Course

Course: Tourism Principles and Practice/TR1036
Seminar 4
Student: Sheida Mollaei
ID number: 900612T447
October 2018
Book:
This context aims to introduce virtual tourism and its pros and cons. The reason why choosing this topic is the increasing growth of technology in a fast-paced and how it can affect the tourism industry. Referring to Essentials of tourism book (Cooper, 2016) technology will assist tourism in future in a way that, little inaccessible destinations gain the opportunity to compete similarly with the monsters of tourism such as Spain. The combination of information and communication technologies (ICTs) will give tourism enterprises the chance of being more competitive not only lowering the costs but also integrating with their consumers and other enterprises. On the other hand, traditional ways of booking and searching for information about the destination have been changed due to the improvement of technology in the tourism section. For example, TripAdvisor is a website which helps people to review their experiences and knowledge about the specific place.

Within the domain of science fiction, we discover virtual reality (VR) which bring up this question that can VR be replaced by the real travel experience? “Nonetheless, VR is already being used in a variety of ways for tourism – planning and management, marketing, entertainment, education, accessibility and heritage preservation (Guttentag, 2010 in Cooper, 2016, p.329) and we already can see some virtual tours of tourist attractions or features of a hotel. Considering home as a secure place for leisure, VR can decrease the tendency to experience real things. Besides the impacts such as “environmental degradation, carbon emission, cultural demonstration effect or risk of disease” (Cooper, 2016, p.329) will be less. Also, we cannot neglect the fact that VR can influence the passion for traveling.
In my point of view, there are other factors such as costs, time, disabilities, etc. that can influence the use of VR that author didn’t mention them and how VR can benefit the tourism industry.

Online source:
I searched for “application of virtual reality in tourism” in google and I found the following website.

Ghavri, S. (2018). Virtual Reality In Tourism: Transforming Travelling Experiences. Retrieved from https://www.code-brew.com/2018/06/01/virtual-reality-in-tourism/.

Discussion:
Travel and tourism industry started to use VR technology as a marketing method to absorb customer’s attention by giving them the chance to virtually visit the destination before making their final decision. Virtual tourism eliminates restrictions by making it possible for people how cannot travel due to any reason to enjoy the travel experience in a safe condition.

The VR technology needs huge investments so it may cause some small companies do not utilize its benefit. But the companies which invest in VR technology are earning huge profits out of it. So it is effective for companies to use this technology to achieve a competitive edge.

Some benefits of virtual reality in tourism is as follow:
Travel before actually traveling
In past, people try to collect information about their destination through photos, videos, movies, and books. But in some cases, they get disappointed because the places where not turn out as they looked in photos or videos. VR gives the opportunity to travelers to explore the destination in a real way before buying the package so the experience will be more satisfying.

Exploring hotels
As hotels play a vital role in the tourism industry it is essential for tourists to have a crystal view of their accommodation to have a pleasurable experience.

Meeting the needs of modern customers
Nowadays customers are wise and they want to pay for something that worth for money thus, virtual reality helps the rising expectations of these customers.

There are some examples of virtual reality in travel such as Google Street view, Marriott’s Vroom Service, Booking Engine and Virtual Vacations. This trend of advancement will be continued and we will be evidence of more possibilities in virtual tourism.
My view:
This online source points how important is a virtual reality in the tourism industry with some examples but the author of the book didn’t mention it clearly just by telling that it is used in some parts of tourism sections such as management, planning, and marketing. So the good thing with this online source is that it makes these aspects more tangible for readers.

Article:
It was quite easy to find the below article.

Guttentag, D. (2010). Virtual reality: Applications and implications for tourism. Tourism Management, 31, 637–651. DOI:10.1016/j.tourman.2009.07.003
Introduction:
Virtual reality is valuable for the tourism industry in six different areas: Planning and management, marketing, entertainment, education, accessibility, and heritage preservation.
The aim of this paper is to examine utilizing VR as creating a substitute experience for tourists and analyze the challenges when VR and tourism combined with each other and suggest new ideas about future of using VR in the tourism industry.

Discussion:
There are many VR applications that are used in the tourism sector and analyzing them show how they may have significant impacts on tourism for researches and professionals.

1. Planning and Management: for developing a place VR can have an important role in tourism in the way that VR allows planners to have a real view of that place in comparison to rudimentary models, two dimensional or 3D. In other words, planners can observe an environment without limitation of a landscape. On the other hand, it can be a useful tool for connection between tourism plans and community and these connections can lead to the success of a destination. So it is a way of communication for people with different backgrounds through visual language and the way they interact with the environment. VR systems used for different tourist attractions to make it more tangible and attractive for the tourists which can visualize the destination for the person and the visitor can watch around like an avatar. This technology has a variety of uses such as a tourist company will know which tourist destination is more popular among people or other uses for museums or different attractions.
2. Marketing: VR has this ability to influence the selling tourism part. Tourists have a chance to test the destination and then decide whether to buy it or not. Also, VR is a tool that can be used in internet marketing which gives customers useful information about a destination, hotels, etc. and they can have a more realistic expectation about the specific place. As a result, VR is more powerful than pictures, movies and, brochures in marketing. For instant museum website that is equipped with VR technology can increase interest in visiting it. In addition, VR also offers a platform for communication in the way that tourist can share their reviews and experiences about a specific place and others can benefit from this information because the word of mouth marketing is more trustable for people than other kinds of advertising. It is also useful for tourism suppliers to be aware of comments about their products.

