Flightcatchers opens virtual store in the metaverse

An online travel agency has claimed an industry first by joining the metaverse in a push for a “new audience” and continued growth.

Hounslow-registered Flightcatchers has teamed up with King Meta Ltd to open a virtual store in the World Travel Village, accessible through a virtual reality headset.

Robin Sohdi, a consultant at Flightcatchers, said: “We’re targeting a new audience. It’s old-fashioned footfall traffic, but in the virtual world.”

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Flightcatchers, part of Polani Travel, focuses on selling flights to the British market. Its most popular destinations include Pakistan, India, the UAE and Thailand.

The company’s annual revenue has risen from £50 million before the pandemic to £175 million now, according to Sohdi, helped by growing demand for Europe and Africa.

But supplier relations director Nasser Siddiq told Travel Weekly he would like revenue to tip beyond £200 million, and he hopes Flightcatchers’ presence in the metaverse will contribute to that goal.

Through the agency’s joint venture with King Meta, Flightcatchers wants to strike deals with airlines and potentially offer “metaverse fares”.

When visiting the metaverse shop, customers will be able to learn about destinations and book tickets through the Flightcatchers website without taking off their headset.

Siddiq, who believes others in the industry will follow suit, said the company might supply staff members with headsets too, so they can guide customers through the experience.

“We don’t want to be left behind,” said Siddiq. “It’s the Google of 1995.”

King Meta director David Murray, described by Sohdi as the “technical guru” behind Flightcatchers’ move, believes major metaverse developments are just around the corner.

“Within five years, you won’t have a mobile phone or a computer,” he said. “Over the next five to 10 years, this headgear will be as small as a pair of glasses.”

Asked if virtual reality could spell the end of tourism, Sohdi replied: “I don’t think so. It will complement or augment it.”

He suggested the technology could help customers make more‑informed decisions about their holidays, while travel agents and operators might eventually use the kit as a training tool.

Sohdi said Flightcatchers had talked to the Saudi Tourism Authority about the technology and the agency also plans to hold an event with airlines in the coming months.

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