Tourism in Virtual Worlds: Means, Goals and Needs

Tourism in Virtual Worlds: Means, Goals and Needs

Samuel Cruz-Lara (LORIA / INRIA Nancy - Grand Est, France), José Manuel Cabello (Innovalia Association, Spain), Tarik Osswald (LORIA / INRIA Nancy - Grand Est, France), Antonio Collado (Carsa, Spain), José M. Franco (Avantalia, Spain) and Sergio Barrera (Virtualware, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-762-3.ch009
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Abstract

This work is partially supported by the ITEA2 Metaverse1 (www.metaverse1.org) Project.
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Introduction

There are some factors that make tourism an attractive sector to develop different kinds of technologies, such as information and virtual technologies. On the one hand, tourism promotes and commercializes activities offered away from the location of the client. On the other hand, tourism needs specific technologies based on promotional tools, which look interesting and attractive for the potential tourist (Buhalis, 1998).

Nowadays, virtual technologies are offering a great deal of facilities, especially for business models. We assume that the future of navigation will be in a 3D space, but still interfaced with the 2D-web and using it as a data repository. Furthermore, the virtual worlds developed within an open source policy will offer new kinds of possibilities, through interaction, communication, training, etc. But over all, these virtual worlds will offer opportunities to develop creative skills (http://www.hispagrid.com/).

The use of virtual technologies is becoming increasingly important, especially in the tourism sector. They offer multiple possibilities, not only for the potential tourist, but also for the destinations which are implementing this kind of technologies. While visiting some important virtual platforms like Second Life, we can notice that important tourist destinations are creating their own virtual environment. There, the virtual tourist can access many types of information, such as pictures, general information, tourist information and walk around different parts of these places. There is also the possibility to contact the tourist information office, in order to help the tourist if he wants to prepare a trip to this destination. The main goal of this kind of virtual places is to motivate the real traveller there. Thus, the virtual technologies can be a strong marketing tool. These kinds of initiatives show a clear change for promoting a tourism destination.

More and more virtual platforms are created with a specific purpose, where the tourism sector takes an important role. Thus, virtual environments offer different possibilities to the user. That is to say, the new virtual platforms are working on common areas, focused on enhancing the collaborative environments and training, realistic simulations, and the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies with social networks tools, such as wikis or blogs with immersive 3D tools.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Tourism: Tourism is an economic field which is constantly subject to changes. The tourists, their habits and their expectations are always changing, and that is the reason why the tourism sector needs to be up to date with the technological advances.

MLIF: MLIF is the MultiLingual Information Framework [ISO DIS 24616] ( http://mlif.loria.fr , http://www.iso.org/iso/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=37330 ). It is a standard project, initiated by Samuel Cruz-Lara and Laurent Romary (LORIA, France). It is being developed by the LORIA, and validated by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) committee. MLIF provides a generic platform for modeling and managing multilingual information in various domains.

Virtual Worlds: When we write about virtual worlds, we refer to environments that are created by computer programs and where avatars (representing virtually the physical real users) are able to navigate, to have social interactions and even sometimes to trade. These virtual worlds may be more or less similar to the real world (gravity, rules, weather, etc. ).

Avatar: An avatar in a virtual world is a 3-dimensional character which represents a real person in the virtual world. Most of the time, avatars are customizable and they can be more or less similar to the real people who control them. Sometimes, avatars may also be computer programs. Usually, people navigate through virtual worlds by moving their avatars.

Multilingual: Multilingual qualifies any information, data, text, application, tool, etc. which is able to deal with several languages, or which contains several language variations.

Metaverse1: The ITEA2 Metaverse1 project aims at providing a standardized global framework enabling the interoperability between Virtual worlds (as for example Second Life, World of Warcraft, IMVU, Active Worlds, Google Earth and many others) and the Real world (sensors, actuators, vision and rendering, social and welfare systems, banking, insurance, travel, real estate and many others).

Virtual Reality: Virtual reality refers to all the environments which are created and displayed by computer programs and which intend to represent and recreate reality. It is different from the virtual worlds. However, virtual reality and virtual worlds may overlap.

Second Life: Second Life is one of the first Virtual Worlds, which was launched by Linden Lab in 2003. For more information, see http://secondlife.com

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