Interest in the metaverse has exploded during the pandemic, as the mix of virtual worlds and other internet technologies rapidly gains consumer uptake and investor interest.

What exactly the metaverse is remains a bit of a moving -- and growing -- target, but it already includes non-fungible tokens (NFT), like the digital art sold for millions by artists like Banksy, and surging platforms like Sandbox where users interact with each other while living in complex virtual realities that include buying virtual real estate.

Stock market investors interested in catching a ride on this fast-moving train can consider the company formerly known as Facebook --Meta Platforms --and metaverse development tool specialist Roblox.

And now there's Marriott International (NASDAQ:MAR). The proprietor of a worldwide brand of very real real estate recruited three popular digital artists to create travel-themed NFT pieces that were unveiled and presented to lucky winners at the Art Basel Miami Beach show.

Three small wooden blocks with the words real meta verse and virtual, with a finger moving the middle one.

Image source: Getty Images.

Virtual real estate: A new channel for real money for hospitality brands?

The event was part of the Marriott Bonvoy global Power of Travel campaign and made Marriott one of the first hospitality brands to create its own NFTs, the company said in a press release. Marriott also touted first-to-market engagements with TikTok and Pinterest.

"Looking ahead to 2022, Marriott Bonvoy aims to continue building a presence within the metaverse and engage with consumers in an impactful and inventive way," the press release said.

One impactful way the company will be engaging with consumers is providing rooms to the three winners of drawings for the NFTs from the Miami Beach event. In addition to ownership of the artwork, they got 200,000 Marriott Bonvoy points each.

Those will be cashed in for stays in real hotels, presumably. Watch for Marriott competitors to follow suit in their own ways. Another interesting development would be to see hotel brands engage in the burgeoning world of virtual reality platforms, maybe by selling hotel rooms or whole hotels.

The currency of exchange may well be crypto -- Sandbox, for instance, uses The Sandbox as an internal currency. But after all, once you start moving it around, that crypto spends like real money, a mix of the real and virtual just like the new technologies and investments they're supporting. And that's a reason for Marriott and other brands to consider getting in on that very new sales channel.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.