- The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized the travel and tourism industries;
- Companies in this sector need to build infrastructure and practices that allow people to travel safely in a post-pandemic world and support local communities that benefit from tourism;
- Augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies may offer alternative ways to travel the world and an exciting new model for the industry.
The tourism industry has reached a nadir due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will continue to feel the effects for at least the first three quarters of 2021 – according to a recent UN report, global tourist arrivals in January 2021 were down 87% compared to January 2020.
Travel will prevail over post-pandemic anxiety, forcing the aviation and tourism industry to build safer infrastructure and practices that take care of the well-being of travelers.
After a year thwarted by the pandemic and with a not too optimistic future for the industry at this point, tourism business owners should consider alternative modes of interaction for vacationers that can also help dependent people and economies. tourism.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly accelerated the testing and deployment of forward-looking technologies. Technology has not only enabled citizens around the world to interact with their loved ones, but has also helped sectors such as healthcare, information technology, education and many more to work remotely.
Over the past decades, technology has helped the travel and tourism industries increase their reach through travel booking websites, videos, blogs, and travel photography. Digital tools and content are a vital source of information for vacationers planning their next vacation or creating a destination wishlist. While remote or virtual tourism has been a futuristic theme in industry forums for some time, today’s world, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, may now be ready to embrace it.
A human-centered design that draws insights from cognitive behavior, social psychology, neuroscience and applied behavioral economics with cutting-edge technologies such as augmented, virtual or mixed reality (AR, VR, MR) could be a game-changer. AR, VR and MR can enable a seamless and uninterrupted interactive experience for viewers from their own private space. The design principles will create a frictionless digital user experience and build a positive perception of a tourist destination.
There have been previous attempts to achieve this feat: if you are an aquatic tourist, you might be aware of a documentary exploring the Great Barrier Reef. Through an interactive website, one can see the clear and calm currents of the Pacific Ocean and the biodiversity of the reef, and experience the sounds of a healthy coral reef. Another much-discussed VR experience is Mission 828 which allows you to take a virtual parachute jump from the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Official Faroe Islands Tourist Board has also designed a virtual experience to attract post-pandemic visitors from around the world.
Imagine a human-centered online interactive space that makes a destination accessible and so real to a visitor with sound captured by electroacoustic researchers. You can view vacation sites in video or via auto-navigation using voice commands or joystick, interact with people using video calling platforms, walk the streets of that location, listen to local music and much more. This could be assembled in a single platform individually or in silos on the Internet and further enhanced by the establishment of physical experience tourism centers at the local level. Such a configuration would allow tourist guides, artisans, artisans, hoteliers and transport companies to create their own digital and virtual offers and to interact with potential customers.
Here’s what it might look like: A vacationer begins their experience from the moment their flight begins. The aircraft descends towards the destination runway and images of the neighborhood from the aircraft window are captured. Airport signage greets passengers and directs them to a pre-booked taxi. The vacationer chooses his first destination and travels the streets in a chauffeur-driven car whose interactions along the way are part of his precious memories. Upon arrival, a tour guide guides you through the all-controlled destination with a push of your gadget. During the tour, you hear random people talking, posing for photos, and more. You take a photo to post on social media, shop, and negotiate with a local seller to buy a piece of art and have it delivered to your door. You learn how a local dish is prepared and get acquainted with the local customs.
A virtual platform could even offer people the opportunity to explore areas affected by terrorism or the combatant. For example, imagine seeing the diverse wildlife and snow leopard of the Gurez Valley in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It doesn’t stop there: if you think about it, you could experience traveling to the South Pole, into space and beyond. It could also serve as a learning portal for students to understand geographies, culture, art and history.
As technology improves living conditions globally, virtual tourism could revive the tourism industry and its people and help build a more sustainable economic model. As a human-centric platform, it can establish local tour guides, artisans and others as global citizens in the tourism industry.