Big tech companies, including Disney, Amazon, Microsoft and Meta (formerly Facebook), are already exploring their own versions of the metaverse. And smaller companies such as Equinox and Delta Reality are interested in working with tourist agencies to develop interactive and even game-like augmented, virtual and mixed reality content highlighting various destinations.

One destination has already taken steps in that direction. In September 2021, Seoul became one of the first major cities to announce plans to go “meta” by 2023. Its metaverse platform, tentatively titled “Metaverse Seoul,” will feature several of the city’s top tourist attractions. Tourists will be able to feel as though they’re walking through Gwanghwamun Plaza, Deoksugung Palace and the Namdaemun Market, in what will be called a Virtual Tourist Zone, without the hassles of in-person travel. They can even “attend” Seoul’s biggest festivals in the metaverse, including the breathtaking Seoul Lantern Festival, surrounded by hundreds of sparkling lights but not by crowds.

Virtual tourism may serve as a springboard to in-person tourism. In early 2022, Madrid launched a free, 360-degree virtual tour in Spanish and English to potential guests who want to make informed decisions about what to see when they visit Madrid in person. With approximately 40 of the capital’s most popular tourist attractions featured, users get a taste of the city, exploring its plazas, museums, gardens, cultural institutions and cathedrals.

“The competitive landscape of the metaverse is getting stronger and stronger,” says Sivan, “and we as consumers love it.”

Making virtual travel easy and seamless

No one likes disruption on vacation, when the idea is to have fun, explore, escape and relax. Users wanting a virtual travel experience will expect the same, meaning that the technology needs to support fluid synchronization between users’ movements and visual perception so that touring a virtual Egypt or Australia will feel as close to real as possible. Reduced latency is critical when creating this level of ultra-sensory content. This is also true for hotels and resorts competing for travelers’ interest, seeking to optimize guests’ stays with personalized packages and seamless experiences. One way to do that in the near future might be offering users three-dimensional AR tours of a hotel, resort or other site.

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