We spoke to Accor Hotels at Cannes Lions to find out how the hospitality giant plans to harness the power of the metaverse.
Increased digitalisation and ever-evolving technology are shaking up the global hospitality industry. Now, French hotel giant Accor is dipping its toe in the metaverse to create new customer experiences.
Imagine immersing yourself in a hotel room or suite before you reserve it, or trying out a meeting space for your next big business event, without leaving your home or office.
The emerging metaverse, a digital world powered by 3D, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies, is set to open-up all sorts of new ‘try before you buy’ experiences for hotel customers in the future.
'Dreaming and discovery'
The Accor Group is one hospitality company excited about its potential, hungry to take its guests into a new dimension. It has already ventured into the Metaverse, focusing on the "dreaming and discovery" aspect of booking a hotel room.
"There's a lot of opportunity there and we started to do it with Ibis Styles, for example, when we invite people to be part of the Metaverse, to discover what they will enjoy physically when they stay," Antoine Dubois, head of marketing communications, guest experience and loyalty (Europe and North Africa), at Accor, told Euronews Next.
“We made some spaces and some bedrooms in the Metaverse and noticed that people are keen too".
Enhancing the guest experience
Accor is not only focusing on the 'try before you buy' dimension, but also guest experiences during a trip. In Pompeii, Italy, it has been bringing the city’s history to life through the Metaverse.
"You stay at the MGallery [Accor hotel brand] just next to the Pompeii places and the metaverse helps you to see what the city was like before the volcano crisis happened," explained Dubois.
“The metaverse can help you and amplify your experience when you stay and it's a great tool to use".
Accor is not the only hospitality giant to explore the Metaverse. Last year, Millennium Hotels and Resorts launched a hotel in the virtual world, trumpeting the move as a world first.
With an avatar guiding guests, The M Social Decentraland was described as a redefinition of hotels through the creation of “online adventures that integrate with real life events".
The mass market challenge
"The issue that we have with the Metaverse is the reach and the usage of the consumer," said Dubois.
"If we look at the data, we touched some micro targets and we are mass market, mainly for brands. So, we need to make sure that when we deploy things and develop things on the metaverse, we can reach people at scale".
The metaverse could generate more than 4.5 trillion euros in value by 2030, according to research published by McKinsey last year.
The study also cited data showing that around 60 per cent of consumers are excited about the transition of everyday activities out to the metaverse.
"There are definitely two worlds today," Dubois told Euronews Next. "The plus 45, of course you have some people plus 45 who are curious and enjoy the Metaverse and try it, but not in a massive way.
"And the younger generation, they are moving today from the influencer and social media world to the Metaverse step-by-step. So, we need to follow the path and follow them in that space".
Upskilling staff in the metaverse
Accor says it also recognises the potential of the Metaverse to take over traditional forms of training in the hospitality group, creating virtual learning spaces and laying a new path for the future of work.
"One thing in the metaverse that is really working super well is when you think not only B2C, but B2B. For example, creating a full universe of Metaverse for all the hotel employees to train themselves when they join the company," explained Dubois.
“To welcome people, to do a proper check-in, to solve an issue and to be trained in that space of the Metaverse, without any implication for the real customer, is something that is working super well".
Is this the end of 'real-verse' travel?
In 2021, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg hailed the metaverse as the next big think for the internet, even renaming his social media empire Meta. Taking a trip online was one of the examples he talked about.
But since then, doubting voices have questioned whether the Metaverse will live up to all the hype. The privacy and security of users are debated too.
"Definitely, the Metaverse is an opportunity to go further, but I don't think it will definitely stop people travelling in the future," predicted Dubois, looking at the long-term face of hospitality.
"In the end, the hotel universe, at the end of your consumer journey, it's a physical experience. You have to sleep somewhere, you have to eat somewhere, you have to enjoy, you have to meet somewhere in the physical way".
Watch the video in the media player above for more from this interview at the 2023 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.