Considering the rapid globalization of our world, the travel and tourism industry is booming. Add to that lowcost flight tickets, bus rides, etc., and the entire planet seems to become a next-door adventure for people.
However, even despite the comparatively low travel prices, sometimes you just can't travel to a place of your dreams - whether because of the budget or because of work responsibilities or, perhaps, you can't do it for health issues.
Should you give up on your dream to travel? Nope.
This is where the travel and tourism agencies can take full advantage of the Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies and offer a whole new layer of services to the customers.
Travel and tourism are the industries that are evergrowing. People like to travel, see different places, and experience new things. According to the World Travel Tourism Council, in 2017 alone travel and tourism companies had contributed US$8.3 trillion (10.4%) of the global GDP. Needless to say that the figure is expected to grow.
In practice, this means that Travel & Tourism companies are constantly expanding into new uncharted territories whether it is physical or conceptual realms. And travel businesses always have to care for the customer experience, or else there will be no customer. Coincidentally these two features to which Virtual and Augmented Reality can greatly contribute.
Given the fact that the majority of AR & VR travel apps are offering things that can be implemented into tourist experience in one way or another - more direct ties with the travel industry and a combination of effort can be a saving grace for VR & AR industries.
The thing with travel as business is that it is a constant state of experimenting with the content - whether it is guided tours, particular experiences, or simply hotel service - there is always an element of testing something new. In this context, VR & AR seems like an ultimate test subject as it is capable of being implemented in a variety of ways.
Let's see how VR & AR can enhance the travel experience.
The easiest way the Augmented Reality can fit into tourist experience is via routing and navigation solutions. The reason is simple - AR is capable of solving the problem in a more efficient and what is more important convenient manner.
Maps and routing tools are indispensable tools for any traveler and the addition of AR elements can greatly simplify navigating within a foreign place.
Sure, navigation is something every person needs once in a while, but for the tourist, the navigation on a foreign soil is always a challenge. It is easy to get lost in a place you don’t know even with the map at hand. And getting lost often leads into getting into some kind of trouble which is a headache of its own in the foreign countries.
AR also comes in handy when it comes to emergency situations abroad. While this is uncommon, there is a chance someone will need to get to the closest hospital and AR solution might be really helpful in guiding towards it.
The same thing can be said about the other emergency situations that require getting back to the hotel or foreign embassy or police station.
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- Locations of interest (restaurants, cafes, and other points of interest) on the map and in Augmented Reality mode
- Information about restaurants, art galleries, parks, and more
- Navigation and direction to the points of interest
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Guided tours are amongst the most popular tourist options. You know the drill - you go through different places and listen to some interesting stories about that.
One of the key elements of such experience is the delivery of the guide and that is one of the most challenging parts of the service as there is barely a chance to have a one-size-fits-all option that will be satisfying to the majority of the customer.
However, implementation of Augmented Reality offers a very interesting thing - much more customized and personalized guiding experience. Not only the tourist would be able to choose the style and content of guiding but they can also customize so that it will cover the topics they are interested in. For example, one type of narration for kids and the other for adults.
On the other hand, there is a possibility for the tourist of making their own customized tours filled with comments and routes of their own distributed via some kind of interest-specific network. While it definitely seems far-fetched, it is something that will probably occur somewhere down the line with the development of the technology.
Visit before you go is a travel edition of the famous "try before you buy." Selling a journey or tour can be a challenge and it needs as many convincing arguments as possible. Customers are always cautious and tend to double check every word and picture thrown at them. However, there is a way to ease the whole “selling” process for both parties.
Enter Virtual Reality Travel.
“Try before you buy” option is probably the most obvious use of VR in the Travel and Tourism industry. Basically, VR travel experience is an ultimate mean of giving the most immersive and engaging presentation of the proposed journey. With sight and sound and even interactivity to a certain extent - VR videos can provide everything customer needs to know in order to make his mind.
All that gives a better understanding of an offer to the customer and as such can be an invaluable tool in making deals without excessive sugar coating.
