The metaverse may be all of the rage these days. But Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern doesn’t think we’ll be traveling there anytime soon, saying he thinks for will want to be in the “real-verse” for some time to come.
Asked on CNBC on Friday morning about the impact of the metaverse on the travel industry, Kern said he doesn’t see it as a competitive threat, and noted that “we are trying to figure it out, trying to figure out what it means.”
But Kern said the metaverse — the idea that individuals using virtual reality headsets can be transported to different virtual places — will not upend your next family vacation.
“We are pretty much about the real-verse and people moving around and experiencing things. And I don’t think the metaverse, in my lifetime, will ever make up for being in Paris, being in Rome, being in a National Park. There is just no replacement for that, and those experiences are what change our lives. And I don’t think that’s the same with a headset on, on your couch. Maybe I’ll be wrong. Maybe in 100 years we will all be batteries, and sitting around with headsets on, but for the foreseeable future we feel pretty good about people wanting to be out in the world.”
Expedia reported strong earnings on Thursday, posting fourth quarter net income of $276 million on revenue of $2.3 billion. And Kern noted that they are seeing a “solid return to travel,” a message he echoed in the CNBC appearance.
Kern’s take on the metaverse is not too far off from what former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the GeekWire Summit crowd in 2016.
“I hope that VR in travel fails miserably because I want people to go places,” said Khosrowshahi, who now leads Uber.
The metaverse certainly has captured the attention of venture capitalists and big-tech titans, with billions of dollars flowing into the ballyhooed sector in recent months. Facebook’s name change to Meta last fall and Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard are two examples of how companies are betting on what some believe is the next significant platform shift in technology.
And to get a sense of how the metaverse concept is entering the collective consciousness, check out some of this year’s Super Bowl ads. Meta, of course, touts the benefits of the metaverse in their Super Bowl oddly through the reborn life of animatronic dog, while Salesforce takes a more cynical view.
“While the others look to the metaverse and Mars, let’s stay here and restore ours,” declares actor Matthew McConaughey.
Sounds like McConaughey and Kern could be pals, hanging on a real beach or mountain top in the “real-verse.”