In March, Expedia live-streamed 360-degree virtual adventures to four children too sick to leave the hospital, causing speculation that the Bellevue, Wash.-based company might be developing commercial VR experiences.
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi put the kibosh on that conjecture at the GeekWire Summit last week.
“I hope that VR in travel fails miserably because I want people to go places,” he said.
Khosrowshahi does think VR can be a useful tool in getting people to go places. He said Expedia, in partnership with tourism boards and destination organizations, is toying with the technology as a way to market travel experiences to customers.
“I think that VR can certainly play a part in your research in travel and your being inspired to go to amazing places on earth,” he said. “From that standpoint, it can be a real positive.”
But when it comes to selling virtual experiences as an alternative to travel, Khosrowshahi is skeptical. “For the time being, we want to use VR as inspiration for you to really love something and want to go there,” he said. “Can it be a replacement? I think that’s far off at this point.”
Despite his dubious attitude toward VR travel, Khosrowshahi was careful not to rule it out altogether. Expedia is acutely aware of the fact that disruption happens when big companies slow down. Because of that, the travel giant wants to keep its finger on the pulse of emerging technologies.
“We’re very, very aggressively investing in marketing and especially technology to stay ahead of the pack,” said Khosrowshahi. “The minute you stop improving on the internet someone catches up and takes over.”
Watch the full video of Dara Khosrowshahi at the GeekWire Summit above.