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Now the Exotic Flavor of Tourism Is Laid at Your Feet with the Emergence of Virtual Reality

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The world of tourism has ostensibly broken all the shackles of traditional outings to a particular place with a load of suitcase saddled at your back and so on. The emergence of Virtual Reality has brought the entire experience of an outing at your feet.

Virtual reality not only offers alternative forms of access to threatened locations, it also recreates historical experiences and provides virtual access to remote locations you might not make it to otherwise.

Up to 6,000 people were visiting Maya Bay every day before it was closed to tourists.

VR can elicit these same feelings as the real world can. Virtual worlds use sensory stimulation and vivid imagery to generate authentic experiences. Immersion in these environments can lead to a deeper understanding of a place or event than simply reading about it or looking at pictures.

There is evidence virtual reality can create absorption, or a state of attention, leading to a sense of “presence” or “being there”.

Immersive videos of Australian holiday destinations created by Tourism Australia have been viewed more than 10.5 million times over the past two years. Research conducted by Tourism Australia shows that almost 20% of consumers have used VR to choose a holiday destination, while about 25% plan to use VR to choose a future destination. There is evidence VR can sometimes surpass reality, potentially leading the participant to choose an alternate destination.

In 2018, the Australian War Memorial brought the Battle of Hamel to virtual life using 3D and 360 degree video.

Audiences can immerse themselves in the key action fought on 4 July 1918 on the Western Front via VR.

Wildlife watching can elicit feelings of empathy, surprise, novelty, even fear. It can also generate excitement, stimulation, entertainment and learning. But government regulation, 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.

VR tourism could also help to increase health and well-being. 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.

Tourists encounter whales in the wild and are treated to a spectacular display.

New possibilities for VR applications – both practical and pleasurable – are emerging as the technology evolves. And as travellers seek new and novel experiences, combining virtual with real world experiences may become a common feature of tourism in the future.

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