Virtual Tourism : a step forward

Jacob Lalnunthleng Pulamte *

Landscape of Manipur - 2016 : Wallpaper  #1
Landscape of Manipur - 2016 :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

With the advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) some of the term such as AR and VR are not a new addition anymore, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality stands the abbreviation. AR and VR are widely used in education, communication, simulation, health care, navigation, etc. Let us understand the basic difference between AR and VR and also how Virtual Tourism is an addition of VR.

Augmented Reality (AR) is the addition of digital elements to a live view by using the camera on a smartphone, this includes the game Pokemon Go or Instagram, Snapchat filters and lenses. They are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics.

Virtual Reality (VR) - It is the complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world, it creates an artificial environment such that the user belief and accepts it as a real environment.

VR creates artificial sensory experience such as sight, smell, touch, and hearing. VR requires gadgets such as Google Cardboard or any other VR goggles, the screen is mounted on your face and anywhere you turn it follows you.

The development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT's) and digitalization in Tourism went over multiple stages; with the emergence of Computer Reservation System (CRS) which emerged into Global Distribution System (GDS) and later on with the Internet Distribution System (IDS) and Destination Management System (DMS).

All these developments led to the birth of e-Tourism, including components like e-airlines (online booking and ticketing), e-hospitality (manage inventory, property management system, etc.), e-tour operators (providing packages, GDS through online), e-destinations (providing a platform for customer experience, destination marketing).

With the recent outbreak of the world deadly virus Novel Corona Virus (COVID 19). All sectors of the economy are deeply affected and in which travel & tourism is severely crippled and causing a negative impact on travel business, airlines put to halt, vacant hotel rooms and empty tourist destination.

Tourism is one of the biggest industries in the world. In 2017, India generated $210 Billion in revenue from the tourism sector which accounted for 9/5% of the country's GDP.

Virtual Tourism or VR Tourism is not a neoteric trend rather an emerging trend, but the recent outbreak has brought forward the attention of virtual tourism as this pandemic could cut 50 million jobs worldwide.

With social-distancing, lockdown, and being away from all tourist destinations, Virtual Tourism could revive the traveling vibe and experiences. You can travel all around the world without even leaving your couch. Breath-taking view from the top of Mt. Everest or swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, this would all be possible through VR.

This Virtual Tourism will enable you (of which you won't be considered as a tourist anymore) to explore the entire surrounding with a 360-degree view and making people the experience of 'visiting there'.

They are created to provide as realistic as possible and provide a unique and memorable experience to the user. Using this method, it is possible to browse hotel rooms, surrounding and facilities without being physically present there.

Like mentioned earlier, a VR headset would be required and location might differ with the experiences you might want to feel. Relaxing on a beach-side might only require you to sit on your couch but experiencing surfing, kayaking, etc might require a special simulating instrument.

Virtual Reality in Tourism could benefit users at some scale, it might also save few bucks and it will also reduce the impact of tourism on vulnerable destinations, it would also provide travel experiences to those who cannot travel such as handicapped persons or even senior citizens.

It would also enable users to explore a scene at their own will and also suppress life-risks at different travel destinations, save time, avoid the rush. This would also preserve some sacred or holy monuments and off-course overcrowding at a particular destination. VR Tourism will also allow rendering the past and study with real-time experiencing the culture and lifestyles.

China's VR Star Theme Park, a billion-dollar theme park is worth mentioning, Marriot hotels also provide a virtual honeymoon VR travel to London and Hawaii for just married couples, VR Museums are also one of them.

What is its future of the Tourism Industry? Can this overtake physical tourism or what would be the solution for tourism marketing after the outbreak of the Corona Virus?

Meanwhile, Tour Operators, Travel Agencies and other stakeholders in the tourism sector are at a high risk of losing their business, what if the current trend of e-tourism might be a conventional method in the near future. This could be another hard challenge as they have to cope up with the new trends, technology in running the business.

Unfortunately, VR creates a lot of experience and moments but what can replicate the real-life experience? One will not be able to experience a food tour or even thrilling skydiving or bungee jumping.

VR might pave a way in Tourism Industry but most people would still prefer real traveling over VR experience. Using VR without supervision could also create a problem even at home, an accident with home appliances, kids or pets, it could also affect the eye - causing strains, headaches, nausea due to continuous view on digital screens.

Virtual Tourism would not completely subdue all tourism activities but this would act as a marketing tool, increases tourism awareness and sales. It will be an extension, challenge and also amalgamation of e-tourism and VR.

Let us hope this pandemic would end soon and get our life back to the normal routine. VR would also help in exploring places even if the destinations are fully closed down due to this outbreak in the future.

The choice depends on you truly. Would you try to prevent life-risk through VR reality, the real thrill lies in the uncertainty, right? Or would you spend 10 hours on a flight to see Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, when you can experience the same on your couch in a fraction of minutes?

Stay at home today so that you can travel tomorrow.

* Jacob Lalnunthleng Pulamte wrote this article for
The writer is a student of Master in Tourism and Travel Management, NEHU, Shillong and can be contacted at pulamtejacob(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 02 2020.

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