If the tourism industry is going to tackle its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions then it will need to be re-imagined.
From embracing virtual reality to using technology to enhance existing experiences, tourism bodies are responsible for driving interest away from carbon intensive tourist activities and towards a more sustainable approach that will help governments achieve those green targets that they are so often missing.
Cutting down on human footprints
Real world environments are negatively impacted with intensive physical interactions. Consumer demand for closer connection to the land via physical tourist experiences is driving further environmental destruction. Overtourism has become a term associated with this type of tourism hype and has caused havoc at some of our most loved attractions around the world.
Furthermore, local communities in these tourist hot spots are getting frustrated with the lack of government intervention to tackle some of the problems caused by the influx of tourists. The famous Spanish Steps in Rome are no longer made from romantic perching as selfie obsessed tourists flock to the famous staircase. The cruise ships docking in Venice have caused Venice to implement strict rules regarding tourist activities in the city.
Fines, punishments and regulations associated with ongoing tourist behavior are becoming the norm. And it isn’t just the larger cities that are suffering. Small villages along the Camino de Santiago, the coral decay in the Great Barrier Reef, the crystal clear waters of Thailand are all experiencing the effects of overtourism.
As more and more people realize the impact of their footprint on the natural landscapes around them they will become conscious of the need for alternative ways to experience these beautiful locations. This is where the metaverse could play a key role in the future.
Sightseeing in the metaverse
The metaverse travel experience is particularly intriguing because it offers the chance to create distinctive adventures without borders. One of the most significant benefits of Web3 travel is that it eliminates the need for time-consuming planning permissions and physical constraints that limit tourism attractions.
While virtual travel cannot replace physical travel, it can spark a desire to explore and enable visitors to navigate virtual environments in new ways. It is not enough to focus solely on sustainability into the metaverse by using the right infrastructure. Although this is a good starting point and there are innovative platforms like Unique Network working on sustainable technology for the blockchain space.
However, the repercussions for the wider public need to be taken into consideration as we lean in to prioritize all tourist stakeholders in metaverse related tourism services. This will require widespread collaborations across numerous industries. Additionally, the varying tourism segments cater for very different audiences. From corporate conferences to leisure tourism to nature based immersion, there are components of each segment that can be extracted for metaverse exploration.
Transferable skills driving new job opportunities
One of the key arguments for continuing the amplification of existing tourism destinations, products and activities that we have become accustomed to is the delivery of employment to the wider economy. Yes, tourism is one of the only industries where it is easy to identify direct, indirect and induced impacts that have a positive effect on the growth of an economy.
In one study by the WTTC it found that 1 in 4 of all new jobs created globally were associated with travel related services. However, metaverse platforms are only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the required skills to cater for a booming experience market.
The Saudi city of Alula became the first-ever Unesco World Heritage Site to be recreated in the virtual world, with Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan open for visitors in Decentraland, an Ethereum-powered virtual platform, marking a new age of futuristic travel. The development is just the latest in a string of openings and attractions to pique the interest of travelers, catapulting the ancient landscape into the 21st century. Saudi Arabia’s tourism vision for 2030 includes the metaverse as a key component. This means there are plenty of opportunities for tourism professionals around the world to offer their expertise in new virtual environments.
Exploring the metaverse for the future of travel
Web3 metaverse platforms revolve heavily around loyal communities, economies that can scale and creativity. These are recognizable traits to anybody who has worked in the destination tourism sector or hospitality industry. Driving an annual influx of tourists to a remote destination can have a dramatic impact on that region’s infrastructure and employment. Many rural communities are struggling as younger people migrate to nearby cities causing the local economy to stagnate.
Tourism has offered new opportunities for communities to diversify income away from over reliance on agriculture and it also encourages support for the maintenance of local traditions that are unique parts of a region’s identity. As local governments look to develop these strands of income, metaverse platforms like Upland, the Sandbox, Decentraland, Neoki and more can be used to experiment with new tourist experiences.
Upland, for instance, offers small businesses the option to open a Metaventure that can provide a test bed for virtual business models and education in the world of virtual environments. With over 3 million users and counting, Upland has become a metaverse super app due to its accessibility across Android, iOS, and VR headsets, and the extensive range of services it offers.
The Sandbox offers a gamified experience for avatars interested in breathing new life into existing tourist attractions. This metaverse allows destinations to play with ideas around tourist behavior and encourage new forms of entertainment associated with cultural experience. Just this year they have established the first Web3 Irish Pub and a french quarter for all players to enjoy.
Neoki is a design focused metaverse that is providing a home for the designers of virtual worlds. Design is a crucial component of any tourism experience, tour itinerary, tourist destination or attraction. Without the right architectural design, infrastructure design and buildings for people to enjoy tourism wouldn’t be the industry that it is today.
There are various ways in which we can shape the future of the tourism industry using the metaverse to build a more sustainable approach. By prioritizing the environment, encouraging regeneration of natural landscapes and cutting down on overtourism, virtual tourism has the potential to make a long term positive impact.
Although the metaverse presents exciting possibilities for advancing tourism, its full potential has yet to be realized. To achieve this, substantial investments are required in areas such as user experience, design, and regulatory frameworks to monitor user behavior.
This article was written by Lisa Gibbons and originally published on Blockleaders.