It seems that online travel communities do not use VR yet but in the future, it can be more popular and become an important element of tourism marketing.
3. Entertainment: VR can be utilized as an entertaining tourist attraction. For example, in the theme park of France, there is an attraction called “The Future Is Wild” which show futuristic animals onto a real environment. One advantage of using VR for theme parks is that they are quite small and permit theme parks to be located in urban areas. There are other examples of using VR in Disney and Las Vegas and visitors can enjoy their time by being in different poisons and places.

4. Education: VR in museums, heritage sites, and other tourist sites can help people to learn something new for example by allowing them to have a journey around an ancient site, become archaeologists and reassemble antiquities or assumed animal species and explore their habitat. In some sites, people can view different tourist attractions and access to relevant information about those places including historical information and how to get there. Also, it can help researchers in the way that they will be able to test theories without disturbing actual objects or even re-create environments to observe how a site or object appeared in past.

5. Accessibility: consider a tourist attraction which is too remote, too expensive, dangerous, and fragile or no longer exist in this regard VR can be a great way permitting visitors to interact with these places. Another usage of VR is for places that can be damaged by the presence of tourists so it protects the place from harm and at the same time tourists can enjoy the site in a virtual way.

For people who are suffering from disabilities but have the thirst for seeking places with physical barriers is a great occasion to achieve what they desire.

6. Heritage Preservation: if a site or object is suffering from degradation for example erosion, a VR model can provide valuable information about its earlier form that can be used for monitoring degradation and planning for restoration.
Popular sites can be effected by impacts that are created by the tourism industry such as pollution, water shortage, and erosion. VR has the potential to preserve sites from these kinds of threats by offering realistic experience.

Virtual reality as a substitute:
VR can be ideal for preservation purpose but how many visitors accept to replace the real experience with substitute ones? Many aspects of tourism experiences that are more sensual cannot be fully fulfilled such as the smell of ocean or splash of water in ones face. Some surveys showed that most people reject VR experience due to the absence of the chance to relax or buy souvenirs.

In addition, VR substitute can have the opposite influence instead of preservation and increase visitors because they may think that they didn’t see enough of the site so they want to fully enjoy their experience. Besides the preservation benefits, VR has other advantages such as lower cost, no waiting lines, no language barrier, more safety, no visa, weather condition and all help you to have a guaranteed experience.

VR experiences are inauthentic but it depends on the perception of users. It is possible that some users perceive it as authentic but some don’t. different people have different definition of authenticity and it is based on their characteristics such as age, gender, past experiences, education level, nationality .on the other hand than nature of application is important in the perception of visitors for example it is easier to understand an object that is re-created to observe than riding a camel.
Tourists have different motivations for travel, for example, to escape from daily routine life, interact with other people or excitement. VR can provide these push factors but in a limited way. It can provide a form of scape but mentally not physically. So VR can re-create site and objects better than activities. In other words, a tourist who is seeking new information can be satisfied with using VR but the ones need several days of relaxation, it is not a good option.

Questions and challenges for the future:
VR provides possibilities for the users but it needs to be improved in the future, but the amount of the improvements is not exactly defined yet. The purpose of the future developments is to provide the experience of using this technology as accurate as possible as if the person is in the site.
It is very important to take into account while recreating the sites, they must be accurate and reliable as well. There is the possibility of mistake and the copyright law must be done to keep the information correct. Having a law to protect the producers is highly important to prevent stealing the data from different museums or sites.
Besides all these points, there is a question that if a VR trip to a part of the world from your home is considered as tourism or not. There are different definitions of tourism and the one that is agreed upon on 2000 by UN and the World Tourism Organization is that tourism is an action that is done by individuals outside the place they live. In this case, VR is considered as a tourist action when the individual travels in order to use it in the destination.  
VR development can cause many developing countries who are highly dependent on the tourism industry not to be happy about this technology because they might lose their customers. Restaurants, hotels, shops, transportation and many other relevant businesses who are depending on tourists might be affected by this technology in different extents. It is clear that people´s attitudes are different to VR but still the researches and developments are going on about this technology.
Conclusion:
VR technology for the tourism industry provides direct and practical value but like other emerging technologies VR will present both challenges and opportunities which can be overcome and exploit by a complete understanding of the connection between VR and tourism. Besides challenges we cannot neglect the positive impacts of VR. Helping tourism to plan and manage efficiently to entertaining people. Although it can be useful for heritage preservation by creating substitute experiences so it is vital for researchers and professionals to utilize VR in progressing.

My view:
At first glance, VR may just seem as a technology that can exhibit different places, close to real ones but it is really interesting that how it can help the tourism industry in different and ways from management to entertainment. Actually, VR brings benefits for tourism however it can bring challenges as well. VR is a good tool for planning to developed the community in a proper way, using it as a motivation for tourist to visit a place or even play a role of sample before purchasing your tour package, give people the chance to raise their knowledge about destination in a tangible way, preserve places that are in danger of being damaged or may not exist anymore, giving disable people the chance to enjoy visiting places without any barriers but at the end we cannot neglect that this a not a way that can fulfill all types of tourist desire. Also, it is memorable that in some cases it can have an opposite influence and instead of preserving attraction, absorb more visitors that can harm the place. So it is vital to be aware of all VR effects.