There has been considerable disruption in the tourism industry due to Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs). Extensive networks and smartphones developed a smart info structure that has revolutionized travel and tourism. Smartphones empower context relevancy, empowering the co-creation of value in real-time and within context.
Engaging customers to participate in firm-owned mobile app activities can increase their purchase amount and frequency. The development of 5G + mobile networks and the Internet of Everything enables three-dimensional simulation. Metaverse is defined as the convergence of physical and digital universes. Users can seamlessly traverse between them for working, education and training.
The true potential of digitization can be achieved when digital environments support people to enjoy hyper realistic virtual conversations, experiences, and transactions. The innovations and opportunities emerging from immersion allow users to interact naturally in both physical and digital environments.
Pero (2022) explains that "brands like Fortnite, Meta, and Roblox, are making an obvious impact on the way we socialize". Many people have challenged that the Metaverse is nothing but old wine in a new bottle because it resembles past technologies, such as Second Life.
Mark Zuckerberg from Meta lauded Metaverse to be "the next chapter for the Internet". Raja Koduri from Intel also foresees that Metaverse will be the next major computing platform after the Internet and mobile. The World Economic Forum (2022) acknowledged that tourism is one of the key areas that can benefit from Metaverse. By providing users with immersive experiences before travel and augmented content when they are physically at the destination. People who experience destinations and tourism activities virtually tend to be motivated to visit physically. This study aims to conceptualize Metaverse in tourism and to build its foundations leading to a future research agenda.
The paper reviews Metaverse-related publications and explains how Metaverse revolutionizes tourism experiences. It also provides tourism practitioners with solid foundational knowledge.
Metaverse: concepts, definitions, and dimensions
Metaverse is a term coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. It is an all-encompassing virtual world that exists in parallel to the physical world. This is where people can seamlessly traverse for work and socializing. Though Metaverse was coined in 1992, there appears to be no agreement on its universal definition. Most Metaverse definitions explain it as a virtual world that simulates the real world, providing a space for interacting. . Metaverse takes advantage of an immersive virtual world, where people can work and socialize with other users, using avatars, MR/VR headsets and other compatible gadgets. Just like what Mark Zuckerberg presented at Meta's ( 2021) annual conference, users can freely attend meetings, reply to emails, attend concerts and shop. Metaverse, therefore, mirrors real life in a virtual world. Second Life, a three-dimensional virtual world founded by Linden Lab back in 2003, is often considered as the closest iteration of Metaverse.
While Second Life and Metaverse are ostensibly similar, the former is a finite virtual world operating independently. Second Life and Metaverse offer different levels of immersion. Metaverse empowers immersion for users to watch the scene, hear the sound and give the sense of touch. Many international firms have already acknowledged the business potential of Metaverse. J.P. Morgan established its first bank branch in the Metaverse.
Metaverse disruptions to tourists' behavior and experience
The advent of the Metaverse magnifies the social connections among consumers, other consumers (or so-called peers), and suppliers in the tourism industry ecosystem. Travel planning is one of the areas that is disrupted dramatically, as Metaverse provides tools to stimulate travel inspiration. Travel-related UGC is mostly asynchronous, as content is reviewed after the trip. Viewers can only seek travel inspiration if past travelers have shared their visual content. Before traveling, Metaverse supports digital twins and other interface facilities, so consumers have the opportunity to explore alternatives in an immersive environment. Users can vividly sense past travelers' intangible experiences.
Metaverse enables tourists to use an immersive environment to pre-experience hotels/restaurants' service-scape and acquire lifelike visitation experiences prior to purchasing travel. This would allow tourists to proactively find content from different parties and acquire insider information. Using Metaverse to customize travel offerings provides a higher level of autonomy and involvement in value co creation. Travelers can customize their experience by giving a series of verbal commands.
During traveling and whilst on-site, Metaverse can augment the traveler experience. Tourists enjoy both face-to-face and online social contact when traveling. Metaverse is expected to help advance the on-site visitation experience to the next level. In restaurant settings, AR and Metaverse can add edutainment elements. After traveling Metaverse can be used for recalling experiences, documenting and sharing UGC, expanding knowledge and engaging with others with similar experiences.
