Artificial Intelligence

How Extended Reality is Driving Tourism


Pre-pandemic, travel and tourism were among the most crucial sectors in the world economy, contributing 320 million jobs and accounting for 10 percent of the global GDP. As per the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the global economy for 2020 and 2021 could lose over $4 trillion due to COVID-19 impact on travel and tourism.

The industry and its related industries and economies are still struggling to make up for their losses during the pandemic. As the industry looks onward and upward, one of the businesses’ concerns would be reducing customer pain points and introducing newer ways to experience travel.

Extended reality technologies can help.

Innovative XR Use Cases in Travel & Tourism

Let’s look at a few innovative use cases of XR in travel and tourism.

Virtual travel and sightseeing

VR allows exploring locations without actually visiting in person. Many doubt that virtual travel and tourism will ever replace the experience of taking in the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of a new place.

However, virtual travel and sightseeing can be the answer in the following cases:

  • Mental health awareness is a top priority for organizations today. When employees can’t feasibly visit a new place every weekend, they can refresh themselves through virtual travel.
  • Often, it’s financially difficult for people to plan travel to far-off places. This is when virtual travel and sightseeing provide an immersive alternative. For instance, the Patagonia lake VR experience on Oculus Rift is rich and offers users access to a glacial lake that is hard to reach and explore in real life.
  • When nations try to preserve certain areas, humans aren’t allowed to visit them. In such cases, virtual travel can satiate our curiosities.

Virtual, immersive hotel tours

Analogous to “try before you buy”, holidaymakers can use virtual hotel tours to gain more understanding of each potential hotel before booking one that works best for them. For hotel businesses, this means a newer touchpoint and a fresh experience to offer to their potential customers.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an immersive VR experience is worth a million. Several resorts and locations worldwide are now embracing virtual tours to boast their stunning amenities and attract tourists.

These virtual tours can be easily delivered to a smartphone, tablet or PC without any additional equipment. The VR tours can be interactive so that the viewer can control where they go or can be for viewing purposes only as a 360-degree panoramic VR video.

Related Reading: Rapid Prototyping to Validate your Startup Idea

Test drive excursions

Besides checking out their hotel experience beforehand, travelers can even test drive different elements of their trip to optimize how they spend their time after arriving. Virtual excursions may include helicopter tours, park tours and boat rides.

When the British travel agent Thomas Cook experimented with VR experiences, they reported a 190 percent surge in bookings for New York vacations after their customers tested the five-minute NY virtual experience in-store.

Similarly, in Western Japan, a local hot spring resort used VR to survive after their government closed down over 90% of bathhouses in the area. The bathhouse Arima Sanso Gosho Bessho started offering simulated “onsen” experiences that allow their customers to enjoy all the sensory luxury of bathing in hot springs from the comfort of their homes.

For travel companies wanting to make up for the time and money lost in the pandemic, virtual excursions are a key prospect.

Navigate interactively

AR-infused navigation helps you reach your destination when you’ve finally arrived at your location. As the most widely preferred navigation app globally, Google Maps incorporates AR for those navigating on foot. It leverages the rear camera, identifies the user’s location and superimposes directional and other details over the screen.

The AR route-searching feature is available on ARCore and ARKit-enabled mobile devices. The idea may be simple, but it makes the life of an international traveler much smoother.

Extended reality applications can help travel companies and hotels offer dedicated apps for users to reach and navigate within premises.

Health & safety training

Like any other industry, following government guidelines and regulations around COVID-19 precautions is a must for each business. There are several ways the travel and tourism industry can leverage XR to ensure the health and safety of their workers and guests alike.

For training purposes, immersive experiences offer a richer environment for workers and employees to learn several safety practices. XR developers are dedicatedly working on applications that allow travel businesses to impart such training in immersive environments.

Related Reading: How to Design User Experience for Diversity and Inclusion

Opportunities for XR Travel & Tourism Startups in 2022 and Beyond

The VR market is expected to hit USD 20.9 billion by 2025. The augmented reality market is projected to reach USD 65.22 billion by 2027 at a CAGR of 48.3%.

The opportunity is huge for startups who want to partake in the travel industry’s stimulated technological innovation. After three years of suffering during the pandemic, travel businesses are looking to invest in technology solutions that can help them deliver a fresh experience and stay relevant and competitive.

The pillars of innovation in the travel and tourism industry will be digital- for the business transformation to deliver an exceptional experience, sustainable- to address climate change, creative and transparent, safe- to provide contactless experiences, and people-centric to empower, be inclusive and renewable, according to Caroline Bremner, head of travel research and senior industry manager at Euromonitor International.

Looking for expertise on your XR for tourism software or mobile app idea? Speak to a KiwiTech consultant today.

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