Tech companies have developed innovative ways to connect people virtually, including virtual tours and live-streaming experiences. Guided tours using augmented reality and other digital tools are now widespread, enabling travelers to explore the world in exciting new ways.
While Zoom and Facebook otherwise assisted in connecting people via video links, the explosion of technology in the tourism space hasn’t gone unnoticed either. From Rio to Rome, technology is steadily redefining the tourism industry, from contactless payments that are commonplace today to full-experience guided tours using virtual reality.
1. Mobile applications in the travel industry
While mobile applications aren’t exactly new, their use in the travel and tourism industry certainly is. Many airlines now have mobile apps that allow you to book, alter and cancel tickets and get your check-ins done before arrival at the airport.
Beyond air and train travel, hotels such as Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton offer digital room keys scanned by a QR code on the door in some hotels.
The convenience of ‘There’s an app for that’ takes the travel world by storm. Guided tour companies also use mobile apps to allow customers to review their itineraries and connect directly with their tour guides.
2. Virtual tours
Virtual tours allow customers to preview their hotel rooms or suites before they book. Constructed using 3D renderings of the space, virtual tours allow travelers to see what their booked space will look like. Some Airbnb hosts are offering virtual tours of their space. Meanwhile, other major hotel chains offer virtual tours beyond the images on their websites.
3. Self-guided tours more
Technology has allowed individuals or groups of friends to plan their own ‘self-guided’ tours with the help of Google Maps and other open-source trip-planning software. While guided tours remain popular, technology has made exploring destinations independently, such as touring Pompeii or other historic sites, easier.
4. AR and VR: The Future of Tourism?
One of the newest iterations of tourism technology, augmented and virtual reality, is replacing the need for people to physically go to places they would otherwise not be able to access due to time or cost constraints.
While nothing can replace the feeling of being in Rome or atop Everest, various AR and VR programs are making it possible for one to stand atop Everest or visit the Sistine Chapel.
5. Revolutionizing historical site tours
In 2019, the BBC live-streamed an experience where they married 5G technology with virtual reality programming to allow visitors to the Roman Baths in Bath, England, to travel back in time via VR headset to critical moments in the site’s illustrious history.
What would previously have only been capable of a human being imparting knowledge gained through years of research and reading has now been achieved via the internet connectivity and virtual reality.
Virtual and augmented reality isn’t just extending to historical sites. A Virtual Reality tour through museums is becoming increasingly commonplace, allowing one to step back through time as part of many museum exhibits.
Equally, VR offers an incredible opportunity for visitors to experience a period like never before, changing how human tour guides interact with museum visitors.
Travel tech skepticism
There’s plenty of skepticism among those in tourism as to how much technology will be able to do instead of hiring or being given a tour guide by an actual human. Technology will certainly assist travelers in high-volume cities or towns, and the various travel applications will assist those folks in getting around their cities, booking hotel rooms, etc. There are some practices that won’t change overnight though. For instance when it comes to purchasing used cars, many still prefer to deal with an actual human instead of relying solely on technology.
However, in more remote areas and adventure-based travel, you won’t be able to replace the utility and, in many cases, the necessity of an experienced tour guide.
The guide understands the lay of the land, the way of the trail, and the dangers and challenges of a particular area. While there’s an attractiveness to technology in travel, it can also detract from the experience.