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Technology Can Help Restore Tourism And Retail

Countries like India should rapidly embrace new technologies to widen the consumer base and enthusiasm, without fearing that this will necessarily snatch away the opportunities available in our service sector for tourist guides or salespersons.

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When the war against the corona pandemic is finally won, what will be its legacy? A sorrowful one of corporate obituaries? Or can we harness this moment to innovate and create a winning strategy? 

One of the worst affected industries today is the tourism industry. But, virtualization can come to its rescue. Tourism can be taken to a new level using tools such as augmented reality which superimposes computer-generated data such as video, graphics and GPS on top of the real-world view, augmenting the viewer's perception of reality and of the surrounding environment. Within an AR-enhanced context, information becomes interactive and easily manipulated in a digital manner. This has been done by the tourism authorities of some European cities such as Florence in Italy. In the Indian context, a visitor to Sanchi using an AR application on his smartphone could, for instance, see the existing Stupa with a parallel scene of how it would look like with Buddhist monks from Ashokan period worshipping or meditating there and an automatic translation of the Brahmi inscriptions in the preset language of his choice as he traverses the complex. These experiences can be further personalized and curated to suit individual tastes using artificial intelligence – for example, if somebody wants a more detailed immersive experience of the Jataka stories depicted there. Governments can allow multiple private entities to design virtual tourism apps where the government provides access for shooting the tourist assets and making available historical literature, art objects and the internet infrastructure. The private party can create the AR content and curate the experience. This can be undertaken on a revenue-sharing basis under a public-private partnership framework. This would augment overall revenues and ultimately improve the feel and upkeep of the tourist sites.

Hotels too can deploy augmented reality to overlay additional tourist information to otherwise static maps. So if the smartphone is moved over say, Chanderi, on a map of Madhya Pradesh it can display its history and other interesting features. In a restaurant, an item on the menu can be displayed as it actually appears, the reviews it has got and as it has been earlier served to customers. Trekkers can point their smartphones and get names of various hills and peaks and suitable camping spots. This way, the overall attractiveness of tourism can be enhanced and will compensate for any losses due to the pandemic.

Another badly affected sector is the non-food retail and consumer durables sector. It is being said that malls will no longer be favoured. Here again, virtualization can help if malls themselves become aggregators of the retail outlets that are located there. So each mall can create its own virtual portal which should allow the visitor to browse through each shop located within that complex. Apps can be designed to facilitate 3D product visualizations deploying augmented reality of the items kept inside shops for a try-before-use experience. Audi enables customers to create colour schemes and to experience the car without even having to visit a showroom. Ikea the furniture maker has created the Ikea Place, an application that allows the user to see realistically rendered, true-to-scale 3D products. It notes the dimensions of the room that a product is meant to be put in, and permits the potential customer to visualize how it would look like if actually placed there, thereby encouraging the customer to make an informed purchase decision – a decision that he is more likely to be happy with, and for a longer time period.

Countries like India should rapidly embrace new technologies to widen the consumer base and enthusiasm, without fearing that this will necessarily snatch away the opportunities available in our service sector for tourist guides or salespersons. The government should free itself from more mundane roles like managing hotels and restaurants and refocus on creating appropriate technology platforms and enabling environment for business.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
tourism industry retail chains technology

Raghav Chandra

Former Secretary Government of India

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