Virtual Reality Tourism – Can It Be A Thing?

Antoine Bechara
Antoine Bechara
July 4, 2020

The ongoing pandemic has impacted our current reality by causing global shockwaves throughout the travel and tourism industries. This has seen both national and international physical travel drop to the lowest it’s been in decades. So, could technologies like reality and augmented reality help us travel the world in the short term? And what are the chances that these VR travel experiences will become the new normal? But first…

What Is Virtual Reality?

Unlike regular videos that have been shot using a normal camera which only has one fixed point of view, Virtual Reality uses special cameras and software to capture all possible 360° of a scene. The finished video content can then be viewed using a VR headset, as well as a regular computer, or even on your mobile device on social media. This almost realistic immersion allows viewers to explore all possible angles, to the point they are able to raise or move their heads to discover new things. Ultimately, this interactive experience provides them with almost the same feeling of actually being there in person.

What Is Virtual Reality Tourism?

Despite Virtual Reality VR still being in its relative infancy, there’s been a growing number of travel companies and tourism destinations that are experimenting with Virtual Reality now that this technology has started to shake its gimmicky reputation. Below are some areas that VR can and is being used in the travel industry.

Virtual Reality For Travel Experiences

Virtual reality is allowing the tourism industry to provide prospective customers the opportunity for virtual travel experiences like some of the main attractions that would likely draw them to these locations in the first place. For example, a tourism company in Rome could provide prospective clients with a virtual experience of walking around the Colosseum, while tour operators at a theme park in Tokyo may be able to provide them with the experience of a virtual roller-coaster ride.

The number of tourism companies who are embracing this technology has been growing exponentially. Would-be travellers are using Virtual Reality app technology to see destinations like Chichén Itzá in Mexico, the almost constantly erupting Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala, or even the summit of Mt Everest in the Himalayas. And as the number of VR headsets increases, these experiences will also likely become increasingly common in many households around the world.

Virtual Reality For Travel Agencies

Businesses within the tourism industry like travel agencies were especially quick to find new ways they could utilise the new technology of Virtual Reality. In fact, one of the most common examples of VR tourism is when travel agencies use VR to promote certain destinations and experiences. That’s because customers at a travel company will typically want to purchase an experience, so this affords them an effective way to give prospective tourists just a little taste of what they can expect. This is completely transforming the experience at travel agencies. Instead of a travel company showing their potential customers a poster of Budapest, a picture of Prague, or a brochure of Amsterdam, they can now offer them exclusive in-store Virtual Reality travel experiences where they’re walking down a Parisian street.

Virtual Reality For Hotels

One of the most common examples of Virtual Reality within the travel industry over recent years are hotels who provide prospective guests with virtual tours of their premises and individual rooms. This allows for more transparency as they can see and experience exactly what the hotel really looks like with their own eyes before they arrive.

Virtual Reality For The Environment

Some experts are saying the technology of Virtual Reality could eventually become an eco-friendly solution to over-tourism at the more popular landmark destinations around the world By producing VR experiences, the number of visitors to these landmarks can be better controlled, which helps to reduce the environmental impact associated with too many tourists.

Virtual Reality For Flight Experiences

Still a relatively new addition to possible Virtual Reality tourist experiences, VR Flight Experiences provide people with a realistic experience of what their airline would be like when flying to a particular destination. The world’s first Virtual Reality airline is based in Tokyo, where people are seated inside a replica aeroplane cabin where they are served gourmet food before wearing VR headsets which provides them with an inflight experience, which even includes the pre-flight safety demonstration.

Virtual Reality For Non-Travellers

One area of travel that Virtual Reality has actually started to replace actual travel is for those people who are unable to travel, such as the elderly, the terminally ill, and some people with disabilities. This allows all of these people to become Virtual Reality travellers, providing the extremely rewarding experiences of seeing what travelling to these destinations is like, which otherwise may not have been possible.

So, Is Virtual Reality Tourism Here To Stay?

Traditional travel has certainly taken a backseat for the time being. But once everything eventually does return back to normal after lockdown, with literally billions of travellers taking flights to all four corners of the globe, it remains to be seen whether VR tourism will continue its current growth.

Virtual Reality can provide truly amazing moments of travel immersion, the technology is currently only focused on the sights and sounds of these places, without engaging any of our other senses. But, while VR technology may not be quite advanced enough to completely replace actually being there in real life, it is progressing at an exponentially fast rate, so one day soon it will become a reality. Until then, people will continue using Virtual Reality to create feelings of wanderlust by experiencing bucket list destinations in unique and immersive ways. 

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