Virtual Travel Anyone?
Studies prove that traveling provides so many benefits. Travel not only enriches your mind and soul but also your physical and mental health. You may already have heard it a few times, but traveling can be the best form of education. (See Related: Best Travel Tips)
For one, humans are very visual creatures. Education through visual stimulation works better than with text or verbal messages. In other words, a field trip may to some extent be more effective than books or theoretical learning.
However, for some reason, many people are unable to travel. The lack of means and resources poses a common limitation. While for others, physical and health issues restrict them from being able to do so.
Moreover, global crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic make traveling a challenge, if not prohibited by the law.
Fortunately, technology makes it possible for everyone to travel without having to literally go places. Virtual tours, for instance, can take non-travelers to a lifelike experience of being in a remote destination they have never imagined. And for travelers, it allows them to get a glimpse of what’s in store for them before making an actual purchase.
Let’s take a closer look at virtual tours and how it supports travel and the tourism industry.
What is a virtual tour?
A virtual tour or panoramic tour is a simulation of a certain place that is composed of 360˚ images or videos played in sequence to appear like a moving video. It may incorporate audio, text, and narrations.
The first-ever virtual tour dates back to 1994. It featured an exhibit of the Dudley Castle in England. A 3D reconstruction represented the castle exactly how it would have been in 1550.
And Queen Elizabeth II, being the first person to experience the tour, may also be considered the first virtual tourist.
Still photo tour
A still photo tour is a collection of multiple images stitched together to create a panoramic view with different angles but from only a single viewpoint. In other words, it uses a series of flat, 2D image views of an area. When combined, it makes it seem as good as 3D. As a result, you can pan around the photo enabling a 360˚ feel, as well as zoom in to a particular area to get a closer view.
In a video-based tour, high-quality videos of various angles and views of a certain area or location are integrated. In such a manner, the point of view constantly varies throughout a pan.
However, a viewer will not be able to take control of what he wants to see on the tour. The filmmaker limits the viewers only to his choice of the subject matter.
360˚ virtual tour
A 360˚ virtual tour uses images from 360-degrees of the camera. It utilizes photos, videos, as well as a combination of both. Moreover, viewers can take a look around different angles from one viewpoint to several others and navigate among them through clickable access points.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is a simulated digital environment based on a real or fictional place. Moreover, VR entails the use of VR devices such as goggles, headsets, helmets, gloves, and body connectors with sensors, which creates a more immersive experience.
Aside from the visual aspect, it can stimulate another sense, which is audio, so you can hear the sounds at the same time. Above all, it gives the user the freedom to interact in the alternate world and take charge of the experience.
How are virtual tours used in tourism?
Provide virtual experiences of destinations and activities
Virtual tours allow non-travelers and travelers to immerse themselves in remote places, as well as have a glimpse of possible activities that can take place.
Here are a few examples of virtual tours you can visit and experience:
- Tourist attractions
- Famous landmarks
- National parks
- Outer space
Display virtual tours of the hotel environment
Travelers and potential customers of the hospitality industry can view their prospective hotels and hotel rooms before deciding to book a reservation. Some hotels and accommodations incorporate virtual tours on their websites so that travelers can have a more realistic and in-depth view of the amenities and facilities. Consequently, customers will be able to choose which ones best suit their needs.
Some hotel websites even offer VR booking interfaces wherein customers can make a booking via virtual reality.
What are the advantages of virtual tours?
The least requirement for a virtual tour is a computer or digital device and an internet connection.
Most web-based virtual tours are available 24/7 and 365 days a year. Hence, you can browse various virtual tours of your interest and watch at your preferred date and time.
Since virtual tours are made compatible with different portable digital devices such as laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. You can view tours at the comforts of your location, whether lying down, sitting upright, or standing up.
Everything will be virtual. Hence, you are certain to be safe from the physical risks and social dangers of traveling. You don’t need to worry about tiring or injuring yourself or being lost in a crowd.
Research and planning made quick
Instead of browsing through tons of travel blogs searching for images and reviews of a certain destination, a virtual tour can save you a great deal of time when planning your trip. More importantly, travelers get to learn about their prospective destination first-hand through an immersive environment.
Provision of a more accurate visual
The standard photos of attractions and hotels may have been ideally enhanced just to attract travelers and customers. On the other hand, virtual tours offer more transparency and reliable representation by showcasing actual visuals.
Does virtual travel replace real travel?
For those who cannot travel, virtual tours open up the endless possibilities of transporting them to different remote destinations with the most realistic experiences.
Although virtual tours can be fully immersive, it still can’t compare to the real thing. If anything, virtual travel is a tool that further encourages and convinces travelers to book their trip by providing a sample or visual test-drive that incites excitement, and makes them want more.