Like many business sectors, the travel and hospitality industries have been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time of financial loss, these industries are trying to get creative in encouraging more travel. Many hotels are starting to look at technology as a way to possibly overcome the pandemic, such as using robotics to cut down on the number of workers. One of these technologies that could help the hotel industry is virtual reality, which could help create the first metaverse hotel.
Background: The struggles of the Hotel Industry
As countries have closed their borders and people stayed home, hotels struggled to maintain profits. According to research group McKinsey & Company, the recovery time for hotels to go back to pre-COVID levels could take until 2023 or later. For many hotels, that timeline is just not feasible, as several hotel chains have had to close multiple locations due to losses.
For potential guests, safety is a large concern. Hotels have worked to make their establishments more COVID-19 aware by lowering the frequency of housekeeping or room service during a guest’s stay, allowing them to feel more isolated, and in turn, safer. Some hotels are now turning to virtual reality as a new and creative way to market their rooms and to cut down on costs in the process.
Analysis: Virtual Hotel Tours
According to an article in Forbes Magazine, written by Vervotech founder Sanjay Ghare, a metaverse hotel may not be far off in the future. As the hotel industry works to meet ever-changing guest expectations, they are looking to virtual reality to make things easier. Many hotels may offer virtual tours of rooms and suites for guests to stay in. This lets tech-savvy travelers experience the hotel for themselves without worrying about being exposed to COVID-19. A virtual hotel tour can be rather simple to do, like a 360° image that is compatible with virtual reality headsets, and even social media. A virtual hotel tour can make guests feel more comfortable or confident in their choice, encouraging more visits.
Outlook: From Virtual Hotels to Metaverse Travel
While hotels may look into using virtual reality for better guest experiences, they are not alone. Travel companies, often in partnerships with hotels, also are eyeing virtual reality. For a user with a virtual hotel suite, it would be a natural progression to offer a virtual traveling experience to places like the Great Wall of China or the South pole. These virtual experiences can help individuals enjoy the excitement of travel without having to leave their homes. Currently, the Marriott hotel chain is experimenting with virtual reality travel excursions. They’ve teamed up with Framestone, a company involved in creating the movie Gravity, to create 4D virtual reality experiences for guests. The teleporters, as they are nicknamed, are virtual reality booths with mirrors and cameras so users can share their experiences on social media. With this new virtual technology infiltrating the hotel and travel industries, who knows what travel will look like in the next decade.
Kenna Castleberry is a staff writer at the Debrief and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). She focuses on deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology. You can find more of her work at her website: https://kennacastleberry.com/