This article presents the results of an exploratory investigation looking for new applications of augmented reality (AR) technology to enhance the sustainability of cultural tourism. The ‘sandbox’ approach was initially developed by programmers to experiment innovative solutions in safe conditions, being adopted later in other research areas for the same reason. In this case, the olive heritage at Madeira had been chosen as a background not because it is harmless, but on the contrary, for offering some challenging characteristics. The purpose is to stimulate creativity, forcing thought outside the box. This methodological path will lead to a new concept—the hyperplace of augmented visit (HAV)—conciliating several kinds of attractions in a sustainable way. The general idea is to create a hybrid tour. The user will have the possibility of interacting with a mixture of real objects and digital avatars, virtually reachable by the mediation of AR. The former will be found at the location where the user stands, and the others will be distributed in different areas of the same destination. The study leads to the conclusion that this concept will encourage travellers to spend more time in each spot and to include new points of interest, less popular or even unexplored, in their itinerary, and is also resilient in a context of public health crisis. At the close, HAV's potential will be evaluated and relevant issues mapped to design a suitable working plan to implement a pilot experience.
- Cultural tourism
- Augmented reality technology
- Augmented mobility
- Hyperplace of augmented visit
- Olive heritage of Madeira
Recently, Zurab Pololikashvili predicted that sustainability will be the ‘new normal’ for every segment of the tourism sector in the postpandemic era. See
AR has been one of the most exciting advances in the area of graphic computing in the last 20 years. From the invention of visual inertial odometry (Pangilinan et al., 2019, p. 78) to Pokémon mania (Serino et al., 2016), the progress has been staggering. The number of AR applications has exploded since their appearance, not only in game development, but also for industry, construction, maintenance, medicine, navigation, television, advertising, commerce, and so on (Arnaldi et al., 2018; Schmalstieg & Höllerer 2016). In turn, almost everybody heard about AR without knowing exactly what it meant. The definition proposed by Azuma (1997) is retained here, considering only technologies that meet three basic conditions: ‘1. Combines real and virtual; 2. Interactive in real time; 3. Registered in 3D.’ It must be constituted of at least three components (Craig, 2013, p. 40): (1) sensor(s), (2) processor, and (3) display. The display creates the illusion of intertwining between digital artefacts and the physical world. It is driven by a processor, governing the meshing between both environments, fed by data acquired by sensors. The pioneer systems depended on static hardware developed specifically for this purpose (Carmigniani & Furht, 2011, p. 4). Wearable computers came next (Jhajharia et al., 2014). Being portable, this new generation of equipment opened the door to mobile augmented reality (MAR; Craig, 2013, pp. 209–219). Handheld devices, such as tablet PCs and mainly smartphones, are now preferred by end users, despite their many limitations (Krevelen & Poelman, 2010; Kyselaa & Štorková, 2015, p. 928; Olsson et al., 2013). The widespread dissemination of MAR allowed the democratization of the AR applications without any additional costs for both providers and consumers, with most of them already owning the necessary hardware (Craig, 2013, p. 213).
Despite a certain resistance against innovation (Ronchini, 2019), museums, historical monuments, and archaeological sites are surrendering to this technology (Aitamurto et al., 2018; Baker et al., 2017; Jomsri, 2019), and particularly to MAR (Avci, 2019, p. 216), as well as virtual reality and, lately, mixed reality (Bae et al., 2020). Previous research demonstrated that visitors are, in general, receptive to this new kind of experience (Aitamurto et al., 2018; Cranmer et al., 2016; Haugstvedt & Krogstie, 2012), even if the cultural background of the user is a significant factor (Lee et al., 2015).
