Travel & Tourism
In todays global marketplace, companies in the tourism and
travel sectors make heavy use of online channels to
promote their destinations and venues. Now, with the advent
of virtual worlds, companies in this sector are starting to set-
up virtual representations of real world places.
This KZero case study explains the rationale for tourism
marketing companies to enter the metaverse, the marketing
opportunities available, examples of organisations and
inside, proﬁle analysis of
the residents and why
t h e s e p e o p l e a re
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 1
What is a virtual world? However, as the chart below left shows, other regions
and in particular Europe, have embraced Second Life.
The World Wide Web as we know it today consists of In late 2006, Second Life resident numbers broke
static 2D pages. You visit a website and read/watch through the 1m mark, helped by signiﬁcant media
the information or media presented on it. Virtual coverage. During 2007, resident numbers grew by 1m
worlds (metaverses) are diﬀerent. per month and now (Jul 2009) the total number of
They are digital 3D environments accessed in real- registered accounts is over 19m.
time that allow people to explore, examine and However, even greater growth has been observed in
interact with the objects created within the world and virtual worlds catered towards younger audiences.
importantly they allow people to interact together in a Stardoll for example, has over 34m accounts, Barbie
shared collaborative space regardless of their Girls over 10m and IMVU over 39m. Appendix one
geographical location. shows the KZero universe graph, an illustration of the
Second Life was the ﬁrst glimpse into the future of the size and range of virtual worlds available.
Internet, a future of ‘Places, not Pages’. However, other
Using Second Life as an example, as explained in the
virtual worlds such as There, Kaneva, Stardoll and
following sections, the unique characteristics of a
many others are now available for marketers in this
typical resident has expedited the take-up, and the
range of diﬀerent countries represented.
Why are virtual worlds growing?
Who is a typical resident?
The most popular commercial metaverse to date,
Second Life, is a global application, meaning that Second Life is not a gaming application. There are no
anyone can become a resident. Initially, North America scores, no ‘lives’ to protect, no objectives and no end-
drove take-up due largely to the fact that the result.
company behind Second Life, Linden Lab is based in
San Francisco. Comparison has been drawn to World of Warcraft, an
extremely popular MMOG (massive multiplayer online
game) but the only real similarity is the fact that they
Rest of World
23% are both virtual worlds.
US Importantly, whereas the average age of a Warcraft
37% player is 17, for Second Life, the average age is 32. It is
this fact which stimulated the interest in major brands
to consider entering Second Life. Below (next page) is
Europe the age range spread for residents.
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 2
The graph below shows the regional breakdown of
fashion-themed world Stardoll.
Rest of World
Also of note and further interest to brand owners is
the fact that females account for 45% of users. A Europe
surprising, yet valuable piece of information. So, a
combination of the average age and gender ratio has 4%
made brands realise that there are beneﬁts to be
reaped by developing metaverse marketing strategies. KZero has in-depth data and research available for a
wide selection of virtual worlds and is best-placed
Further analysis of the demographic proﬁle of to make media planning and virtual world selection
residents reveals that these people reside heavily decisions for marketers across the world.
within the Innovator and Early Adopter groups.
Pre-December 2006, Innovators were the main types
inside Second Life, but, as explained by the Rogers The ﬁrst entrant from the tourism and marketing
Technology Adoption Curve, Innovators act as a sector into Second Life was Starwood Hotels and their
catalyst for Early Adopters. Whereas Innovators are Aloft brand.
very keen to trial new technologies, they have local
social networks. Aloft is a hotel brand aimed at business travelers and
before a single brick was built in the real world, a
The media landscape virtual version of the hotel was constructed in Second
Second Life aside, marketers now have a wide range
of options available to them. And, importantly, Why build a hotel in Second Life? After all, avatars do
traditional media planning techniques can now be not require sleep! Well, ﬁrstly, creating the hotel in a
used to select the most appropriate virtual world for virtual environment enabled Starwood Hotels to
the marketing objectives. promote their new venture at a very low cost. Shown
below is a 3D model of a typical Aloft hotel created by
Diﬀerent worlds have widely diﬀerent resident bases the architects.
from a geographical perspective as well as diﬀerent
age ranges - as demonstrated by appendix one.
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 3
Avatars entering the hotel were monitored to
understand the footfall and traﬃc ﬂows through the
diﬀerent parts of the hotel.
Feedback was also sought and obtained on a real time
basis by Starwood employees being present in the
hotel as avatars entered and explored. The ﬁndings of
this research was then aggregated and fed back to the
marketing team managing the launch in the real
To illustrate the design capabilities of Second Life, the world.
image below shows the actual Aloft hotel built in
Second Life. So clearly there are beneﬁts to be realised by hotel
brands entering the virtual space. Another company in
this category following the lead set by Aloft was Rixos,
a Turkish-based chain of luxury hotels.
