CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN: COULD THIS BE THE MOMENT FOR VIRTUAL REALITY TRAVEL?
Tired of staring at your living rooms walls? VR experiences could provide the answer to your seemingly neverending boredom. The COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for the latest technology to prove itself as an alternative to the real travel experience. It could even provide an eco-friendly way to help avoid overtourism in some of the world’s most visited spots.
It may not be quite the full experience but you can put your feet up and discover the tallest waterfall in the world, Venezuela’s Angel Falls, experience Machu Picchu in Peru or walk around in Paris and see the view from the Eiffel Tower via a 360 degree VR tour video. You are just one click from visiting the Grand Canyon using Google Earth.
Interested in Mayan or Viking culture? The British Museum has set up a virtual reality tour allowing you to select from a number of historical periods of across various continents so you can travel in both time and space. Alternatively, you can visit the Louvre’s exhibitions and galleriesvia an online tour to get your art fix.The Guggenheim Museum in New York City also made 1700 important artworks available online after having to close due to social distancing measures.
If you are the mood to visit royalty, you can walk through the Schönbrunn Castle.Austria, like many other European countries, has made a list of famous tourist destinations available via Google Arts and Culture.
A wide variety of zoos have also been sharing live camera footage for you to watch endangered species at parks across the world. These cubs came live from the Netherlands, at Ouwehand Zoo where the Polar Bears International Arctic Ambassador Centre plays an important role in efforts to sustain a future for wild polar bears.
The Faroe Islands is the latest to offer an online experience. The small North Atlantic archipelago’s tourist board has created a virtual reality app that lets lockdown web users remotely control a tour guide, moving them through its towns and volcanic islands like a video game character.
The Faroe Islands is an 18-island rocky, volcanic archipelago that’s home to 50,000 people with nearly half of its population living in Torshavn, the capital. Tourism has been growing over the last five years. Around 120,000 people visited the semi-autonomous Danish territory last year.
Despite its government already easing some restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the virus, international tourists have been advised not to travel to the territory until at least 1 May.
While the pandemic has resulted in improved air quality around the world, it is expected to have a disastrous impact on the tourism sector, which counts for one-tenth of global GDP. Up to 75 million jobs are at immediate risk in global travel and tourism due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Like many other destinations, the Faroe Islands tourism board believes in the positive effect VR can have on real-world travel. Author of a recent report, Ralph Hollister, claims that “more companies are realizing the potential of Virtual Reality in terms of creating bespoke marketing campaigns for aspiring travellers, instead of viewing it as a gimmick”.
It seems that VR and similar technologies can give a boost to the sector, rather than replace the real adventure. “The idea is to whet people’s appetite and get them to want to come and experience this in real life,” says Levi Hanssen, Content and Communications Manager, Visit Faroe Islands.