The interest in this tool by tourism studies is growing fast, too. More than 400 papers dedicated to this subject have been indexed by the SCOPUS database in the last 15 years, most of them related to mobile devices (Moro et al., 2019). Therefore, scholars looked into the extent to which AR could enhance the sustainability of this industry (Dewailly, 2007), a longtime concern of this research area (Hall et al., 2015). The positive and negative impacts of AR application in tourism have been highlighted by further works (Barrado-Timón & Hidalgo-Giralt, 2019). The idea of sustainability as first presented by the Brundt-land Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) was mostly about the carbon footprint of human activity (Rutty et al., 2015, p. 37). This probably explains the focus of both academics and media on aircraft pollution and the resource costs of the hospitality industry (Swarbrooke, 2015, p. 356). However, the negative effects at the level of the visited place have not yet received the deserved attention in the field of tourism studies, despite being the principal issue for policymakers, stakeholders, and researchers involved in safeguarding heritage for a long time. In fact, the invention of cultural tourism in the last quarter of the 20th century was, in itself, a response to their concern with the preservation of the most popular spots, in the face of the generalization of the habit to travel abroad (Cousin, 2008, p. 47; Silva, 2016, pp. 18–19). Nonetheless, the previous work does not focus on the potential of AR to minimize the impact of this niche (Cranmer et al., 2016). This paper is an attempt to fill this gap in research.
Programmers apply ‘sandbox’ to a confined environment created for experimental purposes. It enables the testing of changes of software code in controlled conditions, voluntarily limiting the actions of the user (Bishop, 2003, p. 444). In recent years, the same approach has been adopted by a few researchers from other areas (e.g., di Castri & Plaitakis, 2018), including heritage studies (Bastian & Harvey, 2014, p. 41), permitting work in quasi-real-world conditions (Mateo-Babiano & Palipane, 2020, p. 9). As programmers, these scholars often followed this path for the security it provided. The ‘sandbox’ here has a different purpose. The olive legacy in Madeira will be used as a virtual laboratory to develop an AR application that endorses the sustainability of cultural tourism. This background was not chosen because it is harmless, as is the usual case. On the contrary, it challenges the targeted objective in several ways, as explained in what follows. The goal of this methodological slant is to stimulate creativity, forcing the researcher to go beyond her or his comfort zone. The intention to oblige researchers to work with adverse scenarios can foster the creation of innovative solutions, flexible enough, yet sufficiently robust to respond to unfavourable situations.
The methodology adopted to achieve this exploratory study included four stages.
Being almost unknown in Madeira at the current time, the literature rarely mentions the olive heritage of this insular territory. The information about its history must be collected from printed sources and directly from unpublished manuscripts, also, conserved at the Regional Archives of Madeira (ARM) and the National Archives of Portugal (ANTT). The ANTT's documents were consulted online Online database of the ANTT,
Online database of the ANTT,
Tangible elements related to olive heritage that are well-suited to being converted into a tourism attraction will be located, querying the regional database of museums (RDM) See
The characteristics of each point of interest are also considered to evaluate whether they can all be turned into sustainable spots. The challenges faced by the design of a sightseeing experience inspired on the chosen ‘sandbox’ are also examined.
A new concept of the visit experience will be created applying AR to avoid the issues identified earlier and to respond to the goals of the exploratory study.
The viability and the potential of the new concept in terms of sustainability will be evaluated, not only when applied to olive heritage as a tourism attraction. The possibility of replicating the idea proposed to other kinds of legacies sharing the same characteristics and the limitations of the approach adopted will also be considered.
Numerous documents belonging to the ARM and ANTT collections refer to the commerce and consumption of olives in Madeira—in the form of oil (
Gaspar Frutuoso, an author of the Renaissance, wrote that the pioneers who populated the island around 1419 had planted an olive tree at Ponta de Oliveira to mark the border between the
The young specimens that can be seen today in front of hotels, restaurants, and some private houses of the island's capital are not the result of these first attempts at acclimation. They have been imported from the mainland over the past 20 years. They are just ornamental plants, not being cultivated to produce olives.
Despite the acclimation's attempts, local production has never been enough to meet the growing needs for olive oil. The ARM, CMFUN (Posturas), livr. 685, fol. 17, 51, 59. ARM, CMFUN (Serviços Administrativos / Expediente), livr. 1395, fol. 361–361v.
ARM, CMFUN (Posturas), livr. 685, fol. 17, 51, 59.
ARM, CMFUN (Serviços Administrativos / Expediente), livr. 1395, fol. 361–361v.
