The Virtual Ecotourism project uses interactive on-line tours to connect the general public with conservation projects and local communities in ecologically and culturally sensitive areas worldwide. We aim to nurture curiosity about the natural world, promote effective world citizenship, contribute to alternative livelihoods for communities living in areas of high conservation importance, and combat environmental degradation.
vEcotourism was invented in 2004 by Mark Laxer, the director and founder of the Virtual Ecotourism project. Currently, vEcotours are primarily being produced in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Indonesia to highlight the plight of the great apes in those countries, but as we grow we intend to tackle the challenge of conservation world wide.
Connecting and empowering conservation projects by integrating state-of-the-art immersive digital technologies with traditional storytelling.
In its current, “beta” state, a vEcotour is a series of immersive 360-degree photographs (similar to Google’s Street View) combined with ambient background audio, still images, and embedded videos. An expert guide provides introductory voiceovers for each panorama and comments on the hotspots.
The next step for vEcotourism is to incorporate our immersive panoramas into an interface that will allow tourists to interact, pose questions, and be guided through the experience by a conservation professional in real-time.
Why is Virtual Ecotourism Needed?
Ecotourism has been widely heralded as a means to provide an income in a way that encourages protection of biodiversity. However, even Ecotourism done sensitively has disadvantages including: high carbon footprint, wildlife disturbance, potential for disease introduction, and development of roads and infrastructure which have a detrimental effect on wildlife. Furthermore, many people are unable to afford the high price of ecotourism, or are too old, young, or otherwise unable, or unwilling, to travel. vEcotourism overcomes these challenges by providing a way to experience a conservation site virtually, using many exciting on-line technologies combined with a live, on-location tour guide.