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March 23, 2021

Most travelers take journeys to different areas of the world to feel a deeply personal and emotional connection with the world around them. In his book, James Gilmore refers to travel as a quintessential part of the said ”experience economy”, it creates memories that can last a lifetime and with technology last for generations to come.


The advent of technology has brought about new ways for humans to experience new places and realities through the use of virtual reality (VR). As a result, tourism is increasingly becoming a mash-up of both the physical and virtual world. There are even claims that VR may totally eliminate the need to physically travel from place to place.


Excessive tourism to certain heritage sites can cause it to degrade or even impact the experience of the tourist. UNESCO has said that the huge influx of tourists to world heritage sites like the lagoon city of Venice, the Inca sites of Machu Picchu in Peru, or the temples of Angkor in Cambodia has become a problem in their preservation.


Virtual Reality can create an alternative to access these sites that are being threatened and since it can also recreate other locations, it could provide remote access to locations that would have otherwise been inaccessible to most people.

These are some of the benefits Virtual Reality Technology can offer us;




VR creates a sense of being physically there

If we think about it, the brain has its own inbuilt VR mechanism which gives us the ability to imagine experiences. Most of the time, we humans spend our time either in retrospection or prospection, this can be called Mind Wandering.


While we are mind wandering, our brains are processing and appraising images that are being created mentally through the same neural pathways they use to retain stimuli sent from the real world which is why we can get emotions and feelings based on past or even imagined events just like when they happen at the moment.


The use of VR can evoke these same feelings, VR worlds use sensory stimulation technologies and also vivid imagery to create authentic experiences. Being completely immersed in these environments will lead to even more understanding and connection that mere reading and staring at images won’t be able to conjure up.


Virtual Reality can lead to a feeling of being present by creating a state of absorption and attention. The management of the Great Barrier Reef hosted an exercise in which people partook in a VR experience of the popular tourist location. At the end of the experience participants reported having a sense of relaxation akin to that of being there in real life.



It helps in enhancing health and wellbeing

VR tourism could also help to increase health and wellbeing. Long working hours can lead to anxiety and depression. Research demonstrates immersion in the outdoors encourages relaxation, rejuvenation, expectation, surprise, trust in oneself, and improved self-esteem that can contribute to reduced symptoms. Short breaks using tourism-based VR experiences can mirror these effects and improve health.




It gives us access to remote areas

Wildlife watching can elicit feelings of empathy, surprise, novelty, and even fear. It can also generate excitement, stimulation, entertainment, and learning. But government regulations, cost, remoteness, and seasonality of migratory patterns may limit opportunities for people to encounter some of the awe-inspiring creatures on our planet. Virtual immersion can offer alternatives that support conservation goals and provide transformative visitor experiences.




It can help sustain endangered sites

Last year, authorities closed off parts of Maya Bay because over-tourism had begun to threaten coral reefs. VR could offer experiences of locations like this without impacting the natural environment. It could also help support capacity management at ‘bucket list’ destinations, such as Machu Picchu. But if VR is too effective at reducing visitation, alternate forms of income for local people need to be developed to support economic viability.


 While Virtual Reality may still be in its early stages of development, it holds a lot promise for multiple industries such as tourism, health and research. VR is poised to have a significant impact on our future, however, only time can tell how much that impact on our way of life that will be.

Image Source: Getty Images