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Virtual tourism research is in its infancy; however, virtual reality technology has a clear role to play in the future of tourism. In particular, the concept of ‘virtual experiences’, products which can be enjoyed remotely by tourists unable to physically visit a site, holds significant interest for the centre.
There are a number of reasons why a tourist may not be physically able to visit a destination. An example could be the result of environmental or physical pressure on a site that leaves it too fragile to handle visitors. An example of this is St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, which is now closed to visitors on a Saturday. An alternative scenario is witnessed when a destination lies within a conflict zone: in today’s world, an entire country can become inaccessible to tourists. Equally, an individual’s physical disability could limit their mobility or prevent them visiting a site that is not accessible to wheelchairs, for example. In these instances a remote experience may be desirable.
CITEM is looking at virtual tourism through the lens of cultural heritage. Through digitising built cultural heritage, researchers have the opportunity to gather data to provide a virtual experience for a visitor, but also to document and preserve cultural heritage in a way which safeguards it against destruction. CITEM’s ambition is to experiment with digitisation methods in countries where war has led to the collapse of tourism and the destruction of built heritage. Preliminary work is in progress with partners in Yemen and Egypt to explore funding opportunities, with a view to implementing 3D capture technology on the ground to reconstruct those buildings and consider applications in the tourism context.
CITEM is working with a consortium, including the University of Warwick and partners based in Cornwall, pursuing funding streams and opportunities. The ultimate aim is to run a pilot study to re-create experiences in a virtual manner, going beyond audio-visual to include multisensory factors. Multisensory Virtual Experiences are all about being able to see, hear, smell and touch; however, technology in this field is very new, with a number of barriers to implementation. As such, the team intends to explore innovative solutions necessary to progress these possibilities.
The centre aims to assist doctoral students in the early stages of their careers in tourism research. This support could take the form of advice on publication, pilot studies or facilitating access to specialist events and further funding. By capitalising on our expertise in securing funding and building partnerships on an international scale, we enable students to engage in activity which complements or extends the scope of their doctoral study. The assistance we offer ranges from helping students with small grant proposals to fund data collection, travel or pilot studies, to more involved support with post-doctoral fellowship applications. Ultimately, we want to develop the next generation of tourism researchers and create a supportive, collaborative environment in which high quality research can flourish.
We are pleased to be offering PhD studentships. Contact us for more information.
Does your doctoral thesis interface with tourism, hospitality or events management? If so we would be pleased to hear from you to discuss how the Centre may be able to support you in your research activity. Contact us for more information.
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