HOW VIRTUAL TRAVEL IS CHANGING TRAVELLING
We are already one month into 2021, but things are still fluctuating between good and bad. Though we are still far from saying ‘all is well’ with a thumbs up, we are unable to suppress the urge to go out and explore like we used to. The good old days good the coronavirus took hold, heading off to Paris, New York City or Hong Kong, and taking tours at the Smithsonian, Louvre, and other heritage sites. Simpler times!
Though many of us are in lockdown, it is in our nature to search for a solution and make one where there exists none. That is why virtual reality has become such a popular solution. Now, we can travel and experience the world regardless of travel restrictions or social distancing rules from the comfort of our own homes.
Virtual reality experiences have made it possible to visit anywhere from Amsterdam to Antarctica with relative ease. VR technology has been around for some time and there are already almost 2 billion users worldwide familiar with the technology. With that many users, the travel industry has a number of prospects and latent potential that were soon bound to lift it out of the slump that the pandemic created.
TRENDS BEFORE VIRTUAL TOURS CAME IN
Before we head into the depth of virtual travel, let’s recall some of the prominent travelling trends that the industry has given us already.
THE SCOURGE OF THE SELFIE STICK
You have to admit, in contrast to their size, selfie sticks had a major impact on the whole travelling industry. At every top destination from Venice to Hawaii, you will see these little black sticks reaching up into the sky to get that perfect angle. This trend was short-lived as many places, including leading art galleries put a ban on their use in order to protect paintings, overall visitor experience, and individual privacy. No one wants to damage a priceless van Gogh painting by sticking a selfie stick through the canvas by accident.
THE LAUNCH OF INSTAGRAM
It’s hard to believe that before 2009, Instagram wasn’t even a thing. In a relatively short time, it became a global phenomenon. Everyone was convinced they had National Geographic quality photography skills and started sharing everything from their breakfast to their trip to Iceland with friends, family, and anyone else. It had a significant impact on the travel industry as it became an integral part of travelling to document the entire trip and share it online. A trip didn’t happen unless the entire experience was broadcast as a live stream. People started to flood to specific destinations around the world and showcase to the world they were there. This had positive and negative impacts. The prominence of national parks and natural wonders were elevated and tourism revenue skyrocketed, but at the same time, the huge crowds whose wanderlust brought them to off the beaten path destinations like Yosemite meant more garbage and overcrowding. Local authorities have been trying to find a balance ever since.
Technology never ceases to amaze us; travelling today is not only easier but also cheaper and optimized. There are dozens of apps that have helped solve some of the main problems tourists used to face. Finding the best place to stay, searching Google Street View to see if the area looks dangerous, finding the best local spots, and of course the all-important language translator. These apps make it easier for people to worry less and enjoy their trip more. Travelling became relatively easier and with that many, more people felt more emboldened to travel; whether solo or in groups.
THE TRANSITION TO VIRTUAL TRAVEL EXPERIENCES
The travel industry was increasing revenue every year, until 2020 came along. COVID-19 entered the picture and things took a turn for worse. Everything from Disney World to the Sistine Chapel began closing, and people went from office spaces to Zoom meetings. But even that was not going to stop people, for a prototype solution was already being practised with good success. Virtual tours had been adopted by the real estate industry for a few years and it was only a matter of time before the travel industry took notice. The pandemic paved the way for virtual travel to make up for the craving people had to visit new destinations.
A lot of brands operating in the travel industry such as museums were fast to adopt virtual reality technology, hence virtual museum tours became a sensational phenomenon. A typical museum tour is more about the experience rather than purchasing products or services. With platforms like Google Arts & Culture participants are able to wander through a number of museums, but there isn’t very much in the way of knowing what you are looking at. Virtual tours that are narrated and interactive like The VR Voyage’s museum tours allow participants to explore and know what they are looking at.
With virtual tours, this means no more travelling long distances, booking hotels, spending a lot of time, energy, and money, waiting in long lines, etc. Travellers can easily visit their desired destinations while remaining in the safe confines of their own homes and not undergo any hassle.
Experiencing famous and world-renowned destinations has now been made easier and more accessible thanks to virtual reality. Additionally, tours are not just limited to museums and indoor locations as a number of key tourist spots around the world are employing this technology to make it easier for people to view those locations in real-time.
THE FUTURE FOR VIRTUAL TRAVEL
Virtual travel has taken off due to COVID-19, but as the pandemic eventually subsides, the role of virtual travel with the larger travel industry will only grow. It will never replace in-person travel, but it can act as a means to introduce people to destinations before they decide to make the trek themselves, or it can allow access to places that an in-person tour would never be able to gain access. Although it may still be a while before the world opens up for real-life visits, virtual tours will continue to be made and with the ease of ordering cheap VR headset options through sources like Amazon, the technology will continue to get more and more accessible. A number of other industries such as hospitality and even airlines are adopting the technology to make it easier for their customers to visit their facilities beforehand. How far the prospects of VR go, only time will tell.