How Augmented Reality Can Improve the Tourism Industry

Posted on

We’ve talked about the benefits of AR in eLearning and how AR is creating a positive impact in the real estate industry. Now, let’s talk about what augmented reality can bring to the table of tourism.

Tourism is one of those sectors you can’t quite see benefiting from augmented reality technology. After all, isn’t travel better when our full attention is on the scenic view before us?

But imagine for a second what it would be like to locate restaurants on demand, learn more about a site in real-time, or visualize the old forms of historical sites now in ruins, all without your device obstructing your view.  

Imagine a place enhanced with rich media elements that don’t detract from the beauty of the scene before you.

This is what augmented reality does for businesses operating in the tourism sector and individuals who love to travel. It enriches your experience of different spaces through the most accessible technology — our phones.

Augmented Reality, Briefly Explained

But first, here’s a quick recap of augmented reality technology. Augmented reality, or AR in short, creates the experience of witnessing what isn’t there. 

It can engage some or all of users’ senses, augmenting their present experience with extra intangible elements, such as sounds or scents. But for the sake of this article, we’ll focus on visual AR, which superimposes visual elements — often 3D graphics — on your surroundings.

In your immediate environment, you won’t actually see anything. However, if you view your surroundings with your phone camera and an AR-enabled mobile application, you will see 3D digital art as if it were physically with you.

For your device to call on these AR assets, it requires certain cues. These cues could either be visual markers or the orientation of your smartphone’s camera.

If an app requires optical cues to trigger the appearance of AR assets, the app is using a marker-based approach. Marker-based tracking needs specific, predetermined features to signal your device it’s time to show the 3D graphics.

Meanwhile, markerless tracking uses localization technology, such as the global positioning system (GPS), sensors, and accelerometers so the app can determine when and where to place the 3D assets. 

Markerless tracking is used in location-specific applications, examples of which include Pokémon Go (2016) and Google’s Floom (2021).

Because travel obviously involves a lot of site-hopping, markerless tracking might seem like the right way to go. But trust us when we say marker-based tracking has a ton to contribute to the field, too.

Top Places that Benefit from AR Technology 

Museums: Speaking of marker-based AR, museums are the best place to kick off a project pairing tourism with augmented reality. Every nook and cranny of a museum is decorated with art pieces that developers can easily register as optical markers in an AR app’s database. 

Museum-goers can learn more about a painting’s history with a mix of AR overlays like text, images, and video. Instead of cramming a piece’s history into the limited space of a museum, why not make use of the limitless space in an augmented reality app?

Open spaces: For open-space sites like parks and other types of terrain, you can employ markerless AR in different ways. A guided trail around the area led by an augmented reality character can boost the growth of businesses in tourism. It’s an engaging approach to tours, one that might even generate viral interest should the experience be shared on social media.

Open-space sites also lend themselves well to gamified AR experiences. For example, an old AR exploration app called Urban Sleuth (2010) “blends [the real world] with the virtual,” according to a journal article. The app incentivizes users to go around the city to solve and conquer AR-powered mysteries and missions through a competition.

Other Examples of Augmented Reality Uses in Tourism

Streets: Because markerless AR uses GPS to locate places, travel mobile apps can easily target streets bustling with activity. If you want to make travel convenient for tourists, an excellent opportunity would be through the help of other users. In other words, you can develop an AR app that displays reviews about the establishments in the area.

By holding their smartphone facing the street, users can see top-rated places to either dine in or have a quick chat over coffee. It’s like carrying around a travel guide wherever you go! 

Plus, travelers can receive recommendations for nearby lodging or shopping on the app itself, instead of consulting good ol’ Google. 

Historical landmarks: Like museums, historical landmarks can be used as optical markers upon which AR assets appear. Imagine a 3D animation of the Eiffel Tower being built on the exact spot of the Parisian attraction. 

The experience of viewing monumental structures becomes not only a bit more informative but also dynamic and entertaining.

Ruins: But what about historical landmarks in ruins? Here’s a fantastic idea for any tourist site in a state of dilapidation and decay — an AR mobile app that shows a 3D reconstruction of what it looked like before. 

Tourists can see real-time the former glory of The Colosseum in Rome, or witness historical establishments that haven’t been there for millennia. 

Why Use Augmented Reality for Travel

Nowadays, people are glued to their phones. We can’t function without them, much less travel anywhere without their guidance.

And why wouldn’t we want to have them around? They give us access to practically everything — plus, they’re portable. So it makes sense to combine tourism and smartphones through an augmented reality mobile app, ready for anyone to use whenever, wherever.

With this winning combo in mind, you can build AR mobile apps addressing the different needs of travelers. Whether that’s booking the best places or learning about history, your AR mobile app gives users the opportunity to engage with their surroundings in new and exciting ways.

Some of the Best Practices of Integrating Augmented Reality into Tourism

But how do you ensure you’re giving your target users the best AR experience a mobile app can offer? 

To avoid gimmicky mobile applications tourists and travelers can do without, make sure your AR mobile app has the following attributes:

  • It’s easy to use.
  • It adds value to a traveler’s experience.
  • It enables users to share their experiences on the app.
  • The AR mobile app encourages users to appreciate the actual tourist spot.

User-friendliness boils down to having expert UI/UX developers on your team. On the other hand, you can determine whether an AR travel app is value-adding if it addresses the concerns of the common traveler. 

One look at the “Top Tourist Places” section of this article will show you AR technology’s varying solutions in the tourism industry.

As for enabling users to share their feedback and overall experience of a tourist attraction, restaurants, or hotels, experienced mobile app developers can integrate social media into the app itself.

And lastly, make sure your AR app doesn’t detract from the actual tourist spot. According to an article published in SAGE Journals, a key difference between augmented reality and virtual reality technology is the latter “prohibits the user from developing a relationship with the real world and the surroundings as it demands one’s full immersion.”

With this key difference in mind, you can design your AR mobile app in such a way that the immersion remains in the real world, while the AR elements merely support the breathtaking site before the user’s eyes.

In Summary

To put it simply, augmented reality technology can improve the tourism industry in several ways. But it especially does so by providing handy and engaging solutions to any traveler with a smartphone.

With an AR-powered app, tourists can learn about the history of a place or find the best places in an area without taking their eyes off the view. 

At NarraSoft, our experience in augmented reality art development has given businesses across sectors — whether in tourism, education, or game development — the means to grow their brand, closing the gap between them and their customers.

Reach out to us today if you have any questions about the work we do. Or chat with us if you’d like to start working with our team today. Email us at sales@narrasoft.com or send a message our way through our chat box or contact form!

Justine Jordan

Justine Jordan is a content and copy writer. She has written for a popular business daily in the Philippines and for various startups across the globe before transitioning to work for NarraSoft. She graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a bachelor's degree in journalism.