Will VR make the travel industry redundant?

Attractive woman with virtual reality headset smiling and gesturing

Virtual Reality is a hot topic at the moment, and particularly so within the travel industry.

It is already playing an increasingly popular part in the industry with virtual reality headsets allowing customers to experience 360° views of hotel rooms and holiday resorts.

As virtual reality technology continues to develop and take on a bigger role, the question arises – could VR ever replace real-life travel?

If customers are able to don virtual headsets and step straight into a destination, would the inclination to hop on a plane, train or automobile be lost?

It comes as more data recently claimed Aussies were quite comfortable with simply customer service queries handled by bots.

“Virtual reality can certainly help to enhance the travel experience at the pre-booking stage, however we don’t believe it could ever replace it entirely,” owner and Director of Italy4Real, Rem Malloy, said.

A global survey, conducted by European tour specialists Italy4Real, involved over 1000 adults, assessed the role of artificial intelligence within the travel industry and gather opinion on whether jobs within the industry could be replaced by automation.

Over half of respondents (52 per cent) said they believed the role of travel agent could be replaced by artificial intelligence, as they already use a computer to book their holidays.

However, the roles of tour guide and hotel staff look set to remain safe.

A substantial 67 per cent of respondents said they did not feel the role of tour guide could be replaced by AI, as a machine couldn’t include spontaneous facts and engage with the group.

The same percentage also said the role of hotel staff could not be replaced by AI as it needs a personal touch. However, 41 per cent said the hotel role which could most easily be replaced by artificial intelligence is that of receptionist.

“We were [also] interested to see that 67 per cent of respondents feel the role of tour guide could not be replaced by artificial intelligence.

“At Italy4Real our expert local tour guides are a crucial part of our services, and we intend to keep that personal touch,” Malloy added.

The survey also found that while 46 per cent said they would invest in a virtual reality travel experience headset, a whopping 81 per cent said they did not believe virtual reality could ever replace the desire for real-life travel.

Thankfully, 92 per cent also stated that visiting a destination via a virtual reality headset would not count as actually having been there.

However, respondents did offer up some potential advantages of virtual reality travel, with 77 per cent stating it would be a good option if you’re not physically capable of travelling. Other advantages of VR travel included being able to go ‘wherever you want, whenever you want’, and it being cheaper in the long-term than multiple trips.

The survey shows that while people express an interest in using virtual reality it is not something they believe can take over from real-life experiences, as nothing can truly compare to that authentic travel experience.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

technology tourism travel industry virtual reality

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