From a PR perspective, the Aloft project generated a
signiﬁcant amount of coverage across mainstream Rixos also opted for the recreation option in Second
marketing media channels. Life. There venue showcases a typical Rixos hotel,
allowing visitors to explore both internal and external
Over and above the PR though, the project had a
areas in order to better understand the brand and
tangible objective for Starwood Hotels. By creating a
virtual replica of the a real world hotel, the company
was able to obtain market research about the design Another hotel brand, Crown Plaza has also entered
and layouts. Second Life. There strategy however was not to
primarily present their hotels as a way of exploring
them but instead to provide a service to businesses.
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 4
Their concept, ‘The Place to Meet’, allows businesses in One organisation which has successfully deployed this
Second Life to use areas on Crown Plaza Island for strategy is the Galveston Island Convention and Visitor
virtual meeting purposes, mirroring a real-world use Bureau.
of their hotels.
Galveston is a small island located in South Texas and
was the ﬁrst destination to oﬃcially promote itself in
The island contains several diﬀerent sized rooms and
The virtual island is a replica of its real world
areas which Crown Plaza rents out on an hourly basis.
counterpart and has many of the features actually
To further support this initiative, the rooms come found there, such as the visitor centre (shown above),
complete with the ability to stream video, audio and the East End historical district and the working
presentations directly into Second Life with the harbour complete with the Tall Ship Elissa and the
booking process managed by a dedicated website. Opera House built in 1894.
Tourist boards and organisations
Recognising the ability to recreate real world places in
virtual environments, several tourist boards and
organisations have taken steps into Second Life.
Bearing in mind the global target audience in Second
Life, their higher than average disposable incomes
and the fact that the internet is used heavily for The Netherlands Tourist Board also has a presence in
marketing by these organisations anyway, deploying Second Life. Their island features buildings and
architecture taken from Amsterdam, complete with
metaverse initiatives in many ways supports other
canals, windmills and bridges.
Furthermore, as many people use the internet to
conduct research about places prior to visiting, being
able to visually present these venues provides valuable
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 5
This project is part of an integrated marketing "We are planning to establish a Swedish embassy in
campaign called ‘New Holland’ , supported by website Second Life primarily as an information portal for
activity and focussed on speciﬁc themes such as Sweden. Second Life allows us to inform people about
culture, architecture and music. Sweden and broaden the opportunity for contact with
Sweden easily and cheaply.”
The virtual embassy, the Second House of Sweden
provides cultural insight and information about the
country. In addition, the venue will host a regular
programme of Swedish-themed events designed to
educate and engage potential visitors to the country.
The launch of this virtual programme centred around
culture and arts with a building on the island
presenting works of art from famous Dutch painters.
They are also working hard to create a community of
avatars interested in The Netherlands within Second
Another aspect of the decision-making process and
pre visit stage is researching and gathering more
oﬃcial-type information such as visa requirements The Maldives also has a virtual embassy presence in
and other related paperwork. Second Life. Taken from their launch press release:
On this theme the Swedish Foreign Ministry recently The Maldives Virtual Embassy is, quite simply, a place
(May 30) launched an oﬃcial Second Life embassy. in Second Life where visitors can come to ﬁnd out
about political, social or economic developments in
the Maldives, where they can meet virtual Maldivian
diplomats and ask questions on subjects such as visa
requirements, where they can access information
about holidays in the Maldives and trade and
investment opportunities, where they can take a
virtual tour around a real Maldives holiday resort –
the Maldives Hilton – or where they can simply relax,
listen to Maldivian music and meet friends.
Swedish Institute (SI) director Olle Wästberg is quoted
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 6
Another project using historical architecture as the
driving them is Virtual Tuscany. The tourism marketing
organisation for Tuscany - Fondazione Sistema
Second Life is also being used to re-create speciﬁc
regions and cities from around the world. One project
which was developed to provide a historical insight As the European population of SL continues to grow,
into an area is ‘Paris in the 1900’s’. more destinations/venues are being launched. The
Virtual Tuscany island has many of the famous
landmarks from Tuscany.
Furthermore, this tourist board is actively driving
visitors to the island to become part of an online
community. Growing online communities is an
excellent way of cultivating leads - people interested
in a particular region. Other regions in Italy that are
currently developing Second Life venues include
This island has re-built central areas of Paris based on Venice, Pisa, Milan And Rome.
the architectural and historical events of the time.
