With virtual reality, you can travel anywhere, anytime, from the comfort of your home, office, hotel room, or wherever you are with your VR headset. VR travel experiences are not a gimmick, but a trend that shapes the future of travel.
More than 90% of the world’s population was under some sort of travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. With vaccines, these travel restrictions eased, and travelers found their way to airports, cruise ships, ferries, trains, and other transportation means to new or favorite destinations. But the way we experience travel is changing as we must comply with social distancing rules and other public safety guidelines in different countries (including COVID-19 vaccine cards or other proof of vaccination).
As we cannot mass-travel anymore, and the road to the destination is no longer a pleasant experience, could virtual reality fill in a gap or a need humanity longs for?
Virtual Reality Benefits for Travelers
Experts called virtual reality an eco-friendly solution to overtourism, but the technology certainly has other benefits:
“Maybe people can’t afford the higher prices or don’t want to spend their trip budget, and a VR trip to a place—as sad as it might seem—might be one way to allow people to experience somewhere without it adding to congestion,” said Mark Ellwood, Condé Nast Traveler contributor.
Besides, virtual reality allows people to explore hard-to-access areas like Antarctica, Ciudad Perdida in the jungle of Colombia, the Havasupai Falls in Arizona, Lake Baikal in Siberia, Taktsang Palphug Monastery in Bhutan, and many others.
VR could also help to experience environmentally sensitive areas like the Portofino marine protected area, Cozumel’s reefs, Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania, the Maasai Mara game reserve, and so on.
Summarizing, here are the top five benefits of virtual reality for travelers:
- experience hard-to-access destinations;
- travel the world for free without leaving home;
- eco-friendly solution to overtourism;
- avoid crowds during rigid pandemic restrictions;
- and learn more about a destination before visiting it in person.
Virtual Reality Benefits for the Travel Industry
As far as the travel and hospitality industry is concerned, VR presents exceptional branding and marketing value.
Hotels can create virtual reality experiences that allow potential guests to see the rooms, amenities, and hotel facilities before they book. An informed booking decision contributes to building trust and better customer satisfaction.
Used right, virtual reality can be a publicity tool: creating immersive VR experiences featuring popular attractions at a destination may attract more tourists.
Alternatively, VR experiences may prevent overcrowding at destinations struggling with overtourism. Some of these already have visitor restrictions: Dubrovnik, Venice, Barcelona, Amsterdam, The Galápagos, Santorini, Boracay, Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, etc.
VR may also bring back to life ancient cities: travelers will see more than ruins. They will be able to experience life as it once was in Skara Brae (UK), Caral-Chupacigarro (Peru), Timgad (Algeria), Hattusa (Turkey), Sigiriya (Sri Lanka), Leptis Magna (Libya), Knossos (Greece), Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc (France) and the list could go on and on.
Furthermore, proof positive that virtual reality is already changing the future of travel is the birth of VR travel companies like Ascape, which offers VR solutions for hotels and licenses VR equipment to travel companies of all sizes.
VR Travel Experiences for Globetrotters
VR headsets may be priced more than you can afford. Some users complain that they are also uncomfortable and cause nausea when used for longer than 30-45 minutes. Even with these setbacks, the estimated number of VR headsets sold worldwide in 2021 is 6.1 million. Statista predicts this number to reach 14.31 units by 2024.
Still, headsets are not the only means to experience VR. There are also online solutions available to enjoy right now, albeit not as immersive or impressive as the ones you can enjoy with a VR headset.
Whatever you choose, here are a few Oculus VR travel experiences available right now:
National Geographic VR
Discover the world guided by some of the most reputed guides and travel experts in the world. Climb mountain tops, dive with sharks, experience different cultures and traditions with National Geographic VR.
Chernobyl VR Project
The Chernobyl VR Project is ambitious and unique as it offers you the opportunity to see the site of a horrifying man-made disaster in Ukraine. Although the app is not free, most of the proceeds go to the survivors. The app features advanced 3D scans of locations and buildings, spherical photography, stereoscopic videos, and augmented reality.
VR Vienna invites you to experience a 360° waltz through the beautiful city that inspired musicians and painters alike. It’s a lovely, casual experience that gives you a peek behind the scenes of the Summer Night Concert played by the Vienna Philharmonic.
Around Egypt VR
An exotic, ever-fascinating destination, Egypt is now available on VR. Discover Cairo, Alexandria to Luxor, and Aswan, plus all their best attractions and landmarks. Around Egypt is a paid-for VR app you can access with an Oculus Go controller.
You can enjoy a visit to mysterious Patagonia from your living room. Featured in this VR app are Monte Fitzroy and the remote glacial lake known as Laguna Sucia. In real life, the hike to the lake, however worth it, is exhausting and not recommended for children, the elderly, inexperienced trekkers, and people with severe health issues. However, with the app, they can enjoy the turquoise blue glacial surface of the lake too. In VR, you will fly around the lake, visit the waterfalls along the edge, and see the snowy clad plains beneath the mountain peaks and stunning glacial formations.
If you want to visit this famous Roman destination but cannot travel there, you can now enjoy an immersive experience with Pompeii VR. Walk down one of Pompeii’s main streets, visit a Roman house, experience the hustle and bustle of Pompeii’s bars and shops, stroll around Roman gardens, and finally understand what it was like bathing in a 2000-year-old Roman bathhouse.
These are only some of the several travel VR experiences available for you right now. Sure, the headset may be pricey, but it’s worth it if you consider how many other fun VR experiences you can enjoy using it, including gaming and other forms of entertainment, like concerts, theatrical performances, visit libraries, museums, and much more.