Lynette Bergin Tourism Award
Virtual Reality & its Application in Tourism
My aim with this project was to dive into the world of Virtual Reality to better understand the technology in order to make an assessment on whether or not it could be successfully applied to tourism and if so how is it possible for operators to effectively apply its use in their business.
Virtual Reality is not a new concept and has seen a number of iterations over the past 60-70 years, however it is not until recently that the current day technological advancements caught up with the concept to be able to effectively execute an enjoyable immersive experience. So while it's an old idea its recent rebirth sees huge opportunities for a number of different industries and in particular, tourism.
Tourism is an industry where its core objective is facilitating an enjoyable customer experience. With that being the case there are several ingredients that help achieve that objective and I believe VR is a tool that can be used to enhance some of those key ingredients.
Communicating through effective marketing is a key for attracting new custom, delivering appropriate expectations and increasing return on call-to-actions. We have tools currently at our disposal that help achieve this with the written word, imagery & video. Now with the advent of 360 video and virtual reality we have an additional tool to help tell our story in a memorable, evocative, distraction-free fashion.
Value adding and enhancing our offering is key to stay ahead of competition, build retention and improve word of mouth. Immersive experiences may give you an edge when it comes to improving the customer experience. Taking them to places not previously possible or educating them on historical facts with virtual recreations. Once business have the tools to create these experiences it will come down to the lateral creativity to make them successful additions to your current offering.
My objectives when tackling this project were to;
Better Understand the technology by talking to leading researchers and developers in the VR industry.
Identify some successful applications of VR in tourism and present some case studies in support.
Provide some tangible takeaways that businesses could use in the form of a toolkit with information from high level content producers and product manufacturers.
The last objective listed was really important to me as I really wanted to give back to the industry some tools that any business, big or small, could take back to their operation and apply it effectively should they wish too. I have developed some tips and tools for getting started with VR while reducing the amount of investment required.
I would also like to state that a large percentage of my research is revolved around VR & 360 video and not so much AR (Augmented Reality). While AR lives in the same family and will definitely have some big advantages when applied in tourism, it is safe to say that from a cost perspective it is still some time away from being available to the smaller operators. Given that one of my main objectives was to provide tools that could enable anyone to get into to VR, a bigger focus has been put on the accessible technology.
Virtual reality has been described as one of the next big tech booms and with rapid growth and significant investment from major stakeholders there is definitely a future brewing where this technology will become more and more mainstream.
Virtual Reality - an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli provided by a computer and in which one's actions partially determine what happens in the environment.
I learnt that the greater VR industry thinks a little bit more objectively than the purists and label VR as an umbrella term for any digital immersive environment. Encompassing 360 video right through to total computer generated and interactive environments. VR has become an artform or a vessel for delivering a new type of content. “...it's the ultimate empathy machine” described best by David Nelson from Mixed Reality Lab at LSU. It has the ability to evoke emotion to an audience who is growing more savvy and more distracted.
Tourism in itself often sells the idea of escaping reality, 'venture to somewhere else you’d rather be', and these pitches align almost identically with those of VR. It’s for reasons such as this that made the topic of exploring VR so appealing.
However the real attraction of this Technology is its stage in its evolution.
There hasn’t been too many occasions where opportunities of jumping on the next big tech evolution as an early adopter arise. Often we wait till they are established entities before we dip our toe in the water and are forever chasing tail trying to keep up with the rest of the crowd and emerging trends. While VR has seen rapid growth it is still in its infancy in terms of reaching its ceiling allowing us as the Victorian Tourism Industry to seperate ourselves from the crowd by adding another string to our bow.
I believe if we can understand and start to implement the use of VR in our operations then we can ultimately help dictate the direction it heads and be leaders in this cutting edge technology. In order to do that that there needs to be a greater level of understanding which is what I hope my findings can provide.