that holds. We’re looking at what’s going on, we might be buying chunks of land, but it’s not worth making big investments at the moment.”she explains.

The meta-verse will not replace the real

Especially since there is a fear among various tourism stakeholders that the metaverse will replace reality. No chance, according to Sophie Lacour, who believes people will always move. Moreover, if we refer to the definition of tourism as set out by the World Tourism Organization, the latter indicates “a social, cultural, and economic phenomenon involving the movement of people to countries or places outside their usual environment that arise for personal reasons or for business and professional reasons.” Therefore, there is nothing to do with visiting a virtual world sitting in your own sofa.

“There’s a big difference between eating a skewer by the Baltic Sea and eating a hamburger in metavers. “ Sophie Lacour, General Manager for Advanced Tourism

To Naima Aidi, “the tourist experience is still very much linked to hedonism, to enjoyment, to the feeling of discovering new things, to wonder. The metaverset could arouse a desire to travel, but it cannot replace an experience separate throughout.”

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