The books registering ship entries at the port, on deposit today at the ANTT, record the imports of olive oil in later periods. From 1727 to 1810, these documents attest to regular arrivals of vessels loaded with this foodstuff from the mainland (Sousa, 1966, vol. I, pp. 185, 188–191, 194–195), at least one of them also transporting ARM, Jornais, Diário da Madeira: No. 2536 (04/09/1919), p. 2; No. 2956 (17/02/1921), p. 2; No. 2956 (17/02/1921), p. 2; No. 3230 (28/01/1922), p. 2, etc.
ARM, Jornais, Diário da Madeira: No. 2536 (04/09/1919), p. 2; No. 2956 (17/02/1921), p. 2; No. 2956 (17/02/1921), p. 2; No. 3230 (28/01/1922), p. 2, etc.
A 1589 register of Funchal's ANTT, CNSEF, livr. 41, 1820–1823, fol. 36. ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 274, 1764–1794, fol. 123. ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 274, 1764–1794, fol. 165. Idem. fol. 191v. ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 273, 1737–1758, fol. 33.
ANTT, CNSEF, livr. 41, 1820–1823, fol. 36.
ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 274, 1764–1794, fol. 123.
ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 274, 1764–1794, fol. 165. Idem. fol. 191v.
ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 273, 1737–1758, fol. 33.
The accounting books of Funchal's convents refer to the consumption of ARM, CNSEF (receita e despesa), livr. 14, 1669–1672, fol. 57. ARM, CNSEF (receita e despesa), livr. 16, 1687–1690, fol. 20. ANTT, CSCF, livr. 49, 1768–1771, fol. 33v. ANTT, CSCF, livr. 58, 1826–1829, fol. 47, 48v. ANTT, CSCF, livr. 68, 1829–1832, fol. 26v. ANTT, CSCF, livr. 79, 1873–1876, fol. 78. ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 274, 1764–1794, fol. 172. Idem, fol. 177v.
ARM, CNSEF (receita e despesa), livr. 14, 1669–1672, fol. 57.
ARM, CNSEF (receita e despesa), livr. 16, 1687–1690, fol. 20.
ANTT, CSCF, livr. 49, 1768–1771, fol. 33v.
ANTT, CSCF, livr. 58, 1826–1829, fol. 47, 48v.
ANTT, CSCF, livr. 68, 1829–1832, fol. 26v.
ANTT, CSCF, livr. 79, 1873–1876, fol. 78.
ARM, Governo Civil (Conventos), liv. 274, 1764–1794, fol. 172. Idem, fol. 177v.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the consumption of olive oil was no longer the exclusive privilege of the richest. It was used to fry several popular delicacies and to season soups (Pereira, 1939/1989, vol. 2, pp. 574, 579, 581, 582, 585; Cruz, 1949/1963, pp. 42, 43, 46, 47). Furthermore, the fruit itself was now appreciated as an ingredient of a sophisticated dish, the
Whether there were several attempts to acclimate olive trees in Madeira over time or not, they were never very successful for reasons that remain to be studied. In contrast, the import of
The field work in several cultural spaces of Madeira and the RDM's queries resulted in the identification of only four potential spots related to olive heritage.
Located in the Funchal parish of São Pedro, this museum (HVA 1) was the most visited in the RAM between January and April 2016 (15,017 of 40,000 total entries). See See See
A query in the DRM enabled the identification of three sets of 19th-century earthenware (MQC 1119, MQC 1128, MQC 1470), which, in terms of typology, belong to the category of cruet called
The Museu Etnográfico da Madeira (HVA 2) was installed in an old building in Ribeira Brava, a little coastal town about 20 km from Funchal. It opened in 1996 to house the ethnographic collections of the Regional Directorate of Cultural Affairs. Twenty years later, it was the second most frequented museum after the Museu da Quinta das Cruzes between January and April 2016 (9,202 of 40,000 total entries). However, many of the visitors were autochthonous and not tourists. Cf. Note 18.
Cf. Note 18.
