Metaverse, decentralisation (web3) or autonomous vehicles – what should your focus be?

November 1st, 2021

Alex Bainbridge

It is a confusing time within tourism innovations for in destination experiences. With Facebook (Meta)’s announcement last week of their vision for their metaverse, we now have three competing technologies at play:

Metaverse

Facebook (Meta) isn’t the only metaverse, but it may perhaps be the best funded.

Maybe easier to explain by stating the evolution:

  1. Physical experiences in physical environments (what tour guides do)
  2. Digital experiences in physical environments (what my business does – Autoura)
  3. Digital experiences in digital environments (Facebook metaverse)

I suggest the metaverse will become the next generation digital marketing (for our sector) because it is a digital experience in a digital environment. From that you upsell a related digital or physical experience in a physical environment.

Once your have taken a white water ride in a metaverse, you can be upsold a white water ride on an actual river

Decentralisation

In current conversations, this means blockchain, NFTs, SSI, DAOs etc etc…..

If you are not quite sure what decentralisation means, think about how email works. You can send an email to someone and there is no central entity or block, and the recipient can use any email software, it doesn’t have to be the same as your software. All email software & servers have agreed on a protocol so can exchange email data knowing that they all speak the same data language.

With centralised platforms, for example if you send a Facebook message to someone, it has to be sent & received via Facebook.

I wrote more about decentralisation previously

Decentralisation will be big for our sector because we are naturally a decentralised industry. Every city has their 10-100 local tour operators, the only centralising technology so far is online travel agent > SaaS reservation systems. Centralisation reached the larger tour operators but the majority of small tour companies are still fragmented. Perhaps decentralisation protocols are what is needed to make the sector 100% digital.

What will hold back decentralisation is that it requires innovation by consensus. Consensus is rare when you involve large corporate entities from the start (as each has to protect their own position), so a decentralised industry will have to be built from the ground up and then adopted by larger companies. This makes decentralisation a harder project at the start, but unstoppable when at scale.

Timelines & impact

Now we can argue about execution, we can argue about timelines…… but these two options are the options. Its not either/or, both will be key going forward.

What is clear though is that the current web is on a downward trend from now on. Still important for years to come, but not where the future lies. Just part of the mix going forward, like printing leaflets is also still important. No one runs conferences about how to print a tour advertising leaflet.

Autonomous vehicles

There is a “however”, metaverse and decentralisation proponents don’t have a monopoly on the future.

Autonomous vehicles and flying taxis will be controlled by the incumbents made rich by web 2…. They have the cash, so can buy themselves to future relevancy…

e.g. you will get in an Amazon (Zoox) autonomous vehicle, or a Google (Waymo) vehicle or a Microsoft (Cruise) robotaxi. These folk will have an important part to play as they will power urban vehicle based sightseeing & experience products.

What should you focus on?

Working out how to trade in this new environment is different for startups vs incumbents. But either way, you are likely in the wrong market positioning and need to readjust.

If this is a product problem for you (e.g. likely most online travel agents and vehicle based tour operators), you need to move fast (at least putting yourself in a position where you can maximise learning – e.g. building an innovation team to begin execution on all of this).

If this is a marketing problem for you (e.g likely for most non-vehicle tour operators, attractions, hotels & tour guides), you can hold back a moment and see what happens. Big beasts are competing to provide you the highest performing marketing at the lowest price…. so no need to rush into action as you have what they want, you are their customer. However pay close attention, especially when signing long term technology deals.

One certain winner from this is the popcorn sellers….

Image: Unsplash

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