Forward-looking hospitality brands M Social and CitizenM are building pixel hotels in the metaverse as locations for avatars to ‘work, sleep and play’. Jenny Southan reports

The trend for building ‘digital twins’ of real-world locations in the metaverse is taking off in the travel industry, with M Social and CitizenM (two unrelated companies, despite their similar-sounding names) among the brands leading the way.

Singaporean brand M Social (part of Millennium Hotels and Resorts), launched the M Social Decentraland on May 5, 2022, making it the world’s first hospitality group to operate a hotel in the metaverse.

Modelled on different M Social hotels around the world, the virtual property “encapsulates M Social’s brand essence of being a trendsetting lifestyle and aims to be a place for all to gather and discover the virtual reality universe of Decentraland“.M Social DecentralandLocated near Genesis Plaza, at the heart of Decentraland, the latest hotel by Millennium Hotels and Resorts sits on prime digital land. Similar to its brick-and-mortar sister hotels, M Social Decentraland is positioned as a “hub for explorers keen to discover new experiences and connect with like-minded individuals”.

The virtual hotel flaunts a giant “M” on each of its four sides, with glass exteriors and neon pink accents creating a sleek interior look.

“M Social is about being different, being one of a kind. As we look towards the future, we need to look past the traditional model of hospitality and engage our guests through new immersive experiences,” says Kwek Leng Beng, executive chairman of Millennium and Copthorne Hotels Limited.

“We hope to redefine hospitality through M Social Decentraland by creating online adventures that integrate with real life events.”

Guests who step inside M Social Decentraland can interact with an avatar that welcomes everyone in the lobby. The avatar guides guests on a journey of discovery through the hotel. Those who reach the top of Decentraland will stand a chance to win real-world hotel surprises.

Saurabh Prakash, group senior vice-president of commercial for Millennium Hotels and Resorts, says: “The hospitality landscape is rapidly evolving. We are embracing different technologies to engage customers and enhance guest experiences.

“The metaverse is one such avenue that presents a myriad of opportunities for us to create unique social connections with our guests. M Social Decentraland will enable us to reach out to new and existing customers in both the physical and virtual world with online connection to offline engagement.”

In the upcoming months, Millennium Hotels and Resorts will be in discussion with like-minded partners on future collaborations. Guests can also look forward to treasures and surprises when they visit M Social Decentraland.

Future integration for the hotel will include linkage to the M Social website and special events to mark special occasions like Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day.

The M Social brand was launched in Singapore in 2016. M Social Decentraland marks the first virtual location together with other physical outposts in Paris, New York, Singapore and Auckland.

CitizenM enters the meterverse

CitizenM, a Dutch company that describes itself as “the pioneer of affordable luxury hotels”, has announced it will acquire a LAND site in The Sandbox, a leading decentralized gaming virtual world and a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, to allow it to begin building a hotel in the metaverse.

The endeavor marks the start of a new movement in hospitality, as CitizenM will be the first ever hotel group to purchase LAND in The Sandbox, a virtual world where users can create – and monetise – their own distinct realms and game experiences on LANDs, which are non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that represent virtual real-estate in The Sandbox.

Having spent the pandemic focusing on building customer loyalty with the trial launch of hotel membership subscriptions, CitizenM says it is now focusing on building loyalty in the online world.

As with all of its hotels, CitizenM says it will “bring art to the forefront” by showcasing and selling future NFT collections that will be commissioned with growing talent in the digital art space.

Once the LAND is purchased, CitizenM aims to finance the build of a hotel in the virtual world through the sale of an exclusive collection of NFTs with real-world rewards (utilities) attached.

Each of the 2,000 NFTs will be priced equally, however, purchasers will at random be assigned one of three levels: 1500 “regular” citizens, 450 “special” citizens and 50 “legendary” citizens.

The utilities will take the form of discounts, free drinks and more with the specifics of the rewards being determined by the level of NFT assigned to the purchaser. The rewards will be redeemable at any of CitizenM’s growing portfolio of hotels in the real world.

“We are thrilled to be the first hospitality company to build in the metaverse,” says Robin Chadha, CMO of CitizenM. “As a brand that has always pushed the boundaries and challenged traditional models, this new venture in The Sandbox fits not only with our brand strategy but also the commitment we have to the creative community and to our guests both online and in the real world. We’re excited to further explore opportunities in the metaverse in the years to come.”

Once the virtual hotel – a location for avatars visiting The Sandbox to work, sleep and play – is built, CitizenM will collaborate with an additional roster of digital artists to create and sell NFTs that can be purchased in the digital space.

Eventually, the brand plans to use these profits, as well as the incorporation of a decentralised autonomous organization (DAO), to fully finance a physical, real-life property where token holders will vote on the location. In line with the brand’s ethos, CitizenM will “ultimately build a hotel for the people, by the people”.