Accessible Tourism Industry can benefit from VR technology
The use in the tourism industry of Virtual Reality (VR), a simulated experience that employs pose tracking and 3D near-eye displays to give the user an immersive feel of a virtual world, with its applications in domains like entertainment, education and business, can open up new doors for People with Disabilities to experience attractions and interact with the world in ways that were previously inaccessible to them. According to a study by Rehan Iftikhar, a Research Fellow at Innovation Value Institute and an Adjunct Lecturer at the School of Business at Maynooth University, by considering the needs of disabled people in the design of VR-based tourism, the industry can create an environment that is welcoming and empowering for all. The virtual world is evolving at a breakneck pace with VR technology putting its mark on a wide range of sectors. The sales of VR headsets have been on the rise, indicating that the technology is becoming more popular and accessible to a wider audience. In 2021, the global sales of VR headsets rose by 92.1 per cent to reach 11.6 million units and will grow to 50 million units by 2026. With this growth, it is important to ensure that VR applications are inclusive and accessible to as many people as possible. Considering accessibility from the outset in VR applications can enhance its usability for a broader audience, including People with Disabilities, he wrote for RTÉ, Ireland’s National Public Service Media. The tourism industry can reap the benefits of VR technology and provide consumers with new and innovative experiences. Its use in the tourism industry can open up new doors to experience attractions for disabled tourists and interact with the world. This includes enhancing their travel experiences and allowing them access to certain tourist destinations. With VR devices, disabled persons can overcome traditional barriers and engage in interactive virtual travel experiences, allowing them to socialize and communicate with others in real-time. VR can also enable them to have the same travel experiences as their friends and family members, creating a level playing field and increasing social inclusivity. For them, VR can not only be a tool for enhancing their travel experience but also the only means to access some tourist destinations. One of the ways that the tourism industry is currently using this technology is by providing them with alternative versions of popular attractions. A theme park in the Netherlands launched a VR version of its ‘dream flight’ attraction, thereby allowing PwDs to experience the attraction and socially interact with those using the real version. It is important to understand that differences between types of disabilities can play a crucial role in driving engagement with VR products. Developers and decision-makers need to identify the VR offerings and products that are suited for a particular group and target their design and marketing efforts at this group for improved adoption. By considering their needs of in the design and marketing of VR-based tourism products, the tourism industry can create an environment that is welcoming and empowering for all.