Different aspects of the RAM's socioeconomic life are staged in the exhibition rooms: fishing, domestic spaces, transport, cereal processing, viticulture, and commerce. See
The ARM (HVA 3) inherited the historical documents belonging to the District Archives ( See
As mentioned earlier, the ARM holds numerous historical documents and some old books referring to imports, consumption, and the acclimation of
Monte Palace (HVA 4) is a bicentenary See See
We can see three millenary olive trees in two different areas of the
As the olive heritage is not valued as an identity marker by Madeirans, the few tangible elements related to this legacy are dispersed in a diversified set of places. The limited ‘sandbox’ assembled by the force of necessity includes only two museums, an open-door attraction, and the ARM, the last one not integrated into tourist circuits. The fact that the Museu da Ribeira Brava is 20 km away from Funchal can explain why only a few travellers visit this cultural space. The other potential spots have the advantage of being easily accessible from the Lido, the hotel district of Funchal. It is well known that museums have an important role in maintaining what Walsh (2002, pp. 148–159) called the sense of place and in building the local identity. Indeed, from the outset, they are considered to be prime pedagogical instruments (Smith, 2006, p. 198). In this particular instance, artefacts related to the consumption and culture of
Focusing on a logic of systematic sampling, the ARM, on the other hand, safeguards numerous manuscripts and out-of-print books referring to
The improbable presence of millenary olive trees at the Monte Palace is the result of the nonconventional strategy of acquisitions implemented by the Joe Berardo Foundation in recent decades. The abundance and diversity of attractions surrounding the majestic
In light of all these facts, the ‘sandbox’ assembled is far from being an easy and safe background of conceptual development. On the contrary, it presents several particularities, which make a normal sightseeing experience difficult, even without taking into account concerns for sustainability. In practice, the solution proposed must overcome the scarcity and reduced visibility of tangible elements related to the olive heritage in almost all the potential spots identified. Moreover, one of them (HVA3) is not actually considered an attraction by tourists and another (HAV4) is located outdoors.
Hyperplace of augmented visit is a neologism based on the concept of ‘hyperplace’, in the sense given to this term by geographer Michel Lussault (2017). It means a half-real/half-virtual exhibition that provides the framework for a new kind of experience. This hybrid tour makes it possible to understand the richness of a cultural heritage by making contact with a combination of objects visible at this location (carrying attractions [CAA]) and those that are computer-reproduced (connected attractions [COA]), crossing information from several spaces, more or less distant. This can result in a telescoping between different levels of the data characteristic of hyperplaces (local, regional, national, and global), the so-called
In practice, the AR will make it possible to offer a visit experience that integrates the CAA found at each of the potential spots presented here with the COAs belonging to the others (Figure 1).
It is an efficient way to amplify the visitor's perception of the tangible elements related to this kind of cultural legacy in a single HVA. It enables the minimization of the issue mentioned earlier of the scarcity of artefacts available at each of the four potential spots. The use of AR technology will also make it possible to transmit general information about:
The history of the olive in Madeira and other Portuguese territories, and various other parts of the world. The cultural spaces, where the COA are located, and where they are from, in the specific case of the mille-nary trees imported from the mainland.
The history of the olive in Madeira and other Portuguese territories, and various other parts of the world.
The cultural spaces, where the COA are located, and where they are from, in the specific case of the mille-nary trees imported from the mainland.
The connectedness induced by AR between the four attractions will take advantage of the popularity of the Monte Palace. The idea is to give visibility to the two museums, less frequented than the garden of this property and the ARM, too, which is totally out of the tourism circuit. The ultimate goal is to motivate travellers to discover on their own the other collections exhibited in each location. Moreover, the users of this outdoor space will have the possibility to observe cultural elements normally available only inside the buildings, which ensures the conditions necessary to guarantee their physical integrity. Taking place outside walls, this hybrid sightseeing is not only sustainable—as explained later—but also resilient to pandemic events, configuring a safer experience in regard to concerns about the risks of viral transmission (Contini & Costabile, 2020). From this point of view, the HVA concept enables an effective response to the challenges of the ‘sandbox’ assembled, and even more. We will see next to what extent the solution proposed can significantly enhance the sustainability of cultural tourism.
First, the implementation of the HVA concept could lead tourists to spend more time at the places they visit, giving them the opportunity to discover new spots and access to others that were not necessarily part of their plans. It also could help to reestablish the balance between cultural and natural attractions, more fragile and usually more sought out by holidaymakers sojourning in Madeira (Oliveira & Pereira, 2008, p. 166).
