Tourism online business has developed strongly in recent years, and as a result, digital and virtual experiences are also beginning to be common. Smart glasses, GoPro cameras, Internet of Things, and various sensors in clothing, in nature and in objects offer a wide range of virtual and digital experiences. The Virtual Nature project combines nature, digitality and virtuality into a seamless experience that both engages a web visitor, markets nature tourism in Finland and ensures digital nature adventures on the spot in Finnish nature - thus creating the preconditions for developing rural services and livelihood, growth and internationalization.
In virtual nature, a visitor can have an adventure in the pure nature of Finland: jump into a cool lake, run barefoot in the woods and at the end of the day shake the strains of the adventure in the soft heat of the sauna. The midnight sun and the soft light of the summer are at its best. Virtual nature is an experience; A "game" that can be played first on the web and continued in a nature destination in Finland. Virtual nature lets tourists to get familiar with the nature of Finland in advance and to reduce potential obstacles to travel such as the risk of buying an unknown product. This is especially important for new customers.
Background of the project
Digitalization has had a major impact on the change of purchasing behaviour of tourists, and digital sales and marketing are nowadays commonplace in tourism. The rapid increase in the use of mobile solutions in recent years, the development of web technologies and speeding up of information networks will also enable the realization of virtual tourism experiences for the support of tourism product development and digital marketing in the digital channels. Customers are also more ready to use these new technologies, as they are more affordable and easier to reach by consumers.
So far, access to virtual tourism experiences has been limited. With the Virtual Nature project, Finland has the opportunity to be among the first countries in this development. This will strengthen the Finnish country brand as a technologically advanced nature tourism destination, where the tourist experiences are enriched, a sense of security increased, and real-time interaction of travel information made more accessible with technological solutions of being able to virtually visit the nature tourism destination in advance.
Objectives of the project
The aim of the project is to develop a digital service solution that combines the strengths and opportunities of Finnish nature (purity, silence, rich waterways, and sauna) both online and at the tourist destination as an attractive digital experience.
The project is piloting virtual nature experiences by taking advantage of previous studies, surveys and concepts, and making virtual camera experiments. Based on these experiments, story-based virtual videos are produced to support the marketing of Finnish nature tourism. A digital, responsive and web-based content service (http://virtual.outdoorsfinland.com) is created for the project, which can be used with mobile devices and computers. The content service is used not only for the marketing of Finnish nature tourism but also for the sharing of experiences and information collected during the project. The open sharing of experiences enables the independent producing of virtual and 360 ° videos, for example, for tourism companies. In addition to this, the project creates a gamified nature experience in Finland and conducts "Internet of things" experiments in the nature tourism context. The results of the project will be shared not only through the content service, but also by using social media channels.
The functionality and appeal of the videos are tested with different target groups. In addition, the functionality of the content service, social media marketing and the attractiveness of videos are tested using web analytics. In this way, the project is able to produce market-optimized videos and targeted marketing.
In the long run, the aim of the project is to increase the number of tourists in Finnish nature and rural tourism destinations and to develop the digital know-how of tourism business in Finland.
Target groups of the project
The primary target group of the project are young and middle-aged adults in the international markets, to whom the utilization of information technology is a natural part of everyday life. They quickly seize the opportunities offered by the network, provide critical feedback and share their experiences. For these people, who most often live in large cities, Finnish nature is a unique and rare experience. The virtual nature experience arouses interest, increases awareness, lowers the threshold and encourages travelling to Finland.
The project also benefits regional and national tourism marketing organizations, nature tourism developers, and rural micro and small businesses. The project supports new market and marketing opportunities and trials for companies, as well as influences potential customers through adventure, fun and games even before taking the trip.
Duration of the project: 1.3.2016-28.2.2019.
Project partners: Lahti University of Applied Sciences (the lead partner), Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences and University of Eastern Finland
Financier: Mainland Finland Rural Development Program, European Rural Development Fund and Häme Center for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment
Essi Prykäri, project manager, Lahti University of Applied Sciences, p. +358 44 708 1703, essi.prykari(at)lamk.fi
Katja Pasanen, expert, University of Eastern Finland, p. + 358 50 439 0925, katja.pasanen(at)uef.fi
Ari Alamäki, principal lecturer, Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, p. + 358 40 510 2285, ari.alamaki(at)haaga-helia.fi
Timo Rui, project manager, Karelia University of Applied Sciences, p. +358 50 311 9474, timo.rui(at)karelia.fi
Web pages: http://virtual.outdoorsfinland.com/
Instagram: Outdoorsfi - https://www.instagram.com/outdoorsfi/?hl=fi