Five applications of VR in tourism

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Virtual Reality has been on the rise for several years. But with the corona crisis, the opportunities to explore a destination remotely are appreciated even more (dream now, visit later). VR is already being used in various places in the Netherlands, for example in museums or visitor centers. But VR is more widely used worldwide. The possibilities are very diverse. In this article five applications of Virtual Reality in tourism.

#1: Virtual tours

The most obvious application of VR in tourism is the ability to create virtual tours from home. On the couch you can virtually go to a destination and experience it. This experience is relatively easy to produce with a 360 degree video. There are many examples of 360 degree virtual tours on YouTube. The Canadian British Columbia even turned it into a VR app with ‘The Wild Within VR Experience‘ a few years ago. But companies also use it as a means of getting to know the product or service. For example, the Australian airline Quantas has made virtual tours of various flight destinations. Hotels give virtual tours through their hotel, the rooms and the facilities, such as the Atlantis Hotel in Dubai.

In Germany TimeRide has been created in a few cities. Through physical and digital experience you will be brought back to the past of the city where you find yourself at that moment. It’s a real immersive experience.

Another form of virtual tours is discovering places that are otherwise not accessible or have limited access. With Everest VR you can virtually climb Mount Everest or you can go to Antarctica, inhospitable places in the Amazon, the moon or dive in the Mariana Trench. In this way it can contribute to the protection of vulnerable places and make them accessible to a wider public. But it can also be a virtual tour to no longer existing places, such as the Titanic.

The tours can also take place at the destination itself. For example, in the Visit Zuid-Limburg Experience Valkenburg (southern part of the Netherlands) you can get an overview of attractions in the area with VR. At the Groenlo Inspiration Point you can virtually experience the biennial Battle in Grolle event and go back in time.

#2: Virtual sales

A second application is virtual sales. This can be interesting for the sale of bungalows or apartments, for example. On the one hand, because you can make a remote virtual tour through a holiday object and get a good impression of the atmosphere, the layout and the view. This is certainly useful for destinations that are further away and where you can already make a first selection of objects that you want to view on location during the orientation phase.

On the other hand, it is also very useful if the object you want to buy has not yet been built. With VR you can get a lifelike impression of what the new holiday accommodation will look like.

More and more hotels are also offering the possibility to view your hotel room virtually, so that you’ll be prepared how your room looks like before you book.

It is expected that in the future it will be possible to go through your entire search and book experience virtually. Amadeus gives us a preview of what this could look like in an animation.

#3: VR Campaigns

Virtual Reality can of course also be used as a campaign element. Thomas Cook’s case is often mentioned in the travel industry. They were one of the first to use VR. There are a number of 360 degree videos in the ‘Try Before Your Fly’ campaign. For example from locations in New York or scenes in an A330. The videos contain directions with which you could enter a competition. The campaign generated 180% growth in bookings to New York.

One of the best and most creative campaigns that uses VR is the Old Irish campaign in Georgia. Unsuspecting passersby are put on VR glasses. Here they get to see images of Ireland, while the environment around them undergoes a metamorphosis. When they take off the glasses, they get an Irish experience they will never forget …

#4: Entertainment and education

A fourth application is for entertainment and education. This way you can do things with VR that you would otherwise never dare. For example, jumping out of a plane to skydive or dive with sharks. This can be combined with an educational element about flora and fauna. But you can also attend virtual theater shows or visit museums. At home from your couch.

But there are more possibilities. For example, you can travel through time in Hong Kong and experience different periods in history virtually. Or take a virtual tour of the original Pompeii, to see the site before the volcanic eruption.

In games it is also possible to add educational elements. For example, you can learn a lot about the ancient Egyptians or the Middle Ages through virtual escape rooms – in which you have to fulfill various assignments to escape. In game form  you imagine yourself in a castle or a pyramid and complete assignments. In the meantime you will be taught a lot about the history. For example, National Geographic has an app (National Geographic Explore VR) with which you can kayak virtually through Antarctica and get information about the animals you see along the way. And through photo assignments at Machu Picchu you will learn more about the ancient building techniques of the Incas.

In Flanders, the Lost Zwin ports project allows you to see what the silted ports used to look like via outdoor VR viewers. At the place where you stand, you can look around 360 degrees through the viewer and imagine yourself back in time.

VR is also increasingly used by museums. For example, Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute uses VR to change how visitors view the world. You can virtually go to the bottom of the ocean, to the inside of the human body or to outer space. Some time ago, the Louvre launched ‘Mona Lisa: Behind the glass’. Here you can explore the painting through various animations. The National Museum of Australia made a VR experience with David Attenborough that takes you 540 million years back in time. You will learn more about the earliest forms of marine life and endangered species today.
The possibilities are of course endless. Imagine that you can talk to the paintings in a museum, see how a sculpture was created step by step or what the story is behind an object.

#5: VR Attractions

Another virtual experience that is booming are the virtual attractions. These can be attractions that are all about Virtual Reality or existing attractions that are supplemented with VR. For example, at Indoor Skydive Roosendaal you can not only get the feeling of skydiving in a wind tunnel. You can also supplement this with a VR experience where it really looks like you are jumping out of an airplane and floating in the air.

Another form is the use of VR on roller coasters. In this case, the existing roller coasters are enriched with VR, with which you not only have the roller coaster experience, but also experience a virtual story. The Kraken attraction in Seaworld Orlando shows that this is still under development. After a year, the VR component was removed again. Guests would consider it insufficient added value and the duration of the attraction would be longer.

Sometimes VR is enough to be an attraction in itself. These options are also available in the Netherlands, such as Enversed VR Center in Eindhoven or the VR Cinema in Amsterdam. But as far as I’m concerned, The Void is the absolute top. A physical space is hereby transformed into a virtual experience, often linked to films such as Ghost Busters, Star Wars or Jumanji. A combination of a bodypack, flight simulation and impressive graphics make this a special VR experience.

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