Interview with Professor Jessika Weber: Anyone can stand on top of the Gran Paradiso

Interview with Professor Jessika Weber: Anyone can stand on top of the Gran Paradiso

05/12/2023 - 17:02

How can remote Alpine destinations like the Gran Paradiso in Italy be more accessible to everyone? By means of virtual reality anyone can experience the thrill of reaching the 4,000-metre summit of the National Park. It is just one example of a best practice pilot action of the European DigiTourism project in which BUas was collaborating from June 2018 until May 2023.
  • Expertise
  • Research

In the DigiTourism project Breda University of Applied Sciences is working together with partners of eight European countries, among them France, Italy, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Norway, Spain, and Poland. The project focuses on research and innovation in tourism, especially on policy improvements for digital realities in this sector. The project is financed by the European Commission with EUR 1.9 million.

Extended Reality in the tourism sector
‘The VR experience of climbing in the Gran Paradiso is just an example of the use of Extended Reality applications in the tourism sector. Many more of such best practices would need to be developed to make remote destinations more accessible and improve business models,’ Jessika Weber explains.

Jessika is professor of Digital Transformation in Cultural Tourism at BUas and has been working on the project with her colleagues Corné Dijkmans, Marnix and Gisbergen and Celiane Camargo-Borges since 2018. ‘In this project we’ve explored the use of virtual, augmented and mixed reality applications for travel and tourism experiences, enhancing the natural and cultural contexts of the various destinations, for example in zoos, museums, cultural heritage sites and alpine areas.’

Exploring best practices
Within the first part of the project, project partners embark on field visits to explore best practices of Extended Reality applications. These good practices range from gamification and digital storytelling for the Naples National Archaeological Museum to Smart Tourism Villages and Digital Innovation Hubs. A full list can be accessed via Interreg Europe.

Interdisciplinary innovations
Despite all the learnings from best practices, policy making to foster digital ideas on interdisciplinary collaborations and business models are in great need. This is mainly due to scarce access to funding resources, limited digital skills or constrained infrastructural developments such as 5G. ‘In the project, we explored those limitations within policy making,’ Jessika explains, ‘looking into European operational policy instruments (ERDF, eds.) and regional policies and their improvement that more interdisciplinary innovations in regards to Extended Realities for tourism can be established.’

Lessons learned
Many learnings and lessons have been taken away from this Interreg project, on how health and well-being, mediation of cultural heritage sites and virtual hikes can be promoted. The DigiTourism project came to an end with the last consortium meeting in March 2023 and is looking forward to further extending collaborations with consecutive funds and research.