Germany is also starting to embrace virtual tourism
Paris in the 1900’s includes the Moulin Rouge, The
marketing. A recently launched project involved the
Eiﬀel Tower, the Champs Elyse, Metro’s and many
recreation of Augsberg in Bavaria as well as Munich,
fashion and automobile-related items of the time.
which is shown below. The city centre has been
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 7
carefully re-created based on accurate street maps and As well as the ﬁrst virtual St Patrick’s Day parade,
imagery. Tourism Ireland will organise a range of events and
activities during the St Patrick’s festivities in Second
A similar approach was taken by Dublin. One of the Life’s replica city of Dublin. Events will include a live
ﬁrst real world citites modeled broadcast of the largest ever contemporary Irish music
expo – “Snakes and Ladders” – from the World
in Second Life, Virtual Dublin also plays host to Financial Center in New York; a treasure hunt which will
marketing events and promotions, some of which involve visitors exploring Dublin to ﬁnd clues that will
have been co-ordinated to coincide with real world enable them to collect points and win prizes.
events - a great way of widening the audience for
marketing initiatives. Tourism Ireland’s objective is to encourage those who
visit this virtual world to come and visit the real
Ireland during 2008. “Dublin” in Second Life is a well-
established destination – frequently making the Top
Ten list of the most popular places to visit there.
Tourism Ireland launched the ﬁrst ever tourism
marketing campaign in Second Life last October, with
a Discover Ireland music festival.
There’s also a large area of central Barcelona re-created
in Second Life. Unintentionally, but successfully, this
Taken from a Tourism Ireland press release:
venue has become the ﬁrst port of call for people from
Spain when they enter Second Life.
Tourism Ireland will host the world’s ﬁrst virtual St
Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday 16th March, in the
internet-based, virtual world of Second Life. The virtual
parade will include 20 Irish and Celtic themed ﬂoats
and will be the highlight of a three-day Discover Ireland
Festival in Second Life, sponsored by Tourism Ireland.
Second Life is one of the largest virtual worlds in
existence, with over 12 million registered users, 3
million of whom are considered regular users. Sixty per
cent of Second Life’s users come from Ireland’s four
biggest tourist markets: Great Britain, US, Germany and Landmark replication
France. Half of those users are aged over 30 – a key On a smaller scale than re-creating an city (of parts of
demographic for tourism to the island of Ireland. it), a highly eﬀective and manageable strategy is the
venue or attraction virtual tour.
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 8
This option is ideal for marketers responsible for This feature is designed to extend their global fan-
promoting speciﬁc attractions or requiring tactical base and allow fans from across the world to watch
campaigns in Second Life. matches together in a collaborative environment.
Several world-famous places have already been
created in Second Life for a variety of reasons.
Examples of leisure/sporting based destinations
working well include the Yankee Stadium in NYC and
the Ajax FC Stadium in Holland.
Other famous landmarks created in Second Life are
The Yankee Stadium project was driven by MLB.com
(Major League Baseball). The virtual stadium modeled
exactly on the real world one re-creates famous
baseball matches and allows visitors to watch and
even interact with the players.
Adding to the realism, MLB.com released virtual
tickets to the residents in Second Life.
The Ajax FC project includes the virtual stadium and
streaming video of Ajax matches via in-world screens.
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 9
This company re-created their latest luxury liner, the
Costa Serena in Second Life to coincide with the real
world launch in France.
The virtual eﬀort allows visitors to explore the ship
and get a feel for what it would be like to cruise on it,
from anywhere in the world.
The regional development agency for the North West
of England (NWDA) decided to integrated a virtual
marketing element to their campaign promoting
Manchester as a ‘Digital City’.
The project itself was promoted long before the virtual
island was available (not such a good idea) and six
months after the press releases, the island opened to Also taking a tactical approach, the Mexican Tourist
tie-in with an awards ceremony - Big Chips, taking Board (Visit Mexico) launched in June 2007 a Second
place in Manchester. Life island promoting Chichen Itza, an ancient
The awards event was simulcast into Second Life
whilst taking place in the real world at the same time.
On a slightly diﬀerent theme, this time related to
travel marketing, a great example of using Second Life
on a tactical basis is a recent campaign by Costa
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 10
The venue has been nominated as part of the Seven aspects of travel. Further functionality includes the
Wonders of the World competition and virtual world ability to buy real-life ﬂights on the STA island.
activity has been integrated into real world activities.
German-based travel company TUI has also moved
This type of initiative highlights the clear beneﬁts of
into Second Life. The company (known in the UK as
using virtual worlds for marketing. Visitors to the
Thomson) has several leisure-themed islands.
Chichen Itza island can explore the features and
related landmarks at ﬁrst hand without having to
physically be there.
It’s not just venue or destination ‘owners’ that can
augment virtual worlds into their marketing plans.
