Along with recent technological developments, the tourism industry is standing on the verge of a new era. Particularly the rise of the Metaverse has stirred up new opportunities as this new type of reality soon will have the ability to mentally teleport tourists to new places, regardless of time, financial resources and physical abilities. This development is also known as ‘Never-Ending Tourism’ and this study explores how the future of tourism may look in the world of the metaverse.
The Rise of Information and Communication Technologies
Over the course of the last decade, Information and Communication Technologies – also known as ICTs – have been developing at a high pace. We witnessed Web 1.0 in the 90s when people accessed the Internet for the first time, but where no interaction was possible, followed by Web 2.0 where socials became more popular on centralised platforms, such as Facebook or Instagram. Present day, Web 3.0 has emerged, which differs from the previous versions as it allows for a new online space for people to connect, meet and in the future even can go on holidays. Holidays? You may wonder – but indeed, our future holidays may look very different from what we have known. This is exactly what sparked interest in writing this research paper. After all – How will the future of tourism look in a world that takes place both online and offline?
Connecting the Metaverse to the Experience Economy
While getting a better understanding of new technological developments, it is important to learn how the customer experience could be designed for. In the ‘Experience Economy’ in which our society finds itself, consumers seek no longer ‘just’ products and services, but those that can create memorable experiences. In the context of travel, tourism, hospitality and heritage, this means new opportunities in shaping their offer to customers. In fact, these new opportunities do not limit themselves to the physical world. More and more, a shift from physical to virtual or mixed offers is becoming a popular way to create customer experiences.
For instance, the Tourism Transition Pathway, a document that sets out the tourism agenda of Europe for 2030 by the European Commission, declared the digitalisation of travel and heritage experiences as a key pillar for tomorrow’s tourism. Therefore, the present research paper aimed to conceptualise integrated virtual experiences, before, during and after travel. The following research questions guided the study:
- What does never-ending tourism look like?
- What are possible scenarios for a never-ending tourism future in 2030?
For this study, an exploratory qualitative research study was used. Through 15 online in-depth semi-structured interviews with experts, data were collected. The data analysis procedure took place in multiple phases. Following this procedure, three scenarios on the topic of never-ending tourism came forward including: 1) Never-ending support “The digital companion”, 2) Never-ending balance “The digital escape”, and 3) Never-ending relationship “The digital connection”. Each of the scenarios are briefly summarised below.
Scenario 1: Never-Ending Support “THE Digital Companion”
The first scenario talks about two friends who go on holiday together twice a year. Through their AR-enhanced glasses, a virtual assistant shows them their next destination: Paris, the city of lights. In addition, the assistant presents the latest Netflix series that was shot in Paris and trendy outfits suitable for the destination in the women’s social media feed. In this way, the friends already get more excited about their trip. After the assistant matched the dates with the women’s calendars, the cheapest connections are booked. They only need to check in at the train station through face recognition before their journey can start. While there, the assistant guides them through the city via AR-augmented features related to heritage, art and history. After their trip, the assistant creates an after-movie for the friends’ social media pages, and whenever the friends feel nostalgic for Paris, they can step into the VR space created for them.
Scenario 2: Never-Ending Balance “The Digital Escape”
The second scenario is about Laura, a family-woman who works remotely from home and is used to working with a virtual assistant. Together with her family, she is setting off on a holiday trip – for which everyone leaves their devices behind to really detox from technology. As physical holidays have become increasingly more expensive, it is a luxury that Laura’s family can afford to go on a trip outside of their online world. This is the time to reconnect with the family and take care of everyone’s physical and mental health. Her children know the area well, as they have already discovered the digital twin of the destination while still being at home. After the trip, everyone goes back into their routine with new and refreshed ideas ‘taken’ from the offline world.
Scenario 3: Never-Ending Relationship “The Digital Connection”
The last scenario is about a group of friends who have gotten to know each other through an online Playstation game. As they are living across Europe, they have never met each other in person – yet after spending a lot of time together, they decided to meet physically for the first time. However, when they arrive and meet for the first time, it is not the same as meeting in the ‘safe’ online space. This is because everyone looks different from the VR characters they created in the game. All the multisensory impressions they experience in person are not available in the VR world in which they usually meet. However, even though they had not met in person before, there is this particular feeling of familiarity and soon the friends are more at ease. After the meeting, everyone comes back with their newly made memories and implements their digital memorabilia into their VR world. They are already looking forward to meeting again.
The aim of the study was to explore the concept of ‘never-ending tourism’ and create potential future tourism scenarios for 2030. The study contributes to the rise of the metaverse and its impact on tourism. The results show that the tourism industry has the power to integrate physical and virtual realms of a place, attraction or destination into a continuous or ‘never-ending’ engagement and experience. Based on the three scenarios, the intensity of ICT application may differ, although all scenarios indicated that highly developed virtual offers, solutions and virtual spaces will be a common extension of the current physical travel.
In the first scenario, “The digital companion” the presence of technology in all areas of life is identified. In the second scenario, “The digital escape”, technology also plays an important part in daily life, while physical travel is seen as a luxury experience in which people can escape from technology for a change. In the third and last scenario “The digital connection”, a future 2030 reality is painted, where social connections are created through virtual spaces. Physical meetings and travel, therefore, become an add-on to the initial experience that is taking place in the virtual space.
It is a new reality of imagination to teleport yourself mentally into a new world, only seen through books and movies today. Through the metaverse, this image could become reality. The digital twin reconstruction of certain real-world locations will allow travellers to visit a variety of places and engage with their history, local people, religions and traditions.
Do you already know where your first metaverse travel would take you? The future is here – see you in the metaverse!
Prodinger, B., Neuhofer, B. (2023). Never-Ending Tourism: Tourism Experience Scenarios for 2030. In: Ferrer-Rosell, B., Massimo, D., Berezina, K. (eds) Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2023. ENTER 2023. Springer Proceedings in Business and Economics. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-25752-0_31
Read the full article here – Free Open Access: