The metaverse: that magical virtual place where you can meet up with friends, co-workers, or even like-minded strangers simply by putting a headset on. Video gamers have been hanging out there for a while, but now, the metaverse is becoming a realistic extension of all kinds of businesses, including the world of travel and tourism.
The tourism metaverse is an appropriate development, because people who love to travel are often naturally curious, adventurous, even intrepid. In other words, they’re the same sort of folks who enjoy a new experience like virtual reality (VR) and its close cousin augmented reality (AR).
There’s a thrill of adventure that goes along with donning a VR headset and entering a virtual world. The applications of the tourism metaverse are vast and exciting, which is perhaps why 2023 has been dubbed “The Year That Tourism In The Metaverse Takes Off.”
It’s a good time for attractions and museums in the metaverse to arise, because the recent pandemic, rampant inflation, and the sheer hassle of travel are all factors making some people think twice about physically venturing out to museums, especially if they are far away. Luckily for them, the desire to see more of the world and the pace of technology have converged in one beautiful digital place: the metaverse.
Developing a metaverse experience for your museum expands your audience, lifts your “tech cred,” and doesn’t even have to be that challenging to do. But where to begin, if you’re new to this digital medium? Read on for inspiration, explanation, and guidance.
The Mocoverse brings art to the metaverse
The Moco Museum in Amsterdam is a showcase for inspiring modern, contemporary, and street art with an impressive collection that includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Banksy, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Andy Warhol, and many other high-profile artists. When the museum’s creative minds introduced the Mocoverse, it wasn’t such a stretch. Finding innovative ways to marry art and technology is a pressing modern concern.
The Mocoverse is a digital art NFT (non-fungible token) platform that gives global members access to an exclusive curated collection of NFT artworks. “The Mocoverse provides a community of intuitive art lovers,” explains Daniël Logchies, NFT Project Manager of the Moco Museum. “In every collaboration, we partner with big names and proven NFT artists.”
In the two short years since the Mocoverse has been available, it has acquired 300 members – a community of enthusiasts at the intersection of art and technology. This creative exploration appeals to some of the museum’s existing patrons, but crucially, it has attracted an entirely new audience as well: early adopter NFT fans who also happen to appreciate art.
One of the primary tenets of the Mocoverse is this: “Those who join the Mocoverse are part of a community that collectively moves towards making the world a better place.” Those who answer the call to enter the Mocoverse find themselves in a digital gallery populated with curated drops of original digital art. The Mocoverse invites artists to contribute their NFT creations and community members to buy these NFTs, ultimately benefiting not just the artists themselves but a charity.
Movement On The Ground (MOTG) is a non-profit organization that works to improve the quality of life for the global refugee population and establish a new blueprint for humanitarian help. A global community of NFT artists and art fans is drawn by expertly curated art, and in turn, the museum is able to donate a significant sum.
The 5 benefits available to museums in the metaverse
As an extension of the Moco Museum, the Mocoverse exists in its own virtual world and has its own unique audience. As such, the museum has seen a lot of benefits from this digital venture beyond simply “doing something cool.” Your museum, too, stands to benefit from creating a tourism metaverse experience in a myriad of ways.
1. Reach new audiences
Expanding Moco’s audience was one of the first and biggest benefits the creators of the Mocoverse saw. For any museum interested in creating a tourism metaverse, the opportunity to attract a bigger audience is a big driver.
When you launch a metaverse-based project, you inherently stand to attract people who are interested in technology. In the case of the Mocoverse, that includes fans of NFTs and art, but the focus of your metaverse might be something else.
2. Give a boost to accessibility, inclusivity – and booking volume
One of the key ways the tourism industry can take advantage of the metaverse is by providing a preview of a future experience in a virtual setting. VR provides a practical solution for some very real travel challenges: learning how to navigate an airport in advance, for instance, or getting an embodied tutorial for getting on the subway in a foreign country.
For museums in particular, a preview of the experience could help nervous travelers better prepare for their visit, school chaperones make a plan in advance, and the neurodiverse establish a strategy for visiting in person.
Your metaverse might be a replica of your entire museum or a guided experience through certain physical exhibits the visitor is likely to encounter in person, giving them the confidence they need to complete the booking.
3. Invent an exciting new experience
Virtual experiences that mirror the physical ones visitors will actually have in your museum are just one approach to the tourism metaverse. Another is to create an entirely new realm, as the Mocoverse did, offering visitors a different or supplemental experience than they might get physically.
What this looks like is entirely up to you, but typically, a visitor in a metaverse has control over a digital avatar that can be used to communicate with others inside of a virtual social experience. There might be ways to conduct transactions in the tourism metaverse – buying tickets to the IRL experience.
It’s important to note that augmented reality, too, can play an important role in creating innovative new museum experiences, and is often a more accessible type of technology for museum teams new to the field. For example, your museum might create a smartphone app that uses a visitor’s smartphone camera to overlay text and graphics on top of what they’re seeing in your museum.
