Virtual Tourism and Its Potential for Tourism Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Virtual Tourism and Its Potential for Tourism Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Paul Ankomah (North Carolina A&T State University, USA) and Trent Larson (North Carolina A&T University, USA)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2255-3.ch356
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Rapid growth of ICT has resulted in the development of innovative tools that could extend opportunities for tourism destination marketers and tourists. ICT-based tools expand the tourism product and tourism experience into the realm of Virtual Tourism (VT). Since the tourism product is intangible and cannot be pretested by tourists before purchase, VT makes it possible to sense the experience through Virtual Reality (VR). This chapter focuses on how VT could be explored to realize its full potential, particularly by Sub-Saharan African countries. The first section reviews the literature on VR and its relationship to VT and examines ICT components that support VR and VT. The second section explains reasons for interest in VT and identifies development efforts. The third section, examines tourist attractions that could be marketed as VT in the sub-region and also identifies markets. The fourth section identifies problems and makes suggestions to address problems in VT development. The fifth section recommends areas for VT research and the final section provides concluding remarks.
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VT is an ICT-based tool that involves participant immersion and interaction (via visual graphics, sound, etc.) with the culture, history or other aspects of a tourist destination without physically traveling there (Ali & Frew, 2014). Sussman & Vanhegan (2000) indicated that VT is a convergence of human and computer interfaces to establish a 3D illusion of virtual (nonphysical) travel experiences. VT is also referred to as simply cybertourism (Prideaux, 2002). There are many technology-based activities assumed to belong to the realm of VT (e.g. panoramic photographs of a location). One of the fundamental characteristics of a VT experience is the level of interactivity by the person within the virtual environment. Creating a more realistic human experience within the realm of VT requires a technological framework that allows the user to establish a presence in a virtual environment. This framework is known as VR.

VR is “a medium composed of interactive computer simulations that sense the participant’s position and actions and replace or augment the feedback to one or more senses, giving the feeling of being mentally immersed or present in the simulation (a virtual world)” (Sherman & Craig, 2003, p. 13). Pinho (as cited in Piovasan, Passerino & Pereira, 2012, p. 296) suggests that the essence of VR is captured by three fundamental purposes: immersion, interaction and involvement. Immersion refers to the degree to which the person is disengaged from the real world and perceives a connection to a virtual world synthesized by computer technology. The term interaction connotes the user’s ability to alter or reshape components of, or objects within a virtual environment. Involvement means that the user can navigate the virtual space (either actively or passively) to the degree desired.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Virtual Tourism: An ICT-based tool that uses digital images and sensory feedback to simulate tourist attractions available at remote destinations.

ICT: Electronic devices (e.g., computers, cell phones) and the wired or wireless infrastructure necessary for communication and other unique services such as e-learning, social networking and videoconferencing.

Interactivity: The degree to which a user of a VR system is able to control the content and appearance of a simulated environment.

Head Mounted Display (HMD): A digital display device worn over the head that makes viewing of 3D computer images possible and leads the user to semi-immersion or total immersion in a virtual environment.

Immersion: The level at which someone engaged in a virtual environment senses the real world outside of it.

Virtual Community: A cooperative group of individuals from various geographical regions that come together via ICT to solve social, business or educational objectives.

Virtual Reality: Computer-generated simulations of real-world objects and locations (and sometimes imaginary ones) that provide stimulation to the senses of the user and lead to a sensation of being present in a replicated environment almost as if it were the original.

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