As HVA 1, 2, and 3 will be installed in points of interest often listed in travel guides, individuals who initially were not looking for technology-based experiences or for olive heritage information will be confronted with a conjugation of both without having to seek them out. Back in their countries of origin, they can be ambassadors for this complementary dimension of the destination. Nevertheless, the regional archives, hitherto deemed not appealing to holidaymakers, gain an unprecedented functionality.
If it becomes very successful, the HVA model applied to other kinds of legacies could make it possible to rationalize visitor flows, increasing the variety of activities offered by the most frequented places without increasing the negative impacts on their surroundings. Enhancing their attractiveness with AR can also trigger the desire to come back, as pointed out by Özkul and Kumlu (2019, p. 111) in regard to the case study of the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Staying longer in the same place means holidaymakers reduce their carbon footprint. From this point of view, the HVA concept is in harmony with the environmental awareness espoused by slow travel and tourism (Dickinson & Lumsdon, 2010, p. 90; Fullagar et al., 2012). The potential of HVA to make heritage, underrated by host communities, more visible also contributes to diversifying the offerings. In the end, it will leverage the time spent at a destination.
The HVA model could also reduce the ecological impact on the most popular places, channelling traffic to alternative attractions that have been ignored to date. There is also the possibility of implementing HVAs in facilities usually frequented by holidaymakers (airports, train stations, hotels, etc.), making this visit experience pervasive throughout all stages of a trip. Considering the limited cost of putting a single CAA in each spot selected, it would be an inexpensive way to introduce travellers to attractions they did not plan to look for. On the other hand, museums and any other space with small collections could take advantage of this new AR application to upgrade their offerings. In marginalized areas, local craftsmen, farmers, or even food producers could collaborate with institutions in this field on joint HVA projects. Exploring shared legacies together, they could compete with more popular destinations, completing the sightseeing with related intangible experiences, such as master classes, community-based activities, and more.
Another potential of this new visit model is particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and even future pandemic waves: increasing the scope of outdoor tours, mobilizing artefacts only previously available inside buildings. It would make it possible to avoid the concentration of individuals in closed spaces presenting a higher risk of viral contamination. In turn, it will give museums a chance to maintain the link with a larger public when their access is restricted for health reasons.
Even if it seems promising, the impacts and the outcome of HVA need to be tested extensively in the field to confirm whether the concept lives up to expectations. Complementary research should be undertaken first to conceive a convenient and affordable system of sensor-processor-display, including hardware and software adequate to the four spots selected. The fact that one of them is outdoors (HV4) should be taken into account. The possibility of installing HVAs in other kinds of spaces frequented by tourists (restaurants, hotels, airports, etc.) should also be considered. The implementation stage will require satisfaction surveys and the monitoring of the effective benefits for the environment.
Some scholars believe that the future of tourism depends on a successful match between sustainability and resilience (Lew, 2020; Romagosa, 2020; Salazar, 2020), in which innovation will play an important role (Lew & Cheer, 2018, pp. 320–21). The ‘sandbox’ approach based on the olive heritage in Madeira undergirds the potential of AR to develop solutions that respond to these two goals, focusing primarily on the interaction with the attraction itself. The assemblage presented here led to a creative formula to enhance the sustainability of cultural tourism using this technology: the HAV. It encourages travellers to spend more time in each spot and to include new points of interest, less popular or even unexplored, in their itinerary. Underrated legacies can gain importance through the application of this new concept of a visit. In addition, it opens the door to several other exciting possibilities: the access to attractions that had been until now the exclusive domain of museums in alternative environments resilient to pandemics and promotion of facilities of this kind that have modest collections. Contrary to what normally happens (Ratten et al., 2020, p. 9), implementing this ‘green’ model favours small providers of tourism products instead of larger ones. It could give the opportunity to stakeholders, usually not involved, to join HVA projects to enrich the observation sparked by the contemplation of tangible elements with activities related to the same heritage. It also opens the door to a kind of augmented mobility, allowing visit experiences during the journey to the destination. However, more preliminary studies need to be undertaken before confirming the viability of the concept proposed. The next step will be the development of a device prototype and its implementation in the field to monitor the feedback of tourists and to evaluate to what extent the impacts and the outcomes expected can be effectively reached in a satisfying way.