Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Travel Industry to See Potential Gains from Virtual Worlds

From 3D Training. Learning and Collaboration
"Lauren Papworth, a social networking strategist, told the Australian Tourism Futures conference that travelers will increasingly use virtual worlds to help plan their next vacation according to the Brisbane Times. The talk was targeted at the Australian tourism community, but has relevance to the entire global business."

I am curious what other members think about this. I see some good potential for the eco-tourism industry because you can actually showcase and interact with a destination's attributes before spending the cash or the carbon. There may be another advantage. There is some discussion about the trickle down of tourist dollars not trickling down. A localized content creation strategy that highlights an augmented reality or virtual tour of a destination--created by its residents-- would expand access to eCommerce, and direct travelers to locally owned and sustainable enterprises.
Combining this with a new application like ( Fantastic site Lori!!) and there is great potential for focusing tourism dollars to the eco tourism sector.

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Replies to This Discussion

The use of virtual reality technology to write about travel would be an expansion of the techniques for the dissemination of information about traveling in distant and exotic places that began with Herodotus and continued right through to the present day with audio and video travelogues. It undoubtedly would add to the arsenal of marketing tools to whet the appetites of potential travelers, whether for climbing Mount Everest or relaxing in a sybaritic resort. But remember that virtual reality is not real reality. It can only transmit information through sight and hearing; it can't simulate (yet) the sense of smell or taste or touch. For people who are satisfied by simulated reality, it will decrease the normal carbon footprint of flying and driving. As far as decreasing the leakage of money usually associated with travel, it will only make things worse. The locals in the places where virtual travel experiences are created will earn some money during the filming from feeding the technicians, carrying their loads and performing similar menial tasks They won't be involved in the more highly paid tasks of creating the scripts or handling the equipment. Nor will they gain anything when the final product is shown to prospective travelers just as they don't gain when people watch travelogues on television or read travel books. The creation of virtual reality travelogues may be fun to make and fun to watch; and may be profitable for the producers but as far as corporate social responsibility I don't think it will add anything.
Hello Jan, Hello everybody.

It's the first time I take part on a discussion. Please, be candid with me if my view is very much business oriented.
Virtual worlds could help. However, there's a principle in tourism: people travel where they can, not where they would like. So, thinking on strategy, distribution and infrastructure are key to drive business into eco-tourism. Social networks can dramatically help on the distribution side, but, what about infrastructure/logistics?

The first countries in terms on receiving tourism are France, USA, Spain, Italy, UK, etc. Are they more interesting than other countries? No, they're not, but we just CAN go there. Any take on this?

I know I'm sending you a question instead of an answer. Sorry about that.


Hola Pedro, and thank you for your thoughtful reply. Also, thank you Ronald. I must agree with both of you on certain thoughts. Let me explain, my work is focused on ICT4 Emergent Development. I have been working on a virtual worlds and web 2.0 strategy in the Dominican Republic. Some of the uses we are looking at are directed at eco-tourism. Ronald, I agree entirely that from a top down supply side perspective it is just another version of colonialism. But my idea is directed at the web 2.0 phenomenon of user generated content. In other words, the suggestion is, that as part of a content creation strategy (and unique intellectual property is a value proposition, and one way to create wealth, in a knowledge society) locally created content based on stewardship of the biome, is a way to develop an eco-tourism infrastructure. And so I return to Pedro's thoughtful question about infrastructure. yes, we go because we CAN. But if content is developed locally in an immersive and rich way, the interest of tourists would be aroused. Furthermore, those who cannot physically go--for political, logistical or financial reasons--virtual tourism and rich content created locally--can provide a way to generate income as part of a eCommerce strategy. Community supported conservation, or Local Stewardship of the biome is a sustainable eco-tourism strategy. Building an infrastructure of destinations devoted to this goal can contribute a wider support and help transition economies to one based on content creation instead of resource extraction or exploitation. Fundamentally this is a Creative Economy idea that leverages Information and Communication Technology for Development. I prefer to add "Emergent" development to the concept to re phrase the proposition to include the immersive internet and Bottom of the Pyramid wealth and knowledge creation strategies.
The Galapagos are a case in point. Tourism--even so called eco-tourism--is killing the very attributes that make the Galapagos a destination. But think about the volume and quantity of information that could be available--and most likely exists, horded by scientific institutions world wide-- If this was generated, maintained and developed locally it would provide a solution to the onslaught of tourists, while providing income to the local people. Then, serious eco-tourists and tour companies could properly protect the heritage of the site, finding more equitable ways of allowing visitors to the delicate ecosystem.
Even this stage of virtual tourism that we are discussing is quickly morphing into augmented reality. A data rich environment, created and maintained by local people will be providing a new frontier to monitoring the planet and its resources and ecosystems. The sooner local communities can get aboard the sooner they will be in a position to generate wealth and provide a sustainable future.
Unfortunately, the most dangerous introduced species in the Galapagos is homo sapiens. Over the last thirty years or so, a huge number of mainlanders have migrated to the islands to earn some money in the burgeoning tourist industry. Only a few percent of the islands' land area is available for settlement so there is pressure by the locals to occupy the protected areas. Apart from tourism, the only other viable employment is fishing but heavy fishing has depleted the ocean's population. There are efforts to make the locals more sensitive to the potential for degradation of the islands' eco systems by their own actions. Hopefully the efforts will succeed but, cynic that I am, I think too many people on the islands are practicing a form of slash and burn, destroying the viability of the islands for humans as well as the unique animals and then moving on. An example of this kind of thing happened about 20 years ago when it was discovered that the islands' representative in the national legislature had two tortoise shells drying on his roof.

Unfortunately the creation of ecological disasters is not a rare occurrence. A 14th century English traveler to Iceland saw thick forests. Now there are very few trees on the island, a condition that the Icelanders are trying to correct. Similarly, an early European visitor to Easter Island saw forested areas which don't exist anymore. Pogo's memorable line "We have met the enemy and he is us!" was more prescient than Walt Kelly realized.


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