person with a vr headset illustrating how travel may go virtual in the metaverse

Imagine a future where your travel choices have no geographic constraints.

NB: This is an article from McKinsey & Co.

Where you can join your friends in the front row of a concert by your favorite star—but the crowd is 300 million strong, your friends are on the other side of the world, and it’s all happening at the Great Pyramid of Giza. Later you’ll do some shopping at the virtual souk and take a digital Nile cruise, before teleporting back home in an instant.

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Impossible? Or a tempting package trip that might soon be available from the comfort of your home? With the internet’s rapid evolution, many see this vision of transformed travel on the horizon—in the metaverse. Others caution that this future might take a little longer to arrive, and that travelers resist “metaversification” of key parts of the tourism journey.

The metaverse is seen as the next evolution of the internet – a collective space where physical and digital worlds converge to deliver more immersive, interactive virtual- or augmented-reality (VR/AR) user experiences, often referred to together as extended reality (XR). The underlying technology for this exists and is proving relatively cheap and fast to implement. Driven largely by inspirational advertising and virtual events, the potential rewards for the travel industry are already substantial: more than $20 billion by 2030, by McKinsey estimates.

This has potential to revolutionize the way we explore new worlds: already, you can attend concerts, shop, test products, visit attractions, and take workshops, all without physically traveling anywhere. Currently, the user demographic trends very young, but it’s crucial for the tourism sector to appeal to this segment.1 After all, these are the travelers of the future—and players not keeping pace with their interests will lose out.

But does XR live up to all the hype – with appeal beyond a gamer demographic? A virtual trip can never replace the thrill of certain tangible, real-word experiences, and some traveler touchpoints have proved more ripe for disruption than others.

Despite these hesitations, the XR ecosystem is maturing at pace. Immersive VR/AR devices may well follow the steep adoption curves of laptops and smartphones. Widespread use could lead to a radical extension of the global economy from physical into virtual life, not least in tourism.

So how does a tourism player go about monetizing this virtual paradigm, which is still taking shape and many struggle to define? It’s time for the sector to take a serious look at these complex opportunities – and figure out what best drives traction in the new XR universe.

Touring the metaverse: early trends

The metaverse could enrich the tourism experience in countless unprecedented, innovative ways—but which use cases have the most potential, and which are still deemed risky? Early adopters have already started experimenting, and several trends have emerged. Virtual elements can be layered onto an established business:

Read rest of the article at McKinsey & Co.