Has Virtual Reality the potential to replace real, physical travel? This is a matter that many of us have been pondering and exploring for a long time. Now, a new and intriguing variable could have changed, or at the very least influenced, the answer to this question: COVID-19.
For the travel and tourist business, the ever-changing and unprecedented COVID-19 situation creates enormous hurdles. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the COVID-19 pandemic might result in the loss of 50 million jobs worldwide.
After a year marred by the epidemic, and with the industry's prospects dimming, tourism business owners should consider new kinds of engagement for visitors that can also benefit the people and economies that rely on tourism.
The epidemic of COVID-19 has accelerated the testing and deployment of forward-thinking technology. Not only has technology allowed people all over the world to communicate with their loved ones, but it has also made it possible for industries like healthcare, information technology, education, and many others to operate remotely.
(Also Read: Impact of Coronavirus on Global Economy)
Through travel booking websites, movies, blogs, and trip photography, technology has helped the travel and tourism businesses expand their reach over the previous few decades.
Vacationers planning their next vacation or making a destination wish list will find digital tools and content to be a valuable source of knowledge. While remote or virtual tourism has long been a future topic in business forums, the world today, influenced by the COVID-19 epidemic, may now be ready to accept it.
What is Virtual Reality and How Does It Affect Travel and Tourism?
Virtual reality is a term that refers to interactive images or films that allow the spectator to explore a scene in 360 degrees. Unlike a traditional video image, which is filmed from a single point of view, VR production covers every aspect of a site.
Virtual reality can be utilized in the travel business to capture tourism sites in a novel and immersive way. A human-centric design that combines cutting-edge technology like augmented reality, virtual, or mixed reality (AR, VR, MR) with cognitive behavior, social psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics could be a game-changer.
Viewers may have a continuous, uninterrupted interactive experience from their own private location using AR, VR, and MR. The design concepts will result in a seamless digital user experience and a pleasant impression of a tourism location.
(Related blog - Extended Reality)
Special cameras, setups, and software are used to do this. The final product can then be seen using a virtual reality headset, a standard computer, or a mobile device. Many people believe that virtual reality content can only be watched with a specialized VR headset, however, this is not the case. Although viewing VR in this manner makes it more immersive, it can also be viewed on any platform, including mobile phones.
Take a peek at the VR stuff for tourism below. You can view the video in 360 degrees by rotating your device, moving it around, or swiping across it.
Wasn't it incredible to have Petra visit you at your home?
Applications of Virtual Reality in Tourism
VR has a variety of uses in tourism, including:
Impact of VR tourism on Travelers
1. Virtual reality travel experiences
VR tourism films produced for VR headsets are sometimes referred to as virtual reality travel experiences. These virtual travel experiences are designed to provide the impression of being at the real destination as closely as possible.
Virtual reality travel experiences, which are at the bleeding edge of 360 VR, offer the user something really unique and unforgettable. The number of travel agencies and organizations using this technology is steadily increasing, indicating that the sector has a bright future ahead of it.
A virtual platform might potentially allow individuals to tour regions where terrorism is affecting or being combated. Imagine visiting the Gurez Valley in India's union region of Jammu and Kashmir, with its rich fauna and snow leopard.
Read this study to explore more about this topic:
Virtual Tourism: on the Way To the Digital Economy
It doesn't end there: with enough planning, one might go to the South Pole, space, and beyond. It might also be used as a resource for students to learn about geography, culture, art, and history
The most realistic virtual reality travel experience is usually provided by VR headsets. A VR headset utilizes specialized software to track the user's head movement. This enables the user to experience the trip location as if they were there in person.
The number of people who own a virtual reality headset is rapidly increasing. The gaming sector, where the technology is being pushed vigorously, is primarily responsible for the increase in headset sales.
Furthermore, all of the main internet platforms, like Google, Facebook, and Amazon, are aggressively investing in virtual reality headsets and content, indicating that this area has a bright future.
2. VR Tourism content for Social Media/Websites
Before booking a hotel stay, most travellers want a lot of information. This could include reading product descriptions, viewing photographs, watching videos, reading customer reviews, or seeking feedback on social media. This process, however, can be considerably sped up by judicious use of virtual reality.
