Fake it till you make it: Virtual reality inspires while travel is restricted

Fake it till you make it: Virtual reality inspires while travel is restricted

With much of the world on lockdown, destination marketers
and other travel companies are dusting off and amping up virtual promotions
designed to help travelers see the world from the safety of their home.

And most of those tools are just a click or two away for
advisors looking for a way to keep their clients engaged and thinking about
travel when the Covid-19 crises eases.

Have clients interested holding airline tickets for the now
postponed Olympics in Japan? The Japan National Tourism Organization has created
a 360-degree virtual reality movie experience that transports people to the
sculptures of Naoshima,  bamboo forests,
Geisha performances and  sumo wrestling
and sushi making.

For those interested in sticking closer to home, the
Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau website
features everything from a virtual tram ride to the top of Sandia Peak to
visits to some of the locals’ favorite restaurants.

John Graham, president of Travel World VR, a Perillo company
that produces virtual tours, said his company is aggressively promoting its
products during this travel shutdown.

“In today’s environment, it’s kind of a breath of fresh air,”
said Graham. “We know it’s not going to take the place of going to Jamaica, but
it’s going to keep [people] interested in traveling when they can actually go.”

The company’s app offers 360-degree VR videos of major
destinations, cruise lines, hotels, resorts and tour operators. It’s available
free at TravelWorldVR.com/app

While the company usually only offers virtual tours that it
has produced itself, it has opened its library to other content in response to
the coronavirus.

“Any travel suppliers that have preexisting VR content, in
these troubled times we are willing to put it up for free,” he said, noting
that it will first be reviewed to make sure it is appropriate for their site. 

Advisors, he said, can use the content in emails and
promotions to clients and link to the app from their websites.

“The people that embrace this tech now, when people start to
travel again, they are going to be at the forefront,” he said.

Below is a sampling of other virtual tours from around the
world.

• Belmond’s IGTV channel on Instagram
is hosting the company’s Belmond Invitations programs, kicking off March 27
with a Roaring ’20s-themed performance by British singer-pianist Joe Stilgoe. The performance will pay tribute to Belmond’s Venice
Simplon-Orient-Express, which was scheduled to host a similarly themed ride on
March 28 and 29. Future Belmond Invitations programming will include “poetry
and music inspired by travel, calming meditation practices, nourishing
nutrition and uplifting floral inspiration.” The company’s social media
channels are also host to “Digital Care Packages,” with guided meditation and
another programming aimed at encouraging visitors “to channel the calming
feeling and experience of being on vacation.”

• Evan Evans’ 360 Stonehenge tour
provides a first-person perspective of the mysterious monument. The 360
Stonehenge lets you see the impressive megaliths of the ancient Stone Circle
and step inside the reconstructed Neolithic houses.

• Embratur, the tourism board for
Brazil, is touting virtual museum experiences available through Google Arts
& Culture
,
including Sao Paulo’s Brazilian House
Museum, focusing on architecture and design, and Rio de Janeiro’s National
Museum of Brazil, the largest natural history museum in Latin America. The Brazilian city of Salvador, meanwhile, has an Instagram
filter that enables users to add images of the city as backdrops for their
selfies.

• In Israel, Jerusalem’s Tower of
David Museum has launched a virtual reality tour
with audio commentary in Hebrew (an
English version is forthcoming, according to the museum’s website).

• Tourisme Montreal is promoting
several cultural experiences in Quebec’s largest city, including a VR tour of
the Romeo’s Gin distillery, which showcases 24 murals by local artists, and Art
Public Montreal, whose website offers several virtual tours of the city’s
public art installations.

• The tourism board for Japan’s
Setouchi region is directing visitors toward experiences such as a VR tour of
the 1480-foot-long Makido Cave
, a national monument,
and Hiroshima’s 400-year-old Shukkeien Garden

• The
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has launched its From Thailand With Love
campaign, which features videos posted on ThailandInsider.com and the TAT’s
social media channels. Among the first videos is a 6-second snippet from the
Aleenta Phuket Resort & Spa of a turtle swimming ashore to lay eggs.
Viewers are invited to share their own videos with the hashtag
#FromThailandWithLove. Also, the TAT’s YouTube channel includes a live stream 
from points of interest in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and elsewhere in the country.

Heritage Malta
has 25 sites available to virtually tour, including various museums, temples,
forts, and archaeological sites. Malta is also home to three Unesco Heritage
sites that can be explored virtually: the city of Valletta, the Ħal Saflieni
Hypogeum and the Megalithic Temples.

• On its website, andBeyond has created
a Bringing Africa Home hub.
The hub offers links to music and video playlists, book recommendations,
recipes and more to take site visitors “beyond your four walls to a
continent.”

• VisitBerlin is promoting live streams from several of the
city’s performance venues,
while the Berliner Philharmonie is offering free access to that venue’s concert
films. Meanwhile, United We Stream and Arte Concert are raising funds for the
city’s shuttered clubs with a streaming platform showcasing DJ sets and concerts.

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