Many museums have already taken this approach – like the Art Gallery of Ontario, whose “ReBlink” app invites visitors to view artworks through the lens of their device in order to see classic works reimagined by a contemporary artist with a climate change theme.
4. Enhance your museum’s existing in-person experience
Some museum directors fear that implementing a virtual version of their museum’s exhibitions would discourage people from making the trip to visit in person, but few experts think that’s a real risk. Rather than serving as a replacement for “real life,” a tourism metaverse creates a new opportunity for people who may not have the means to visit in person because of financial, logistical, physical, or other handicaps.
A tourism metaverse also expands the experience for existing visitors, offering them novel ways to interact with your museum’s collections and brand. Particularly when you can do something in the metaverse you can’t do in the real museum – such as view and purchase digital art NFTs – there’s a real attraction for visitors to access the virtual space.
At the Moco Museum, the Mocoverse is a place visitors can enter virtually from anywhere in the world with a VR headset. But physical visitors to the actual museum also have an opportunity to experience the Mocoverse while they’re visiting.
5. Address the issue of sustainable travel
Finally, the tourism metaverse helps address a very real and pressing global problem: the issue of sustainable travel. With climate change a looming concern for everyone, and air travel a major contributor to the problem, museums that offer a way to experience their collections without coming in person are part of the solution. In fact, many people think the tourism metaverse will be the future of sustainable travel.
Having a vision and a direction for the type of virtual experience you want to create is a profound first step in getting there. The rest is logistical – albeit intimidating to a lot of museums who haven’t delved into this type of virtual world-making before.
How to get set up as an attraction or museum in the metaverse
For many museums, the biggest hurdle to entering the metaverse is coming up with a good idea, so that’s always step number one. Once you have an idea, you’ll tackle partnerships, design, and marketing in a logical order.
1. Find your vision
An innovative idea for your tourism metaverse is the first and most important step. Your foray into this world should start with a clear objective and a budget. It will cost money to implement metaverse technology, and you should also consider how you’ll market it. Check out what competitors in the world of tourism are doing – not just museums but parks, hotels, airports, and more. Look for places to create a competitive advantage with the metaverse you deploy.
2. Choose a platform
There are many different metaverse platforms out there, and the one you choose will be a decision between you and your developer – whether you have an in-house developer or, more likely, outsource the work to a specialized design house. Make this decision in an informed way, analyzing and comparing various technology platforms to find the best one.
3. Create your space
Metaversal worlds can be simple or they can be intricate. Whatever your vision, you’ll need to add content: things like 3D models, images, videos, and text. You’ll also want to develop a virtual itinerary for engaging with guests and communicating important information through your metaverse. Along the way, perhaps you’ll encourage virtual tourists to interact with their environment and your brand.
They might hunt for virtual collectibles (such as NFTs) and store them as souvenirs of their “travels.” Or you could combine play-to-earn games with loyalty programs, which can allow tourists to earn rewards by completing different activities in the metaverse. The goal is to engage your visitors and offer them an experience they’ve never had before. Logchies suggests, “You could create a digital museum to showcase your art wherever you are. There are plenty of possibilities.”
4. Invite people in
Once you've added content to your space, invite people to explore it. This could be done through a link on a digital medium or a QR code on a billboard or flier, for instance.
This last step is one of the most important, of course, so as you are planning and designing your museum’s metaverse project, make sure you’re also planning how you will promote it.
How to market your museum in the metaverse
For the Mocoverse, promotion hinged on existing social connections with big players in the MFT world. Specifically, Logchies describes, “We used our regular channels like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook to begin with, and then we discovered that a lot of interested people are on Discord and on Twitter. We also used the Nifty gateway quite a lot. “
To enable this social marketing effort, the museum created standalone social media profiles for its tourism metaverse, assuming the audience for this digital venture would be different from its existing audience. This is an option you might consider as well, as social promotion is a highly effective avenue for marketing a new virtual space that people can enter with a simple click.
Influencers were also a big part of Mocoverse’s promotion strategy. It helped, says Logchies, that “Our founders are friends with a lot of NFT artists and collectors, and they asked them all to repost on their socials. We used this network of influencers to reach a niche target audience.”
Think about your sphere of influence and where you might find tech-savvy creators to team up with you in this effort. Your own exhibited artists, or other well-known people associated with your museum’s content, are a good place to look. And if you lack such a built-in sphere of influence, consider recruiting paid influencers.
Regardless of how you approach promoting your own tourism metaverse, the effort you put into it must match the effort of creating the virtual space itself. People won’t find it simply by wandering around your museum. You’ll have to provide portals.
Get in on the tourism metaverse while it’s hot
Much of this might be new territory for your museum or attraction, and it's understandable if it all feels a bit overwhelming. Conceptually, the idea of a virtual world associated with your venue might make a lot of creative sense, but feel difficult to design and put in place. Hopefully, you’re inspired by the work done to put the Mocoverse in motion, and perhaps you have an idea of your own.