This ‘taster' content is normally available on the hotel website or the company's website, and it requires a VR headset to view. In many situations, the virtual experience consists solely of a simple 360-degree photograph that is compatible with social networking sites and more rudimentary VR hardware, such as Google Cardboard.
Although the use of virtual reality for social media is still in its infancy, savvy advertisers will want to keep an eye on developments that make 360 video more immersive and participatory.
3. Virtual Hotel Tours
Implementing the most effective strategies to market their services is one of the biggest difficulties faced by hotel businesses. Given how strongly customers nowadays rely on the digital sphere , it’s no wonder that the internet has become a vital tool. One of the most unique ideas is to use a virtual reality Hotel tour to promote the accompanying features and offered services.
A virtual reality hotel tour allows website users to have a virtual first-person experience of your hotel. This is especially useful when showing the rooms you have to offer, as customers will be able to get a sense of what to expect. Another important aspect to mention is that a perspective like this can show the proportions of a space as well as how to navigate about the property.
4. Tourism marketing via Virtual reality
The most typical application of virtual reality in the tourism business is marketing. It's a strong marketing tool to be able to capture vacation sites in such a memorable and engaging way.
One of VR's main advantages is that it allows the user to have the sensation of "being there." Regular photos and videos can be effective at demonstrating what a place has to offer, but they rarely elicit an emotional response.
In tourism, virtual reality has the capacity to put the user in the middle of the scene, making it easier for them to envision themselves there.
( Further Read: Big Data in Tourism )
5. Tourism in 360° VR
Many people associate virtual reality with CGI (computer-generated graphics), which is how it is commonly used in the game business. However, 360 VR, also known as 360VR video, is a separate type of virtual reality.
Instead of computer-generated graphics, 360 VR focuses on the real environment. This makes it ideal for the tourism business because showing users a real area rather than a model or simulation is critical.
Scene from a 360-degree video (source)
Tourism 360 VR content is captured in the same manner that normal image and video content is. A 360 VR firm, such as Immersion VR, arrives on location with specialized equipment to film the scene. After that, the film is returned to the studio, where it is converted into VR material using specialized software.
This is the most common type of virtual reality in tourism, and it's something we specialize in at Immersion VR. 360 VR is also popular in education, the real estate sector, and general internet marketing.
( Suggested Read - Virtual Reality in Education )
Read this Article from National Geographic on “Is Virtual Travel here to stay, Even after the pandemic is over?”
Limitations of VR
However, experts warn that a variety of constraints, including big, cumbersome headsets and exorbitant expenses, are presently holding the technology back. To begin with, the technology is not yet ready.
Virtual reality videos in 360 degrees are generally seen via a headgear (such as the Oculus Rift) or an app (like Google Cardboard). The headsets are prohibitively costly, hefty, and uncomfortable to use for longer than 30 minutes. The applications don't have any of these issues, but they aren't as remarkable.
In reality, tourists are free to stroll around as they choose; everyone has their own method of doing things that they enjoy, but with virtual reality tourism, you won't be allowed to do anything but what you're intended to do. Nothing is ever the same!! In truth, tourists should be more open to asking questions and receiving responses.
Although virtual reality may never be able to completely replace traditional travel, it does offer some fascinating possibilities. The most ecologically concerned among us—especially those trying to limit our carbon footprint—might choose this type of getaway if technology gets smart enough.
Virtual reality travel allows those who are physically unable to visit specific places to see portions of the globe. Most importantly, it has the potential to enable people to visit areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.
Check out this video, a panel discussion on the Virtual Tourism: VR and Travel Industry :
With technology improving people's lives all around the world, virtual tourism has the potential to re-ignite the tourist sector and its people, as well as contribute to the development of a more sustainable economic model. It may develop local tourist guides, craftsmen, and others as global citizens in the tourism sector as a human-centric platform.
The growth and use of new technology will ultimately define the influence of virtual reality on travel. So far, progress has been slow and incremental, with little chance of disrupting the travel sector or resulting in a reduction in travel-related carbon emissions until the epidemic is over.
But, just as travel platforms, from print to social media, may provide some of the discoveries of actual exploration, virtual reality has the potential to bring remote locations closer to visitors, encouraging them to adopt sustainable habits wherever they choose to go (or not go) in the future.