What do Pokémon GO and the COVID pandemic have in common? Both have dramatically accelerated the convergence of technology and travel.
Pokémon’s popular mobile game proved that a creative application of augmented reality (AR) is enough to inspire users to explore the real world.
The outbreak of the pandemic spoke for the same thing virtual reality (VR): Offer users the ability to virtually travel the world and they will lace up their Metaversal trainers.
The potential of AR and VR to enhance the travel experience skyrocketed during the pandemic as travel companies, attractions and destinations were forced to take over technology in a way they had never tried before.
As we navigate a after the pandemic world uses the same absorbing technology to enhance rather than replicate the visitor experience. AR, VR and the Metaverse will grow exponentially in our physical world, immersing travelers in a world technology-driven trend that will continue well beyond 2023.
VR helps travelers explore old corners of the world in new ways
Before the pandemic, emerging technologies like AR and VR were largely ignored by destination marketing boards and travel companies. When the world came to one stand still In 2020, these technologies became a lifeline for those with limited options for their wanderlust.
The transition happened almost overnight: globetrotters could suddenly tour a cobblestone medieval town in Romania, join ice bathers in Helsinki, or shop in Helsinki’s fragrant souks Marrakech – all without ever leaving their couches.
Local Purse is one of those pandemic-driven innovations. The app is a collaboration with adventure travel company Intrepid and features live personalized videos Shopping Experiences around the globe. It offers travelers the opportunity to see handcrafted goods from countries such as Morocco, Mexico and Peru, then have it delivered directly to your home.
“Technology as simple as cell phones can quickly connect us to remote communities,” says Lola Akinmade Åkerström, the app’s Stockholm-based co-founder.
She believes the Local Purse experience benefits everyone involved. It travels accessible and inclusive for travelers with mobility issues. It helps companies improve their CO ² footprint by reducing physical travel. And it offers a sustainable source of income and an organic connection with local leaders and cultural creators.
“Local Purse offers maximum impact when traveling minimal footprint and meets at least six UN Sustainable Development Goals,” says Lola.
“By focusing on locally produced and sourced work from these artisans and vendors, we facilitate and support responsible cultural connection.”
Now virtual travel is evolving. Armed with the power of VR that the pandemic has unleashed, a handful of cultural attractions have begun exploring how to capitalize on it virtual improvements.
The VR experience of Notre Dame brings “time travel” to Paris
Freed from the constraints of reality, VR and AR technology enables major tourist attractions to immerse visitors like never before. Not only does it enhance storytelling and educational opportunities, but the integration of VR and AR technology can breathe new life into even the most visited travel destinations.
The collapsed Maya kingdom could be brought back to life in the temples of Chichen Itza in Mexico for example. Morocco‘s Roman city of Volubilis could be reassembled to make sense of all the isolated columns and worn floor mosaics.
France is a country at the forefront of this hybrid tourism, as they show Eternal Notre Dame VR experience in Paris. Self-described as “time travel,” the immersive 45-minute tour takes you through the cathedral’s 850-year history at breakneck speed. It allows tourists to step inside a living, breathing version of Notre Dame’s aging, fire-torn shell.
The company behind the experience, Emissive, calls its work “immersive expeditions” meant to be shared.
“VR complements an actual visit and adds a new perspective on the destination,” says Fabien Barati, CEO of Emissive. “VR does more: make areas accessible closed to the public and even on a journey through time to discover and encounter cultural sites in their original context historical Characters.”
Which other countries are introducing VR-assisted travel?
The same techniques are used in Carcassonne in France’s Languedoc region, where a 30-minute VR experience within the citadel’s ramparts allows tourists to travel through different periods of its history.
Germany is also implementing the hybrid tourism concept. September 2022, Hamburg used AR to look both into the past and into the future when global technology brand Honor challenged two artists to creatively redesign the moated castle, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed landmark.
“The project aims to inspire global creative talents to use innovations like AI [artificial intelligence]AR and spatial audio to connect communities with culture in more immersive ways and support the global tourism recoveryas the world embraces the connected future,” says Honor.
AR and VR have the unique potential not only to preserve the past, but also to protect the future historical attractions. Destination-based VR experiences could be used to minimize further damage to vulnerable sites exaggerated Tourist frequency for example.
This technology can also be used nationally to promote sustainable tourism. Egypt‘s government officially embraces augmented reality and virtual reality to boost both ecotourism and tourism medical tourism.
The country’s environment ministry is leading a campaign called Eco Egypt, a VR-based initiative that aims to promote ecotourism in less visited protected areas like the White Desert and Taba.
Similarly, in June 2022, Egypt’s General Authority for Health Care announced a new plan to increase medical coverage tourism through augmented reality. This use of technology allows potential patients to virtually tour healthcare facilities and learn more about their capabilities.
As the world moves ever deeper into the metaverse, it is clear that these new technologies will continue to find application and integration into the world travel industry.
The trend towards virtual augmented travel destinations is explored in more detail in Expedia and Euronews Travel trend report.