MOD­ERNISING TOURISM

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - FOREIGN AID -

ex­pe­ri­ence where users could ex­plore the is­land’s beaches, swim with stingrays or take a he­li­copter flight through a VR head­set. The head­sets launched at the In­ter­na­tional Travel and Tourism Show in Mon­treal, giv­ing travel agents and po­ten­tial vis­i­tors a taste of what the des­ti­na­tion has to of­fer. The re­sponse was huge, ac­cord­ing to Edouard Li­mon, Winged Whale’s Cre­ative Direc­tor, who said: “It was quite some­thing. To have not just dig­i­tal con­tent, but to give users an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence and en­tice, ed­u­cate and in­spire them to feel like they were in An­tigua and Bar­buda.”

The pri­vate sec­tor has also made moves to­wards VR, with cruise gi­ant Royal Car­ib­bean among the first to utilise the tech­nol­ogy in its ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing strat­egy. In 2017 the group used HoliDeck VR soft­ware to give po­ten­tial guests a look at the fa­cil­i­ties and ac­tiv­i­ties on­board their ves­sels and, this year, the com­pany un­veiled the Spec­trum of the Seas, set to sail in

2019, which in­cludes the Sky Pad, a VR bungee tram­po­line. Spec­trum’s pre­de­ces­sor, Quan­tum of the Seas, boasts vir­tual bal­cony state­rooms so ac­com­mo­da­tions in the in­te­rior of the ship can still have an ocean view.

The VR head­set mar­ket alone is worth around US$7bn an­nu­ally and 70% of mar­keters say us­ing 360 video in­creases the level of en­gage­ment among their client base. “The tech­nol­ogy is be­ing em­braced and the re­sults are there. Times are chang­ing and we are forced to change with them,” said Li­mon.

WORK­ING TO­GETHER

Peo­ple are at the heart of tourism, which has long been con­sid­ered a busi­ness built on re­la­tion­ships. Trav­ellers want to con­nect with lo­cals, lo­cals en­joy meet­ing and wel­com­ing vis­i­tors. In this kind of en­vi­ron­ment, it’s dif­fi­cult to see how ma­chines can re­place hu­man in­ter­ac­tion. Davy sug­gested that tech­nol­ogy can com­ple­ment rather than com­pete with the hu­man side of the busi­ness, and added: “Let the tech­nol­ogy do the heavy lift­ing and hu­mans can get back to in­ter­act­ing with guests and pro­vid­ing that ser­vice. Ex­per­i­ment [with the tech­nol­ogy], try some­thing new and be open.”

Ul­ti­mately, tourism doesn’t have a choice. It must en­gage with the next wave of tech­nol­ogy or risk be­ing left be­hind. The CTO marked World Tourism Day last month and CTO Gen­eral Sec­re­tary Hugh Ri­ley had a mes­sage for the in­dus­try:

“It is our duty to ex­plore and in­tro­duce new tools and ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In the com­ing months the CTO will con­tinue to de­velop an agenda which en­cour­ages and as­sists mem­ber states’ ef­forts to cre­ate dig­i­tally-en­hanced tourism ser­vices via en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion.

“Tourism must bring ben­e­fits to all mem­bers of so­ci­ety. Emerg­ing dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies pro­vide a range of new tools that can tackle chal­lenges faced through­out our mem­ber states, in­crease prof­itabil­ity and bring about pos­i­tive change for stake­hold­ers that will im­prove the qual­ity of life for all Car­ib­bean peo­ple.”

A 2018 na­tional study funded by Ex­pe­dia and the Cen­ter for Gen­er­a­tional Ki­net­ics found that 57% of Amer­i­cans are cur­rently sav­ing money specif­i­cally for travel. But this is even higher for mil­len­ni­als, 65% of whom say they are cur­rently sav­ing for travel

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