Could Virtual Reality in the Metaverse Do Away with Traditional Tourism? | Business

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, for the last two years we have been working, meeting and shopping remotely through social media platforms and the list of activities seems to keep on growing to include travelling, the only social interaction that would need a person to actually go somewhere to be considered tourism.

Travel, the fact is that, despite the respite in the pandemic and the positive signs of industry recovery, a significant number of people are turning into the metaverse for their main experience.

“Travel and entertainment is why people are going to prefer the metaverse,” said software engineer and Web 3.0 specialist Pedro Cruz.

While still in its early stages, the metaverse is advancing at an accelerated pace so definitions are still somewhat “fluid.”

The metaverse can be defined as a simulated digital environment that uses augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and blockchain, along concepts from social media, to create spaces for rich user interactions mimicking the real world.

While many consider the development of the metaverse could spell doom for the tourism industry, Cruz is convinced it is an opportunity for any destination, particularly Puerto Rico.

When the software engineer was starting in the industry he worked for “Touralo,” a virtual reality tour app that operated as a real estate platform to show houses to potential buyers or renters.

“In that very same way, virtual tours of Old San Juan or El Yunque could be developed with digital twins of these places for people to visit in the metaverse,” said Cruz, who further argued that the virtual tour experience could be the next step in tourism since “users/tourists wouldn’t be constrained by the limitations of physical reality.”

“Imagine going to El Yunque and having a tour guided by a Taíno Indian. That is going to be possible, and some can argue that, to some extent, it is already possible,” said Cruz.

Shirley McPhaul, director of Crypto Curious, anticipated virtual tours of Old San Juan could even provide a more complete immersive experience, for example, by allowing the user to be a part of the 1598 Battle of San Juan, when the British armada took control of the city for 65 days.

“There is a great opportunity for Puerto Rico in the next 5 to 10 years with the improvements in AR, VR and MR (augmented, virtual and mix realities), and projection mapping… It would be a huge opportunity for the municipal government of San Juan to start looking into that,” said McPhaul.

According to Cruz, in the same way a website helps to drive traffic to a specific business, tourism in the metaverse will drive people to a specific destination.

“The reason for not traveling is money. But having experienced the virtual destination people would have the opportunity to plan a vacation for whenever they have the money,” Cruz argued.

For McPhaul, these technologies could be used to attract people to different parts of the island, for example, through gamification strategies (using game elements in a non-gaming context).

“This is already being in done in several contexts, and it’s known as ‘rewards programs,’ she explained. “Think of a project like Pokemon Go, where you can go all over the island, collecting badges or maybe NFTs for just getting there.”

Cruz further explain that in such a project blockchain technology would be very useful “because it would make it harder for people to cheat”.

“You will need to be physically there to collect the NFT, and the blockchain will enable your digital property rights over the collected NFTs,” explained Cr.

Interestingly enough, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company does have a similar offline project – the “Voy Turistiando” passport – where the local tourists go to visit specific sites throughout the island and collects the stickers corresponding to the specific towns visited.

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