Artificial Intelligence

How Extended Reality is Driving Tourism


Millions of people travel to different countries or cities to learn about new cultures, see historic sites, embark on exciting adventures, or simply relax.  

Tourists used to travel to their destinations by plane, train, boat, or car. They could reserve a room in a vacation rental, check into a hotel, camp under the stars, or with friends or family.

However, thanks to extended reality technologies, tourists’ perceptions of other parts of the world are changing. 

Let’s dive deeper into extended reality (XR) and its importance in the real world.

What is extended reality (XR)?

XR is an emerging umbrella term for all immersive technologies. The ones we already have today – augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) plus are still to be created. All immersive technologies either blend the virtual and “real” worlds or create a fully-immersive experience.

Recent research revealed that more than 60% of respondents believed XR will be mainstream in the next five years. Let’s dive into each of the existing technologies to better understand XR.

The rise of extended reality 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.

5 ways XR can enhance Travel & Tourism

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

1. Virtual travel and sightseeing

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

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

Mental health awareness is a top priority for organizations today. Employees can refresh themselves through virtual travel when they can’t feasibly visit a new place every weekend.

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.

Must read: Rapid Prototyping to Validate your Startup Idea

2. 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. Hotel businesses have a newer touchpoint and a fresh experience to offer 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 quickly delivered to smartphones, tablets, or PCs without additional equipment. The VR tours can be interactive so that the viewer can control where they go or be for viewing purposes only as a 360-degree panoramic VR video.

3. 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 customers to enjoy all the sensory luxury of bathing in hot springs from the comfort of their homes.

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

4. 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.

5. 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 more prosperous environment for workers and employees to learn several safety practices. XR developers are dedicated to 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

Extended reality tourism in the real world

1. Atlantis, The Palm Hotel Tour

Some companies use extended reality to help tourists and help them decide where to stay once they start traveling after Covid. The Atlantis, The Palm hotel in Dubai, is one example of this. This hotel allows visitors to take an online virtual tour of the property. They can walk through the lobby, see the hotel’s most extensive suite, and learn about on-site activities and amenities like the aquarium, gardens, and pool.

2. Virtual Aurora Tours

Many tourists wish to witness the northern lights in person. They can now make their dream come true by taking a virtual tour of the lights. The Virtual Aurora Tour is a brief virtual reality video that transports visitors to Sweden to witness the northern lights above Abisko National Park.

They intended to release additional virtual reality videos transporting tourists to the Aurora Sky Station.

3. Faroe Islands’ Remote Tourism

Because tourism is so important to the Faroe Islands’ economy, officials decided to launch an extended reality tourism experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Remote Tourism Tool allows tourists to use a smartphone, tablet, or computer to explore the Faroe Islands’ mountains, waterfalls, and other areas.

4. Petra Xplore App

Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Jordan. In June 2020, city officials launched the Petra Xplore App, which uses virtual reality technology to transport users to the historical city. 

Users can see the city and its most famous landmarks at scale. They can walk through and explore numerous points of interest, including the theater, great temple, monastery, and tombs.

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 vast for startups wanting to participate 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 to 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.

Caroline Bremner, head of travel research and senior industry manager at Euromonitor International.

How can KiwiTech help in leveraging XR

Hope you understand why Extended Reality is driving the travel industry and how is AR, MR, and VR reality used in tourism app or software development.

As a leading extended reality software development company, we suggest integrating XR in your travel solutions. It can take your business to drive forward. Besides knowing the XR technology inside out, we have a rich domain expertise in the travel industry and can build custom web and mobile app solutions for your business.

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

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