Virtual reality is not just a technology, it’s a passport to new frontiers
In recent years, the world of virtual reality (VR) has rapidly expanded, captivating people’s imaginations. Initially gaining prominence in gaming and entertainment, VR’s transformative potential has extended far beyond these realms.
Simultaneously, virtual tourism has emerged as a fascinating global phenomenon. Through the utilization of innovative technology, it provides viewers with immersive experiences of diverse activities, locations, or destinations. With the seamless integration of VR technology, still images, videos, audio, narration, interactivity and multimedia formats, virtual tourism transcends the limitations of static images or websites alone, providing comprehensive and engaging destination encounters.
Before covid lockdowns swept the globe, the concept of VR technology in travel was already taking root. However, during those lockdowns, the technology flourished and found its ideal environment for growth. The field has blossomed, offering a promising future for the travel and hospitality industry.
The projected growth of the global virtual tourism market further supports this positive outlook. Market research firm Market Data Forecast estimates that the global virtual tourism market is projected to reach approximately US$847.95 billion by 2028. Comparatively, the market was valued at around US$385.75 billion in 2022.
In this article, we will explore how VR technology is revolutionizing travel, uncovering its exciting implications for exploration and tourism. As technology evolves, virtual tourism becomes more sophisticated, captivating and realistic, attracting a broader range of travelers.
Unleash your adventurous spirit
Gone are the days of budgeting, endless planning and trying to convince your friends to join you on an adventure. Thanks to the immersive power of VR, you can now explore iconic landmarks like the Burj Khalifa or conquer Mount Everest without any logistical challenges or physical limitations. It’s as easy as putting on a VR headset and being transported to these incredible destinations with a simple click.
Created by Iceland’s Sólfar Studios, Everest VR lets you journey across the face of Mount Everest. Beyond just the act of climbing the Everest, the VR experience takes immersion to the next level. By utilizing the VR headset’s controllers, you gain full control over harnesses, pulleys and an ice axe, enabling you to ascend the challenging face of the mountain. This hands-on experience helps you to feel the exhilaration as you conquer the challenges of Mount Everest.
Contrary to typical gaming setups, Everest VR incorporates audio narration that guides you as you navigate the various mountain terrains between climbing missions. It also includes a “God Mode” for teleportation-based exploration of Mount Everest, with the added bonus of adjusting your virtual body size for different viewing experiences. To begin on this adventure, you will need one of the following VR headsets: HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Valve Index.
Another popular VR experience, Mission 828, offers a captivating and immersive journey that takes participants on a virtual tour of the world’s tallest skyscraper Burj Khalifa. In this VR experience, users can feel the thrill of scaling the 160 levels of Burj Khalifa, climbing to the top of the spire and then parachuting down to The Dubai Fountain. It offers an adventurous and realistic sensation of ascending and descending the iconic tower.
You can enjoy the VR Experience through a total of seven VR pods. Six of these pods are conveniently situated on level 125, while an additional pod is located on level 124. Mission 828 utilizes the cutting-edge HTC Vive Pro, the most powerful VR system to date and a low-frequency haptic feedback feature that synchronizes vibrations and movements with the content for an even more immersive experience.
Explore the metaverse
VR technology and the metaverse have opened up exciting possibilities in the realm of tourism. While metaverse tourism offers immersive digital experiences, VR takes it a step further, providing a whole new dimension to travel.
The leading hotel chains Marriott and Atlantis are at the forefront of exploring the potential of VR technology in the metaverse and travel. Through their collaboration with RendezVerse, a metaverse platform, they are pushing the boundaries of immersive experiences. RendezVerse empowers hotels and event planners to create digital replicas of their properties within the metaverse. These serve as virtual venues for hosting conferences and events.
The virtual replicas can be accessed using VR headsets, allowing users to immerse themselves in a 360-degree environment that faithfully recreates the hotels, such as Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai and Madrid Marriott Auditorium.
In addition to providing immersive experiences, this collaboration also offers a greener alternative for corporate events. Hosting conferences and events virtually, significantly reduces the need for international travel and pre-event preparation. This results in cost savings and contributes to environmental sustainability by minimizing carbon emissions and resource consumption associated with traditional physical events.
Get a preview of your destination
With VR, users can transport themselves to a world that comes alive before they even take off, giving them a tantalizing glimpse of what awaits them at their destination. One company that has enabled this is Thomas Cook.
In a bid to enhance customer experience, the British travel agency launched a “try before you fly” online campaign that utilized VR technology to showcase various excursions, including a helicopter tour of Manhattan. Following the five-minute New York VR experience in-store, the company witnessed a remarkable 190 percent increase in bookings for New York vacations. This impressive outcome will likely grab the attention of travel companies striving to boost their bookings after the pandemic.
Thomas Cook’s VR innovations went beyond excursions. Later, the company also launched a Fantasy Flight campaign where customers were transported to the cockpit for a 360º in-flight adventure. They can also get a glimpse of the world of aviation as pilots and cabin crew go about their daily tasks, accompanied by characters from diverse global locations.
From virtual tours and immersive experiences to previews of destinations and attractions, VR provides travelers with unprecedented opportunities to explore the world innovatively and engagingly. Furthermore, it’s helping travel companies and tourism organizations to better connect with their customers and to elevate the overall travel experience.
As technology continues to evolve and become more accessible, it’s likely to have a significant impact on the travel industry, enabling travelers to discover and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the world in previously unimaginable ways.
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