Immersive reality technologies as an enabler of the visitor experience in the Surf Coast Shire
The Research – Overview
Surf Coast Shire and Deakin University are collaborating to offer an opportunity for a three year PhD research project to be undertaken. Immersive reality technologies, including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality, have advanced significantly in recent years and the core focus of the research will be to explore the use of these technologies and its role to enhance the visitor experience in the Surf Coast Shire.
The Surf Coast Shire with its great beaches, iconic surf breaks, aesthetically rich hinterland area and stunning National Parks is situated only approximately 1.5 hours west of Melbourne and 25 minutes south of the major regional centre of Geelong and is renowned as a popular visitor destination nationally and internationally.
Comprising the main townships of Torquay, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet, Lorne Deans Marsh, Winchelsea and Moriac, the coast has long been the focal point for visitation. However, the rural Hinterland and its growing depth of product is increasingly becoming sought after as a destination or experience.
The Great Ocean Road is a central feature for Surf Coast Shire and beyond that connects the townships and traverses significant landscapes enroute to the 12 Apostles and the South Australian border. The Great Ocean Road itself is also listed on the National Heritage Register and recognised internationally as a tourist icon.
Torquay is the gazetted eastern beginning of the Great Ocean Road, Victoria’s number one regional tourist destination which for the year ending September 2016 attracted over 5.12 million visitors. In the same period over 2.1 million visitors experienced Surf Coast Shire destinations.
While Surf Coast Shire and the Great Ocean Road are receiving increased visitor numbers, both destinations are experiencing decreasing visitor expenditure and length of stay. Torquay in particular, is becoming dominated by the day tripper market and is also being bypassed by those travelling directly to the 12 Apostles. Visitor surveys also reveal a general level of dissatisfaction in the Great Ocean Road experience received against that expected. By association, visitor dissatisfaction of experience could be extended to Surf Coast Shire.
Within the visitor context the Surf Coast is home to an array of signature events with international exposure. The Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Rip Curl Pro, Surf Coast Century, Lorne Sculpture Biennale, Pier to Pub, Falls Festival, Amys Grand Fondo all form part of an events calendar which generates over $105 million, attracts over 240,000 participants and spectators and viewed by over 32 million people worldwide.
Supporting these visitors, Surf Coast Shire operates four Visitor Information Centres (two accredited and two unaccredited) located at Torquay, Anglesea, Lorne and Whinchelsea. Visitation to these centres has decreased markedly over the past 8 years from approximately 360,000 walk-in visitors in 2018 -09 to 230,000 for the 16/17 financial year. Of significance is approximately 80% of Visitor Centre enquiries by visitors is for locations outside of the Surf Coast Shire – primarily towards the 12 Apostles.
The Australian National Surfing Museum (ANSM) is also located in Torquay VIC, which despite being the largest surfing museum in the world currently only attracts 13,000 people annually. There is a desire to significantly boost the visitation to the Museum to those experienced by by the Phillip Island Penguin Parade and similar State-level attractions. A recent report commissioned by the Shire identified the need to broaden the tourism and visitor experience focus beyond the ANSM to the Great Ocean Road.
The Surf Coast Shire is currently engaging consultants to inform Council regarding the development of a Great Ocean Road Experience. The project seeks to harness Torquay’s position at the start of the Great Ocean Road via investigating the required components and themes of a major built asset (to include the ANSM and visitor centre) as well as supporting infrastructure around Torquay. A third focus will be the enabling digital technologies and marketing. This report and its recommendations will be completed in October 2017 and will be made available. Ideally, as this research develops over three years it will inform aspects of those recommendations.
With such significant levels of visitation and an array of product available, Surf Coast Shire in collaboration with Deakin University are seeking to identify how cutting edge technology, in particular emerging Immersive Reality technologies, can support a greater awareness the visitor experiences available within the Surf Coast Shire, as well as to enhance those visitor experiences.
While increasing awareness of and enhancing the visitor economy is the broad focus, the proposed PhD research project has the potential to be divided into four separate but interrelated sub-components as listed below
– enhancing the visitor experience through storytelling;
– conveying the surfing experience (including the Australian National Surfing Museum);
– integrated dissemination of visitor information across four Visitor Information Centres, and
– leveraging and maximising the benefits of events.
Each refers to the engagement and enhancement of the visitor/tourist experience of the Surf Coast Shire and the use of digital Immersive Reality technologies. It is proposed that by engaging the visitor in the cultures and attractions, this will result in increased visitor dwell time and expenditure and increased economic outcomes.
While there is an economic aspect however the research needs to consider actual visitor expectations and experiences sought and how the use of Immersive Reality technologies can enhance the visitor experience.
There is a substantial amount of research and reports available which provide a platform of township archetypes developed and the economic research on the value of the visitor economy which will be made available to the PhD candidate. It is anticipated that the research will position Deakin University and the Surf Coast Shire at the forefront of developing the visitor experience, while also creating innovative, collaborative partnerships that will inform the broader academic, local government and tourism sectors.
A stipend of $26,682 per annum tax exempt (2017 rate) each year for three years and the candidate must undertake the PhD full time.
The candidate will be based at the Deakin University Waurn Ponds campus and work with the CADET VR Lab .
Please submit your Expression of Interest and resume to [email protected] before 30th of September 2017.
Dr Ben Horan
Director CADET Virtual Reality Lab
Course Director – Mechatronics Engineering
School of Engineering
Locked Bag 20000, Geelong, VIC 3220, Australia
+61 3 5227 2907