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Unleashing the potential of virtual reality in smart maritime tourism

Smart Maritime Tourism (SMT) is a new research area that aims to integrate virtual reality technology to promote sustainable practices for maritime nations and landlocked countries.

Maritime tourism refers to leisure and recreational activities on or around water bodies such as oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes. It encompasses various activities, including cruising, yachting, fishing, scuba diving, snorkelling, and swimming. These activities are excellent forms of exercise that can improve mental health, reduce stress levels and allow for engaging with nature. The marine environment’s natural beauty can also positively impact mental health, providing a sense of calm and relaxation that can improve overall well-being.

Article Video Summary: How can VR preserve Maritime Sustainability?

One of the significant benefits of maritime tourism is the promotion of cultural exchange and understanding. Tourists who engage in maritime tourism can interact with local communities and learn about their culture, traditions, and way of life. This cultural exchange can promote understanding and respect between different cultures, which can help to build bridges between countries and contribute to international cooperation.

What are the challenges associated with maritime tourism? 

Maritime tourism is a niche market providing maritime nations with additional foreign exchange and employment sources. It is an important sector for the global tourism industry, contributing significantly to the GDP of coastal regions and island nations. The economic benefits of maritime tourism include the revenue generated from transportation, lodging, and hospitality services and the creation of jobs in the tourism industry. In addition, it has a positive impact on the development of infrastructure, such as marinas, ports, and harbour services, which can improve the quality of life for residents. However, despite all these benefits, it is important to consider the sustainability of this form of tourism.

The marine environment is highly sensitive to human activity, and tourism can positively and negatively affect the ecosystem. In addition to environmental degradation, there are over-tourism and other safety concerns. Based on our research, it was found that six major problem clusters currently plague the maritime tourism industry. These were classified as (a) governmental and political support, (b) environmental issues, (c) cooperation among stakeholders, (d) maritime tourism law and policies, (e) technological matters, and (f) maritime tourism knowledge. 

  • Governmental and political support: Insufficient support and coordination from governments and political bodies may hinder the growth and progress of the maritime tourism industry. Essential aspects such as regulatory frameworks, licensing, taxation, and infrastructure development necessitate governmental assistance in guaranteeing a sustainable and prosperous industry.
  • Environmental issues: The maritime tourism industry depends heavily on the natural environment and resources. However, it can also lead to environmental degradation through pollution, overfishing, and habitat destruction. Thus, addressing these issues and promoting sustainable practices is critical to ensure the industry’s long-term viability.
  • Cooperation among stakeholders: The maritime tourism industry comprises various stakeholders, including tour operators, cruise lines, port authorities, and local communities. Developing a sustainable and prosperous industry can be achieved through fostering cooperation and collaboration among these stakeholders.
  • Maritime tourism law and policies: Maritime tourism laws and policies vary widely across different regions and countries, leading to inconsistencies that can create confusion and difficulties for businesses operating in the industry.
  • Technological matters: Technological advancements, including digital marketing and online booking platforms, have significantly transformed the maritime tourism industry. However, some businesses may encounter challenges in adapting to these new technologies or lack access to them altogether.
  • Maritime tourism knowledge: Stakeholders in the maritime tourism industry require better knowledge and awareness. This includes comprehending market trends, customer preferences, and sustainable tourism practices. Enhancing education and knowledge can lead to a more skilled workforce and encourage sustainable tourism practices.

A sustainable maritime tourism

The maritime tourism industry has the potential to negatively impact the environment through activities like overfishing, pollution, and damage to coral reefs. Therefore, sustainable maritime tourism practices are essential for long-term viability, including reducing waste, conserving water, and promoting responsible fishing practices. Overcrowding in popular tourist destinations is another challenge that can lead to environmental degradation, cultural erosion, and social unrest. Many countries are implementing policies to manage tourism growth and promote sustainable tourism practices. These policies may include zoning restrictions, capacity limits, and tour operator and transportation provider regulations.

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Credit. Lexica Art

Smart Maritime Tourism (SMT)

In conclusion, promoting sustainable practices in maritime tourism can ensure that future generations can enjoy its benefits while minimising negative impacts on the environment and local communities. To further enhance the industry, a proposed approach called Smart Maritime Tourism (SMT) integrates maritime tourism with Virtual Reality (VR) technology. SMT offers an efficient solution to problems faced by individuals who cannot travel due to financial or medical constraints. Although VR cannot replace real-life experiences, it can provide a similar level of engagement and allow for planning. Additionally, SMT benefits maritime nations and landlocked countries by enabling them to explore maritime hinterlands and potentially tap into the SMT market. By taking the initiative to compete with maritime nations in this market, landlocked countries can adapt to the fluctuating tourist.

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Journal reference

Selvaduray, M., Bandara, Y. M., Zain, R. M., Ramli, A., & Mohd Zain, M. Z. (2022). Bibliometric analysis of maritime tourism research. Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs, 1-27. https://doi.org/10.1080/18366503.2022.2070339

Mahendrran Selvaduray is a PhD scholar at The Business School of Edinburgh Napier University in the United Kingdom, where he works as an associate staff member in the Tourism and Language Department. His research focuses on the maritime industry, including cruise tourism and its sustainability. He completed his BSc and MSc in Maritime Studies at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, and was formerly the deputy lead for the Maritime Subject Department at Global Institute of Studies in Nilai, Malaysia. He is a Charter Member of the Institute of Logistics and Transport Malaysia (MILT) and a member of the Malaysian Institute of Management (MIM). He has published numerous scholarly works, mainly in refereed journals and conference proceedings, on topics related to maritime tourism, cruise tourism, and the maritime industry.

Yapa Mahinda Bandara is a transport economist and an academic at The Business School of Edinburgh Napier University, United Kingdom. He graduated from the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, with a specialization in economics and obtained his PhD from the National Center for Ports and Shipping at the Australian Maritime College, University of Tasmania. His research interests include transport pricing, econometric application in maritime, port, and transport economics, SDGs and transport, and logistics industry. He teaches microeconomics, macroeconomics, international trade, transport policy and economics, transport infrastructure investment and appraisal, and management research methodology and research ethics. He is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Sri Lanka since 2008 and served as the Vice President Education in 2021.