VIRTUAL: Student Nehemia Sugianto at the Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus in the Digital Enterprise Lab trying virtual reality.
VIRTUAL: Student Nehemia Sugianto at the Southern Cross University Gold Coast campus in the Digital Enterprise Lab trying virtual reality.

Is virtual reality the new frontier of tourism?

TRAVELLING in the time of COVID-19 has become next to impossible but Southern Cross University experts believe virtual and augmented reality could change that.

Augmented reality fuses the real world with virtual aspects whereas virtual reality uses technology like goggles or headsets to transport users to a real or fictional place.

Southern Cross University Professor of Tourism Kevin Markwell said these technologies would enable users to travel without leaving their living room.

"Incorporating opportunities for playfulness and gamification into a physical space will enable visits to a destination to become an adventure that integrates the 'real' with the 'imagined' into one seamless experience," said Prof Markwell.

"The trick is for the technologies to offer qualitatively different experiences to those normally offered when we visit a destination, world famous art gallery or museum."

Virtual reality technology is steadily growing in popularity, as organisations like SCU in Lismore use the technology for virtual tours.

The two technologies could even widen the accessibility of the tourism market for people with disabilities, Prof Markwell said.

"This is also an important advancement for tourists with disabilities, which is a very significant market in Australia and around the world.

"This technology can allow people with disabilities to look at hotel rooms before renting a night to ensure their specific requirements are there, and also to 'experience' places that could otherwise be difficult to access."

Prof Markwell said it's important to realise that the technologies will not save the industry but could further enhance holiday-makers' experience.

"Visitors will want to reassure themselves that they have made the right decision about where they stay, which airline they choose to fly with, and which attractions and tours they experience," he said.

"VR can break down the locational barriers and allow travellers to make informed decisions."

For an example of what virtual reality is like, visit scu.edu.au/Lismore for a virtual tour of the SCU Lismore campus.