Travel: Is Virtual Tourism the next travel frontier?

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Virtual tourism. Image from http://blog.only-apartments.com/virtual-tourism/

Virtual Tourism – Whoever thought it would be possible? Virtual Reality Technology is changing and it is changing fast. With 3D mapping software, businesses can map out actual places and allow anyone, anywhere to experience a virtual reality walk-through. Using technology tools like an Oculus Rift headset, you could one day virtually visit a museum, explore a theme park, and even take a hike through one of our national parks.  Technology has made it easier to travel but virtual tourism uses technology to take tourism to a whole new level.

As an article by Wired.com indicates, this ability to take virtual trips raises an interesting question: Will VR help or hinder the tourism industry? How many will decide not to visit a far-away destination because they have already explored it virtually?

Virtual Tourism

While this technology is still in its early days and likely won’t be ready for mass consumption for several years, the possibilities it presents are endless. When it comes to tourism, imagine what could become accessible online. The Louvre could showcase the Mona Lisa, letting millions see the masterpiece every single day. Anyone could climb the steps to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and enjoy the view. Heard of the Machu Picchu, the Great Pyramid of Giza or the Mayan Temples anyone? Even Hawaii, the beautiful islands of Greece, and the gorgeous Alp Mountains in Europe will be just a click away!

Kenya has not been left behind as our own tourism CS Najib Balala made a sky jumping that was shown on Twitter’s Periscope. Herdtracker partnered with Make It Kenya to film the jump and also show it on periscope so that people around the world can see what Kenya has to offer. Balala also released rehabilitated endangered Hawks Bill sea turtle back into the ocean after it was successfully rescued by the Watamu Turtle Watch project. Find out more in this article Najib Balala skydives 10,000 feet to promote tourism. This is a great beginning but we can do more.

Barcelona 3D video – A virtual tour of Barcelona

So with all these options will it hinder actual travel? If you are thinking about what may soon become old-fashioned classical travel the expenses stand out. Hotel accommodation and entrance fees add up quickly plus vacation days are quite limited. If the virtual reality is too good, the thought may occur, why would anyone trouble themselves? Visiting virtually means no cramped airplanes and no jetlag; no bugs, no uncomfortable hotel beds and no tipping. All you need is a few minutes and a favourite chair to enjoy a cool new destination. In that sense it may be a game changer in the tourism industry.

The secret will be not to give it all away for free, of course. Tourism destinations are hoping the new technology will act as a lure; by giving a taste of what they have to offer, venues hope to attract new tourists…

But is there value in using the latest virtual reality technology when it comes to marketing a tourism destination? Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination BC explained: “We think virtual reality is a great fit for tourism marketing. It lets our travel trade and media partners experience our destination in a new and unique way that has not been possible before.”

I personally feel it will become a debate similar to the like of Paperbacks vs. EBooks, Movies vs. Books and so on. Virtual tourism may ultimately have many benefits and will probably be a good quick fix for the adventure seeker but the truth is nothing is ever as good as the real thing. In-fact the incredible experiences you may get from virtual tourism may just wet your appetite to go out there and actually use your five God-given senses to touch, see, taste, hear, and feel the things offered by a place first hand.

Virtual tourism. Image from http://blog.only-apartments.com/virtual-tourism/
Virtual tourism. Image from http://blog.only-apartments.com/virtual-tourism/

Travel is more about creating memories, and creating memories is more realistic when a surrounding is authentic.

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