Users are able to "re-live" past experiences and shared content and resources. Will Metaverse substitute or stimulate physical travel? This is a question frequently asked about VR and now about Metaverse. Technology cannot make virtual travel fully replace real travel. Metaverse can empower those who are unable to experience destinations and resources for a range of reasons. It supports disadvantaged groups with economic, physical or/and social constraints to experience virtual travel.
Metaverse disruptions to tourism management and marketing
Metaverse offers an immersive, dynamic and innovative digital platform for showcasing tourism destinations, attractions, events and hospitality services. It supports organizations to enrich their knowledge about prospective consumers' needs, wants and preferences. Destinations can recreate their digital twins and attractions in the virtual space and augment information about the history and attractiveness. Immersive storytelling stimulates engagement and produces edutainment. Hotel firms can publicize their brands and increase their brand awareness in the virtual space. Metaverse empowers the co-creation of immersive virtual event experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak gave a hard hit to the MICE sector in particular. Developing virtual facilities is faster, cheaper and more flexible than constructing physical facilities. Destinations can leverage Metaverse to develop attraction prototypes. Metaverse supports market intelligence and facilitates research and development. Tourism suppliers can proactively use Metaverse to engage in conversation and convert sales.
Challenges and threats emerging through Metaverse for Tourism Management and Marketing
Metaverse brings a range of challenges and threats that can potentially lead to value co-destruction for several tourism stakeholders. Analysts fear that Metaverse may fuel confusion about what is real. Technological challenges emerge since Metaverse is still largely conceptual, rather than operational. Platforms are gradually being developed, and some organizations take infant steps in exploring their virtual presence. Many users may also find getting into the Metaverse challenging, due to the cost of equipment (e. g., VR/MR headset, sensory clothing). Ethical and legal challenges also emerge in virtual environments. Fraud and cybercrime, money laundering, terrorism, gambling, drug abuse, prostitution pornography, and child abuse are also crimes and law enforcement challenges in the Metaverse. Businesses and platforms need to adopt comprehensive precautionary measures and protective measures to mitigate potential negative impacts. Metaverse cannot be free of privacy concerns and security issues. The new technological innovations should be used for value co-creation rather than value destruction in order to overcome these challenges.
Research agenda: building blocks for metaverse tourism
A comprehensive research agenda needs to be developed to address consumers' trip planning and suppliers' management practices in the Metaverse tourism era. Many areas are yet to be clearly understood, and many questions remain unanswered. 5G mobile networks support ultra-high data download speed, as well as low latency and massive scale of machine-type communication. Real-time telepresence can be empowered when high-speed broadband and 5G mobile networks are used. On-the-go travelers may also access the Metaverse and acquire instant recommendations from other Metaverse users. Enabling devices, including MR/VR headsets, haptics and environment rendering devices, constitute another building block of Metaverse. Users' behavior or behavioral intention is highly influenced by the availability and affordability of devices that can support their actions. When Second Life was introduced in 2003, its platform did not support complicated avatar design and functions. With the rapid progression in hardware (e.g., graphic processing unit) and software, the fidelity of emerging virtual worlds has improved. Technology Ready Users are the driving force of Metaverse. ICTs and particularly social worlds and virtual platforms can only exploit their full potential when many people are willing to use them. The willingness and readiness of consumers in using Metaverse as a mainstream platform for engaging with tourism destinations and organizations is another key building block.
Blending the physical and virtual worlds creates great opportunities and challenges for the tourism industry. Future tourism Metaverse platforms will accommodate complicated requirements, designs and interactions. Metaverse is expected to stimulate interest and awareness, leading to more physical trips. It can also substitute travel, when users are unable to travel, due to personal circumstances or environmental contexts. The study stimulates further research towards supporting and empowering blended tourism experiences.
Metaverse is expected to provoke considerable disruptions to tourism and revolutionize both tourists' trip planning behavior and tourism suppliers' management practices in the coming decades. The study outlines research directions so that the tourism industry and destinations take full advantage of Metaverse capabilities.
executive summary of this source: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0261517723000067