Virtual world of tourism

TRAVELLERS will increasingly explore their next holiday in virtual worlds, allowing them to check out new cities, attractions and even the view from their room before booking, a tourism conference has heard.

Social network strategist Lauren Papworth gave industry leaders a view of the future of social media tourism at the national Tourism Futures conference at the Gold Coast yesterday.

It was a place where virtual worlds ruled and live online feeds resulted in potential customers either flocking to or snubbing businesses.

Ms Papworth highlighted the potential uses of virtual worlds, such as Second Life, where “residents” can explore thousands of 3-D locations and use voice and text messages to chat with others represented by their “avatar”.

These would play a huge role in the future of tourism, as potential holiday-makers used changing web technology to research their next holiday, she said.

In this virtual world, internet users could already fly through foreign cities using Google Maps. Soon they would be able to enter buildings to explore worlds mirroring the real thing, Ms Papworth said.

“So you could navigate your way around the hotel, have a paddle, go upstairs, go downstairs and then talk to someone who probably looks like a Barbie doll, because that's what all the avatars look like at the moment,” she said.

It was also possible to speak to the avatars of real people and ask their recommendations, she said.

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