Metaverse and immersive experience: Tour operator TUI launches the adventure

Marc Jennings, CIO of analytics and AI at travel and transport giant TUI, says the big tech trend to watch next year is immersive technologies.

He says that as the cost of hardware — like virtual and augmented reality headsets — starts to fall, more companies will begin to explore how to make the most of the metaverse.

Like other industry experts, Marc Jennings believes that the fact that major IT vendors – notably Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta – are betting big on immersive experiences means that the phenomenon is likely to gain importance soon: “It’s clearly this is where the world goes,” he says.

Ten-year horizon

Consulting firm McKinsey estimates that the metaverse could generate up to $5 trillion in consumer and business use cases by 2030. It also predicts that the average Internet user will spend up to six hours a day in metaverse experiences by 2030.

These numbers may seem impossible at this time, especially since key technologies in the metaverse, such as virtual reality and augmented reality, still have a long way to go before gaining interest or acceptance from the general public.

However, instead of waiting until the end of the decade, some organizations are thinking about how metaverse technologies can be applied to their use cases.

“My advice would be to think about how these technologies can potentially support your business,” says Marc Jennings. “Where do you think they can add value to the workplace, for what kind of skill or service is given?”.

Anticipating customer needs

Marc Jennings says TUI already has a number of initiatives underway where it is developing an understanding of how it can use the metaverse to develop richer experiences for internal colleagues and external customers.

“It’s very low at the moment. You can spend a lot of money in this space. We’re just getting started. But it’s the kind of innovation that TUI thinks it needs,” he says.

Marc Jennings says his data team and colleagues in IT and the rest of the company are always on the lookout for key technology trends that could impact TUI and its customers in the short to medium term.

The goal of research work on immersive experiences is to understand how end-user needs are likely to evolve over the next decade. These explorations help the company get an idea of ​​the types of skills that are likely to be needed in the not-too-distant future.

“If the metaverse becomes the norm, we need to develop these skills – and this is a whole new set of skills that is completely different than what you have in your business today. So how do you understand this demand and prepare to take advantage from the metaverse before it really explodes?”

Increased immersion

According to Marc Jennings, TUI strives to understand potential use cases both in the industrial metaverse, which applies to applications used internally by staff, and in external customer experiences.

When it comes to industrial use cases, early explorations show that immersive technologies can be very useful in helping build muscle memory. He gives the example of airline pilot training. “Virtual technologies mean you don’t have to be physically on an aircraft to do this. It’s very expensive to land an aircraft to conduct training, just as it’s expensive to bring cabin crew and pilots from all over the world onto this aircraft . If you can do these things in a virtual device, or if you do your annual checkups, then that’s a very useful potential.”

Another possible example of the industrial metaverse is remote support for engineers—having someone who can help employees virtually means the company doesn’t need a bunch of trained experts in every physical location.

In terms of customer experience, Marc Jennings explains that TUI can use virtual technology to present content to customers and give them a better idea of ​​the hotel or cruise ship they might be staying on during their holiday. .

“With a headset, you can virtually walk around the hotel – and it’s much more powerful than looking at pictures on a website. You can see the layout of your room and you can see what the pool looks like. “If you’re going on a ship tourism, you have an idea where your room is. It’s about bringing the holidays to life. It’s extremely powerful.”

An outline guide

TUI has invested in hardware to help explore these use cases. Some of the company’s in-house developers work alongside external startups to develop their expertise and knowledge. Marc Jennings says his team is also exploring metaverse opportunities with some of the big tech companies. “These things are happening – and it’s about ensuring the right size of investment. It’s about developing a step-by-step approach.”

Marc Jennings says TUI has already created a three-year roadmap for immersive experiences. This strategy shows where the company wants to go in terms of skills, capabilities and use cases. “Things can open up over that three-year period. But the goal is to test the waters. We want to dip our toe in and make sure we’re aware of what’s going on and stay on top of the changes. in technology.” he explains.

“The device that people use is constantly changing. The investment from the big players is tremendous. The cost of devices, the cost of hardware and the ability to build applications in this space are becoming more accessible. things that happen over time. “

Welcoming new skills on board

Aside from his long-term goals, Jennings acknowledges that his company’s efforts to break into the nascent metaverse hold valuable lessons for other professionals considering their own strategy.

According to him, the main lessons to be learned so far relate to technologies and skills. Professionals should know that testing use cases means that you will likely need a different technology stack than almost anything you currently have in your legacy.

According to Marc Jennings, the successful application of these technologies within the framework of the metaverse also requires a change in mindset and skills. “The type of person you’d want to hire right now is probably someone who works in the games industry. They usually have a lot of skills in demand,” he explains.

“Building a training program around that internally, or trying to change staff, is doable, but it’s also a challenge. Those are things we have to consider as we go forward.”


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