How will the advancement of Virtual Reality affect leisure and visitor attractions. We are not long past that time of year when children are out of school, around for the entire summer and parents are confronted with the uncertainty of life without the usual routine and faced with the “what should we do with the kids” question. The daily challenge The daily challenge has shifted from the strains of a high-pressure work environment to entertaining and pleasing their children. Parents are looking to find new experiences and days out for themselves and their children, the more entertaining the better. Due to the ever-competitive landscape, the leisure and tourism industries are very much aware of the need to keep things fresh to grow (or at the very least retain) visitor numbers, but building new attractions from scratch can be extremely time consuming and expensive. Therefore, many executives working in this industry are coming up with ingenious ways of keeping their attractions fresh and ever evolving. Alton Towers Alton Towers, arguably the country’s most recognised theme park which attracted over two million visitors last year have found that the introduction of VR into their park has satisfied both new visitors and its loyal guests who return year after year. Many rollercoasters at Alton Towers have been there for decades and are an important part of the history of the Towers. Merlin Entertainments were to knock these down for fresh new rides, aside from the obvious time and expense, it would also upset those customers who grew up riding these rollercoasters which are intrinsically linked to their enjoyment and memories. So, what did they do? Approach One approach was to modernise an old classic. ‘Air’ one of their staple rollercoasters which was launched back in 2002, is no longer called ‘Air’ after 15 years of operation. Instead it now goes by ‘Galactica’ which Alton Towers state has ‘combined the experience of our iconic flying rollercoaster with cutting edge Virtual Reality.’ It now provides thrill seekers with the opportunity to “become a space tourist through this unique combination of physically flying coupled with the breathtakingly emotional journey of travelling through space.’
Virtual Reality however, is not limited to theme parks, in fact, most modern-day museums have adopted it in some shape or form to enhance the customer experience. The Science Museum in London has permanently installed the ‘Tim Peake Experience’ which allows visitors to experience the descent from the space station back to Earth, sitting alongside Peake. While travelling back to Earth the Virtual Reality footage allows the wearer to look around the space capsule in 360-degrees, Peake himself has stated that the experience is ‘Close’ to reality.
Virtual Reality enables access to the impossible, either an event from history or that which is unattainable to the mere person on the street. This technology adds value and differentiation to attractions and offers something extra special to its visitors. Not restricted to the attraction industry, Virtual Reality is also being used to revolutionise our everyday leisure experience. This aspect of its development will be explored more in next weeks post.