Travel marketing companies can also beneﬁt. An
example of this is STA Travel. Their approach is one of brand extension. In the real
world they take people on holiday - transportation to
destinations where people relax and have fun.
This essence has been recreated on TUI island, where
avatars can meet up, sail virtual boats and participate
in activities such as cliﬀ diving and treasure hunts.
Related sector services
Europ Assistance, a European provider of automobile,
travel, health and home insurance entered Second Life in
As a provider of travel services primarily into the mid 2007 and is offering residents protection against
student and young adult sectors, they were keen to accidental teleport accidents.
create a presence in Second Life to communicate their
products and also work hard to develop communities Their press release states:
of interested residents. As the world’s leading provider of modern assistance
services, the Europ Assistance Group has once again
demonstrated the pioneering spirit one would expect of
this inventor of medical repatriation and travel
assistance services, this time by launching the ﬁrst ever
Community building is being facilitated by in-world assistance policy for virtual journeys in Second Life® on
events. An example of this is the ‘Sunday Travel Series’. June 29, 2007.
These are STA hosted seminars discussing various
Available from the Europ Assistance island, this virtual
assistance policy symbolised by a belt and an aura
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 11
surrounding the protected avatars can be taken out free the functionality of creating ﬁctional venues.Taken
of charge by any avatars keen to avoid becoming from an Amazing Worlds press release:
victims of teleportation accidents, which are today
increasingly numerous according to a rumour currently ‘Amazing Worlds is a 3D online Mirror world which
circulating in the Second Life® world. This rumour, depicts interesting places of the world, we help local
spread by means of a video ﬁlmed in the Second Life® tourism venues and authorities build lifelike 3D mirror
world, humorously portrays a series of imagined images of the locations which consumers from all over
accidents befalling avatars during their journeys the world could access via the internet. Amazing Worlds
through Second Life® (teleportation). employs the latest in MMO technology to provide high
quality graphics with easy end user interface for a
True to its goal of making life easier for its clients in enriching experience.’
both day-to-day and special situations, this “virtual”
assistance service in Second Life®, (the ﬁrst of its kind to Amazing Worlds in currently in beta trials, planning to
be oﬀered by an assistance company), is accompanied fully launch late 2009.
by a software-based training programme to help
“newbies” adjust to the Second Life® virtual world, and
to show them how to get around, to meet people, to
chat or to change their appearance, etc.
Alternatives to Second Life
2008 saw new entrants into the virtual world space Multiverse is another alternative virtual worlds
with propositions closely tailored to travel/tourism platform. This application allows companies to create
marketing companies. standalone virtual worlds which could for example be
hosted on a company website. Here is how the
The ﬁrst such virtual world is called ‘Amazing Worlds’ - company describes Multiverse:
the self titled ‘World’s 1st 3D Tourism Mirror World’.
Multiverse's unique technology platform will change
the economics of virtual world development by
empowering independent game developers to create
high-quality, Massively Multiplayer Online Games
(MMOGs) and non-game virtual worlds for less
money and in less time than ever before. Multiverse
solves the prohibitive challenges of game creation by
providing developers with a comprehensive, pre-
coded client-server infrastructure and tools, a wide
A mirror world is based purely on places in the real range of free content--including a complete game for
word, as opposed to virtual worlds which also have modiﬁcation--and a built-in market of consumers. The
Multiverse Network will give video game players a
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 12
single program--the Multiverse Client--that lets them worlds.
play all of the MMOGs and visit all of the non-game
virtual worlds built on the Multiverse platform. • Engagement. Virtual worlds such as Second Life
facilitate the ability to involve and engage people in
The ﬁrst demo world created by Multiverse is Times a shared environment. This means that visitors can
Square New York. Here are some screenshots. be educated about the attributes of a region, town
• Interaction. Virtual destinations can be brought to
life in virtual worlds with the inclusion of video,
audio and many other interactive features.
• Measurability. Activity in virtual worlds can be
highly tracked and measured. This includes visitor
numbers interaction metrics and referral sources.
• Community building. If done correctly, virtual world
marketing activity can be used to develop and grow
online communities. These become valuable sources
for business development.
• Integration. Virtual world platforms can be
integrated into other forms of marketing, thus
creating a new type of synergy.
There are several other mirror worlds in development/
recently launched included Twinity and Near.
The beneﬁts of virtual tourism
• Aﬄuent audience. Second Life residents are typically
Early Adopters. These are tech-savvy, opinion-
formers with high disposable incomes.
• Global reach. Although currently very popular in
North America and Europe, Second Life is now
growing strongly in the Middle and Far East. This
pattern is expected to continue in new virtual
Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 13