History is a fascinating thing. Walking on the remnants of the things long past is an incredible experience. But what if we take a step further and attempt to recreate the events of the past? Even better, right? Historical reconstructions are always popular and at times it offers a much more profound second-hand experience of a recreated era. And Virtual Reality can make it even more effective.
Historical reconstructions don’t need virtual reality per se, but historical reconstruction in virtual reality can be an experience of its own with a very different substance. A time travel experience of sorts.
There are two ways of implementing Virtual Reality to historical reconstruction tourism:
- Ambient Reconstruction
- Direct Recreation
Ambient Reconstruction is a kind of reconstruction is not centered around historical events but rather the everyday life and its struggles in a certain period. Sure, due to limitations to visual and sound elements the experience is not as immersive as in real life - but it can offer more detailed and diverse look at the way people lived in a certain age with an interactivity to a certain extent. Think of all the things you can do in Bethesda’s “The Elder Scrolls” game settlements and you get the point.
The other approach is a direct recreation of the certain historical event. In this case, the experience is more of a guided tour with a limited interactivity. In some cases tourists can be just a spectator of historic events (launching of Apollo 11), in other cases, tourists can actively take part in the event (D-Day or any other battle). Both approaches take a page from the video games playbook and basically offer cheap and diverse experiences without formal chores and travel discomfort.
The other potentially industry-changing way of implementing Virtual and Augmented Reality solutions to Travel & Tourism got nothing to do with actual traveling. In fact, it completely ditches the whole thing for a completely different thing that cannot be experienced any other way. VR vacation is definitely the next big thing down the line. Here’s why.
Imagine traveling to the Parts Unknown straight out of mind of some artist or doing some exploratory space travel. Or imagine going to Middle-Earth or some Star Wars planet - looking at its “historical” sites and living out the lives of its inhabitants. For years these places were relegated purely for imagination and partially recreated in video games and illustration.
Now it is possible with a larger extent of immersion and bigger level of engagement. Think about “Total Recall” and their concept of living out incredible adventures.
However, there is a challenging part and it comes with the concept itself. Given the fact that this kind of experience will be completely original - creating VR scenery will require much bigger involvement from the artists and larger extent of conceptualization than a simple recreation of already existing sites.
Visiting off-limit areas can be considered as another variation of reconstruction. It makes a lot of sense since some places are way too dangerous for tourists or extensive human presence can be damaging for the environment. In any case, such a thing is a viable option and it is a good case for using Virtual Reality.
The challenge comes with the immersion. While historical reconstruction gets the benefit of having some form of action going on that can immerse a tourist deep enough to suspend disbelief, the same can’t be applied to off-limit reconstruction due to a fact that it is likely not much going on.
As such, there must be other means of immersing the tourist into the environment and that might involve some additional solutions that limit such use of VR to VR-cafes or related places.
Museums and AR seem to be another natural match. It is very easy to figure out where and how AR and VR solutions can be implemented into the museum experience.
First of all, it can be incredibly beneficial for guided tours. Museums often suffer from the lack of trained personnel and visitor overflow. The other problem is that the museum excursions are overly general, lacking much of a detail and simply moving too fast. All these problems can be solved with a little help of Augmented Reality. Here’s how.
We’ve already covered the case for AR guided tours and museums are perfect for these things. Just think about getting much more profound guided tour over an exhibition with lots of comments and references popping up on the screen revealing a sea of worthwhile information. That’s a completely different experience, right?
For instance, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is now testing an AR app that will provide informational support for the photographic documents. An app will provide more insights into the images - background context and key facts that will help visitors to construct a more cohesive understanding of the depicted events.
On the other hand, Virtual Reality app can turn the museum into an elaborate interactive environment where visitors can experience a very different kind of art. In fact, Virtual Reality can make the case for creating a VR-only museum with digital recreations of artworks or VR-specific artworks.
In any case, implementation of VR & AR will help to improve museum experience and bring it to another level.
Augmented and Virtual solutions are great way of exposing new people to the technology and establishing it as something really worthwhile and worth returning to by connecting it to familiar experiences. At the same time, the travel and tourism industry offers a set of solid business models to lean on which is very important for Virtual Reality technology at the current moment.
A match made in heaven? We think so.