Tourism in developing countries is a crucial contributor to foreign exchange earnings and economic growth, involving key sectors such as services, transportation, and hospitality, which bolster local employment and welfare. This sector is vital for the preservation of cultural and natural heritage. However, post-COVID-19, a major challenge that has surfaced is overtourism, defined as the excessive growth of visitors leading to overcrowding in areas where residents suffer the consequences of mass tourism. This phenomenon causes environmental degradation, social disturbances, traffic congestion, and waste management problems. Clear examples of overtourism’s negative impacts can be seen in Maya Bay in Thailand and Indonesian locations like Flores and Bali, where the adverse effects on the environment and local communities are conspicuous.
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Metaverse tourism appears as an innovative solution for developing countries to attract foreign exchange and develop economy and culture without sacrificing authenticity and local cultural preservation. By utilizing virtual technology, these countries can introduce their cultural and natural wealth to the world. The use of the metaverse enables the creation of virtual markets for local products, job opportunities for virtual tour guides, and culturally enriching paid exhibitions, contributing to cultural preservation. These economic benefits can be reinvested in maintaining heritage sites and developing physical infrastructure, reducing the burden of overtourism while still inviting tourists to visit in person after being inspired by virtual experiences. This approach paves the way for sustainable and inclusive economic growth in line with cultural preservation and national identity.
Virtual experiences in the metaverse, enriched with stories and narratives by local experts, create employment while promoting cultural uniqueness. Such initiatives open new economic opportunities without causing the negative impacts of excessive physical visits. Collaboration with local businesses to offer promotions for tourists who visit in reality after virtual experiences can encourage more responsible and sustainable visits. This holistic approach not only maintains the integrity of the environment and cultural sites but also fosters a deeper appreciation of authentic cultural heritage.
Metaverse tourism, with the right strategy, can unlock a new world of sustainable and profitable tourism for developing countries. Effective strategies include developing attractive virtual content that reflects the richness of culture and natural beauty. Collaboration with the technology industry is vital for building strong and accessible infrastructure. Effective digital marketing is also crucial, utilizing social media and other digital platforms. Engaging local communities in metaverse development ensures they benefit economically. It is also important to maintain cultural and natural preservation within the metaverse experience, respecting and promoting heritage preservation.
Metaverse tourism offers great potential for developing countries, not only in reducing overtourism but also in creating new sources of foreign exchange. With the metaverse, tourists can access standard experiences more affordably, overcoming distance and time constraints. This allows for unlimited visitor numbers, enhancing foreign exchange potential without maximizing physical carrying capacity. Historical and protected places can be authentically preserved, while tourists who visit physically tend to be of higher quality and mid-to-upper class. This approach opens up broad and sustainable economic opportunities while preserving cultural heritage and sites.
Metaverse tourism aligns with the principles of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and the globally promoted target of net-zero emissions. This approach not only offers an innovative solution to overtourism issues but also has the potential to be a significant catalyst for sustainable development. Investors and stakeholders in the tourism and technology sectors should see this opportunity as a profitable future investment, encouraging more inclusive and sustainable experiences while preserving cultural and natural heritage. Through metaverse tourism, significant steps can be taken towards more responsible and environmentally friendly tourism.