• Data and AI
  • Experience and Design
  • Strategy and Transformation


Immersive travel: How digital technology is transforming tourism

After the misery of the pandemic, people have a new appetite for travel and exploration. Global travel is expected to rebound to pre-Covid levels in 2024 and the Middle East is proving an attractive choice – it is the only region that welcomed more travellers in 2023 than in 2019 (22% more, in fact).

As tourists return, though, competition for their attention is fierce. The destinations that are set to benefit the most in the coming months and years are those that recognize that the way people plan and book their travel experiences has changed – and those that make use of innovative technology to offer a seamless, personalized, and exciting experience.

Destinations across the Middle East are leading the way in using technology to enhance and streamline the travel experience at every stage of the customer journey. Digital innovations are being used at the critical touchpoints, to persuade travellers to choose a destination over others, to make sure that the booking process is easy and intuitive, and to enhance the experience of the trip.

Let’s look a little closer at each of these touchpoints and the role of digital technology in each:

Inspiration and research

The ability to research and book holidays and travel online has opened up a literal world of possibilities to tourists – and so destinations need to be sure that they stand out.

Virtual and augmented reality is playing an increasing role, inviting online visitors to take immersive tours of destinations and attractions. Potential customers are given a compelling story of what to expect through videos, drone footage, and even fully interactive simulations such as a hot air balloon ride. At the same time, data analytics and AI algorithms allow digital travel platforms to offer personalized suggestions for activities, trips and accommodation.


The emergence of interconnected travel platforms has allowed users to move quickly from research to booking flights, accommodation, meals, excursions and attractions – planning and securing their entire trip from one single platform – while the integration of contactless payment platforms makes payment straightforward and biometric verification adds a layer of security. But increasingly, travel operators are investing heavily in developing engaging proprietary platforms that encourage users to book direct.

Augmented reality-driven apps are being used to significantly enrich visitor experiences.

During the trip

Digital travel platforms have developed rapidly to become a virtual travel assistant – holding all the necessary tickets and booking information and providing reminders and updates on any delays or changes.

But forward-thinking destinations are going a lot further to support and engage tourists during their trip. Augmented reality-driven apps are being used to significantly enrich visitor experiences at museums (through the Museum Buddy app, for example), art galleries, historical sites and other attractions, by adding personalized signage that is tailored to location and the user’s communication preferences, and an interactive layer to exhibits.

AR apps can be scaled up to help guide visitors through cities and regions of interest – we have designed and implemented a digital solution that helps tourists explore and discover a previously unexplored region of Saudi Arabia. The apps offer on-the-move signage and directions, translation services, narration and information at points of interest, recommendations for restaurants, and pinpoint shops, pharmacies and other useful services. Continuous refreshing means that AR-based apps remain up to date for an evergreen tourist experience.

This technology is making foreign travel more accessible, stress-free, and easy to navigate.

After the trip

The potential of technology for tourism does not end when the traveller returns home. Augmented reality can help travellers capture and share their memories in numerous ways, from virtual photo albums to AR presentations – helping to engage future customers in the process. The data generated throughout the customer journey, from research to return, is fed back into the system to refine services and create even more appealing itineraries for the future.

The future of digital tourism

Digital innovation is refining and transforming the tourism industry for travelers, businesses, and destinations. The same technology that guides tourists through attractions will also help managers of the site better manage the flow of people through the attraction and plan staff requirements more efficiently.

For fragile and vulnerable historical attractions, virtual reality also offers a way for the world to explore safely. The Royal Commission for Al’Ula, for example, has created an immersive 3D model of Hegra’s Tomb of Lihyan, Son of Kuza. The model allows virtual tourists to explore the monument in detail – accessing areas that real world visitors cannot see – from anywhere in the world. This is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site to enter the metaverse, and others will surely follow.

Digital technology is a powerful driver of differentiation in the tourism sector but we are only just beginning to realize its full potential. This technology is already putting new and upcoming destinations into the consciousness of travelers – we recently created a roadmap for building a world-class diving destination in Saudi Arabia that will rival the most popular and desirable diving spots in the world – and the ripple effects will be felt across the global industry in the coming months and years.

Enabling human progress

Immersive travel experience and digital tourism are changing the world and creating huge potential for unexplored destinations and new attractions. There is a world of possibilities to be explored with the help and support of Nortal’s digital expertise, vision and experience. Reach out and begin the journey with us.

Find out more

Book a discovery call

Learn how you could leverage technology to attract more visitors.

Related content

Case study

Tourists exploring a mountain trail
  • Experience and Design
  • Modern Software Development
  • Strategy and Transformation

A next-generation mobile experience for tourists

In the space of just a few years, smartphones have become an indispensable travel assistant in the palm of your hand. But the world is only just beginning to explore the potential of mobile technology in tourism – and our work in Saudi Arabia is pushing the boundaries of possibilities.

Case study

Diver under water
  • Experience and Design
  • Strategy and Transformation

Creating a dynamic diving destination

Scuba diving is a uniquely dynamic component of global tourism. Find out how we created a roadmap for a developing region in Saudi Arabia to become the most coveted scuba diving destination in the world.


Ocean and beach terrain
  • Strategy and Transformation
  • Technology and Engineering
  • Construction

GIS and AI: Transforming the construction industry 

Large-scale construction projects are by their nature fraught with risk. But the construction sector is entering a new phase. The integration of geographic information systems (GIS) and AI are introducing data-driven decision making, with significant results.