You’ve probably heard of several new tech phrases making the rounds lately. NFTs, blockchain, Web3, VR tourism, the metaverse, and crypto – what are all these when they’re at home? And more importantly, if you’re involved in delivering guest experiences – what could these technologies mean for the travel industry?

Crypto, Web3, NFTs: what do all these tech buzzwords actually mean?

Some are connected, some are still conceptual and some will might just transform the way we travel. Here’s a brief rundown of the key tech terms you need to know about.

Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR)

Virtual reality was a tech buzzword way back in 2015. But it’s more recently that virtual and augmented reality has really gained traction in the mainstream through improved accessibility and affordability. 

  • Virtual reality (VR) uses computer technology to create an immersive simulated environment. Either through a headset or a smartphone, tablet, or computer.
  • Augmented reality (AR) uses computer technology to enhance the real world with digitally produced visual, aural, or other sensory elements. That Pokémon Go craze in 2016? Built on AR technology.

Given that both of these technologies relate to a user experience, we’re starting to see more of both AR and VR in tourism and travel applications.

Blockchain technology

Blockchain is a type of shared digital ledger that allows transactions to be recorded and tracked across a network of computers. This technology is rapidly gaining popularity due to the fact that it can support secure, decentralized transactions without the need for a third party. A range of travel and tourism purposes are already using Blockchain technology. These include service payments, luggage tracking, digital ID, and customer loyalty programs. Blockchain is also notably the foundation of both cryptocurrency and NFTs. Which leads us to…

Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies secured by encryption and built on blockchain technology. The structure of cryptocurrencies means that they largely exist outside the control of central authorities with minimal risk of counterfeiting – though there have been large-scale crypto thefts

Since Bitcoin was formed in 2009 plenty of other cryptocurrencies have joined the fray. Many industries including tourism have been finding diverse ways to incorporate these digital currencies.

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)

NFT and VR tourism revolutionizing tourism

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are also built on blockchain technology and record ownership and transactions of digital assets. Like cryptocurrencies, NFTs are stored in digital wallets and each NFT has a unique identifying code. Technically any digital asset could be sold as an NFT, but so far it’s images, songs, and animations that have been fetching eye-watering prices. Yes – others can still copy and use the same asset online. However, think of this more as an art collector owning the original version of a painting, even though there are digital versions readily available. 

NFTs along with cryptocurrencies have their detractors, with some industry experts saying the technology is less than ideal for creators and the environment. Meanwhile, there are many others finding new ways to use and create travel NFTs.

Web 3.0 or Web3

Web3 is a yet-to-be-realized concept that addresses some of the internet’s biggest problems. Namely, the control that mega-platforms or ‘Big Tech’ companies like Facebook maintain over web users. Web3 would give users complete ownership of their data, content, and digital assets without middlemen, using blockchain tech. While there are issues to iron out around censorship and privacy, Web3 promises a fairer and more open internet environment.

The metaverse

Consider Web3 a building block of the metaverse: a network that may just revolutionize the way we experience the internet. Also built on blockchain technology, the metaverse would provide a massive, open network of 3D virtual worlds with no owner. One key factor is the continuity of data, which means things like digital payments, objects, communications, and identity would be seamlessly available across different spaces within the metaverse.

Of course, right now major tech players are making major investments in an attempt to ‘own’ or capitalize on this emerging market; perhaps the most notable being Facebook’s recent rebrand to Meta. There’s huge potential for entertainment, social media, education, research, gaming, and commerce within this burgeoning network. How will the metaverse and tourism interact? Only time will tell.

6 ways VR, AR, and blockchain are transforming travel experiences

So you’re across the key tech terms. But how are these new technologies helping tourism and travel operators to explore new markets, and deliver great experiences?

Provide the ultimate VR tourism experience with virtual tours of popular destinations

VR tourism and travel

When the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a global lockdown, people kept traveling the world through VR tourism experiences. Anyone can easily experience an immersive guided tour of Venice, the pyramids in Egypt, or a peaceful natural landscape recorded with a 360° camera. This tech is now more achievable than ever for travel and tour operators. With affordable 360° lens attachments available for smartphones, VR is becoming more accessible. As such, you might consider giving your own guests a virtual tour for your destination, tours, or travel experience.

Virtual previews of hotels and accommodation

A VR tourism experience is a captivating way to showcase a hotel, resort, or apartment. This could help boost bookings for accommodation providers. Just explore this 360° walk-through example from the Hard Rock Hotel in Riviera Maya as one example or this Luxor Hotel Room tour in Las Vegas. Even when viewed on a smartphone or computer, VR can create a vivid experience and a strong feeling of “I want to stay there!”

VR-based inflight entertainment

British Airways and Air France are just two major airlines that have already invested in virtual reality technologies. They’ve used it for their customers to experience business travel lounges and inflight entertainment. Passengers can place a headset over their eyes and choose from a vast range of 360° video or movie experiences. On the flip side, operators might find opportunities to offer their own VR tourism experiences. These experiences can help in promoting their guest experiences or destination. 

AR-based navigation and tours

Augmented reality’s blending of virtual and real worlds lends itself extremely well to tourism and travel. Imagine AR apps that overlay the real world with historical buildings and stories of that location, or those that provide helpful arrows pointing to the nearest landmarks and tourist information. Tour operators might develop an app like Pokémon Go but with tourism gamification in mind: providing a fun quest to visit a range of landmarks complete with rewards for each visit. This kind of navigational tech can also have its advantages for large airports, exhibitions, and shopping malls.

NFTs as ‘proof’ of travel and experiences

While NFTs are still finding their foothold in the travel sector, there are already opportunities to purchase a Proof of Attendance Protocol (POAP): a type of ‘digital souvenir’ or badge which uses real-world data to prove the traveler has been to a particular location or event. Meanwhile, at least one travel startup has started to digitize luxury tourism property development in its own international blockchain-powered ecosystem. And there are airlines, travel clubs, and online travel agencies all considering the potential to use NFTs for their ticketing or loyalty reward programs.

Tapping into the crypto tourism market

There are two clear options for travel operators to capitalize on crypto tourism within the current market. The first is to enable cryptocurrency owners to pay for travel, accommodation, and tourism experiences using cryptocurrencies. To minimize risk, some tourism operators prefer to convert crypto payments to regular currency straight after the transaction. The second is to cater to the huge market for cryptocurrency conferences, tours, and events, such as those in the leadup to an initial coin offering (ICO). With an ever-increasing cryptocurrency community, the benefit for accommodation and tourism providers can be significant.

These are just a few of the emerging tourism applications for blockchain, VR tourism, and associated platforms. It may be difficult to accurately predict the future of these technologies and their potential for the travel industry – but we’ll definitely continue to provide you with updates on new and exciting uses!

Start your free trial of Rezdy and take advantage of emerging travel technologies

At Rezdy we work hard to bring the benefits of technology to tour and travel operators through our modern reservation and tour management software. To experience seamless payment gateways, a mobile tour management app, and travel agency partnerships to grow your bookings, register for your free trial or request a demo today.

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