Augmenting the Geotourism Experience through New Digital Technologies

Robinson, Angus M1, James, Pat2 and Ng, Young3

1 Australian Geoscience Council, Carlton South, Australia 2 University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia 3 Danxiashan UNESCO Global Geopark, Shaoguan City, China

In developing a National Geotourism Strategy for Australia, the Australian Geoscience Council Inc has recognised that state-based geotourism maps can be supplemented by publications, as well as consideration of new digital technologies (e.g. smartphones, 3D visualisation, augmented reality and virtual reality) and  GIS technologies as a cost effective means of accessing and better communicating geological content. This approach is encapsulated in the first strategic goal of the Strategy i.e. ‘to deliver and interpret for the traveller, quality natural heritage content, highlighting geology and landscape’.

Several groups have formed in Australia to trial these technologies with a view of realising some commercial opportunities with geotourism in mind.

In South Australia (SA,) the local Division of the Geological Society of SA has developed Field Guides for many areas of outstanding geological significance e.g. including Hallett Cove, the Flinders Ranges, and Victor Harbor amongst the set of 10 guides produced so far which are available online

The Geological Survey of SA is likewise producing interactive, online Google Earth-based, Discovery Trails as  virtual geotours  while at the University of SA,  the Project LIVE (Learning though Immersive Virtual Environments) ( initiative is highlighting some significant  outback areas with interactive virtual geotours, including drone and field video recording, 360 degree GigaPan panoramas and a range of other interpretive materials.

The current pursuit in SA for World Heritage status for the northern Flinders Ranges is also encouraging many strands of geotourism activity and development. These ranges approximately 500km north of Adelaide provide a window into deepest past geological time and abound with significant natural, cultural, historic and scenic values. As well as this, they provide geological and chronological records of one of the world’s greatest ancient super-basins, evidence of the earliest global glaciations, and widespread debris from Australia’s mightiest, extra-terrestrial Acraman meteor impact, and not least evidence of the evolution of the Ediacaran, earliest and  multicellular complex life on Earth. It is also very fortunate that the many (so far more than 50) geosites located within this region are already documented and illustrated within the sophisticated compendium of State registered Geoheritage sites (formerly geological monuments) published by the SA Division of the GSA.

Current and planned real, augmented and virtual reality geotourism developments within the Flinders Ranges, include underground and above ground geotrails and mine tours at Blinman, new Ediacara interpretation centres and trails at Nilpena, aerial overflights of Wilpena, Brachina Gorge and Arkaroola landscapes and the sensational Jeff Morgan Panorama gallery at Hawker. Virtual and augmented technologies are thus being applied to create unique visitor experiences and world class interpretation in this unique Australian geotourism region.

 Danxiashan UNESCO Global Geopark of China has been working closely with DJI Technology, the world’s largest manufacturer of aerial photography systems, in applying drones to locate, identify, map and monitor geohazards, bush fire, illegal land use, forest clearance and vegetation growth in the geopark. It is cost and time effective particularly in the preliminary survey of a large area.

These technologies will impact on future geotourism product development.


Professor Pat James has an extensive background in geological education, outreach and geotourism.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.