Virtual travel: The Expedia CEO and the Fear of the Metaverse
Online travel agency Expedia has been thinking about the metaverse – and doesn’t feel threatened. Why should it?
Ever since VR goggles became more widely available to all, there have been reports about virtual tourism and the potential of VR travel. There are great apps for virtual travel, even to photo-realistic places, and the ingenious Google Earth VR with Street View is as captivating as on the first day in the VR glasses.
But of course, a trip in virtual reality cannot replace a real trip. How could it, there are so many more things to a trip than just the audiovisual impression.
Metaverse beats real-verse? “Maybe in 100 years”
Since Mark Zuckerberg proclaimed the metaverse age, many CEOs of large companies have had to take a stand on their metaverse strategy. Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern is no exception. His company brokers real trips online and everything that goes with it.
But instead of expanding his own portfolio to include VR travel, which would be possible as a strategic vision for the future and to dance along a bit with the metaverse hype, Kern prefers to hand out a basket: He doesn’t believe that in his lifetime (age: 52) the metaverse could replace a real stay in Paris, Rome or a national park.
“There’s just no replacement for that. Those experiences are what change our lives, and I don’t think that’s the same with a headset on your couch,” Kern says.
Metaverse angst: the ultimate Metaverse success is a dystopia
So far, so obvious. What’s more interesting is that Kern’s long-term outlook incorporates a common Metaverse fear that I’m encountering a lot these days: If the metaverse concept succeeds on a large scale, that is, if many people spend even more time in more immersive digital worlds that can compete with reality, that is often described as a dystopia. Especially if this metaverse is provided by Meta.
Kern’s statement about what he thinks will happen if he is wrong about his dismissive Metaverse stance makes this clear: “Maybe I’ll be wrong. Maybe in 100 years we’ll all be batteries and sitting around with headsets on. But I think for the foreseeable future, we feel pretty good about people wanting to be out in the world.”
Mark Zuckerberg and the Metaverse community still have a lot of work to do. On the one hand, they have to make it clear what the Metaverse is supposed to become in the first place – conceptually, technically, what benefits it could provide. And they have to do this with concrete examples.
At the same time, and this is probably the bigger task, they have to build confidence that the metaverse is good for humanity – and does not mean its end as a battery cell in a nutrient tank, as Matrix has taught us. Perhaps the first task will take care of the second.
Read more about the Metaverse:
- The Tinder of the Metaverse is here: new dating app Nevermet
- Meta’s big Metaverse concert was a costly disaster
- Metaverse Burgers: McDonald’s patents virtual restaurants