Virtual travel is when you experience a destination like Paris, France through your Virtual Reality (VR) Goggles like an Oculus rift, your computer or mobile device (also via some apps). You are taken through interactive images and videos of a city, neighbourhood or area and shown famous landmarks & sights that you can explore in 360 degrees. Kind of like how google maps street view works, where you can pick place and explore it like you where on the ground. The images and videos are very accurate and give you a good sense of what the place is like, but it will never beat the real thing. These images and videos are created via specialist cameras, rigs, and software.
There are benefits to seeing a place in VR, like getting to know the place and getting a feel for where things are. You are exposed to a new place and if you are planning on visiting, you can plan your trip with what you have seen in VR. You can experience neighbourhoods, streets, the way to a landmark and just explore the area in general, so you know what to kind of expect when you get there.
A travel VR experience can never replace real travel, as you can’t feel the atmosphere, the air, the smells and emotions of the place. You are not there living an actual experience and experiencing the locals and culture. Travelling is about meeting new people, seeing and experiencing cultures, people, food and learning new things. It is an important part of our development as it opens our eyes to how other people live and learn. No VR travel experience is ever going to replace that. The recreation of the place for VR can miss details like textures, wall arts, lay of the land, and other additions that may have happened after the VR recreation. So that is something to bear in mind.
How popular has virtual tourism been?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic we were all aware that VR existed and that you could see a place virtually. Some of us may have seen a destination virtually to help make a decision before visiting or to help us plan our visit. During the pandemic virtual tourism has seen growth but nothing attention grabbing. Nothing can replace real tourism but using VR can definitely help us make a decision about a place, get somewhat familiar with a place and help us plan our visit there. It is a nice addition to tourism but will never take the place of tourism. Nothing beats actually visiting a foreign country. VR is on the rise and it still maybe early days it will soon become a key player in commercial and consumer industry in the future.