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VR Tourism and the Pandemic

Rushali is a Tourism and Hospitality Management graduate. Takes interest in criminal psychology.

Tourism is a booming industry with vast opportunities alongside the plethora of technology available at the moment for use across industries. The ICT usage in the industry is immense ranging from online bookings, social media to interactive hospitality tech, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality.

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VR has been used as a marketing tool in the tourism sector and proposal of travel options like augmented reality booths or 360-degree videos to promote destinations as mentioned earlier. Although the results are positive for the travel industry, VR can be seen as a major profitable business in the industry if put to use effectively. But that would depend on the progress of the industry and the strategies that help them get through to every section of travellers. Although further advancements and progress in VR tech could, however, improve the experience thus leading to becoming an alternative to travel, as of now, at this stage of understanding, this stands open to interpretations.

Ever since early 2020, the world has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result, almost 90% of the world is placed under strict travel restrictions in response to the virus. This indeed has affected the tourism and hospitality industry drastically. Meanwhile, VR travel apps are seeing a sixty per cent increase in downloads since January. However, it is an acceptable truth that VR cannot include everything comprising of a tourism experience. Moreover, lack of flexibility and availability of content that suits the customers personal liking may also be a hurdle. As much as travellers want to disagree with the idea of VR replacing traditional travel, it could be subject to debate.

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Under certain circumstances, as the current global situation, VR travel could be a profitable alternative to the traditional tourism industry while the economy lies in shambles. Travel restrictions could give rise to drastic economic consequences, especially on countries that are dependent on the tourism sector for their GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Moreover, tourism is said to be recovering at slower rates than other industries. This raises the question of what should be done in the meanwhile to recover the losses or at least keep the industry from completely shutting down.

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Virtual Reality could be the answer to the same. Slowly, yet gradually, Virtual Reality could be of use to introduce new destinations, provide grasping experiences to potential travellers during this time. In other words, VR could be used to market and promote lesser-known destinations which could potentially be popular destinations of choice for travellers after the pandemic. Eco-friendly travellers could look at a more environmentally friendly way of travel through VR, which could reduce or control excess pollution, littering or Overtourism at a destination and avoid destroying its natural attractions.

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