Immersive virtual travel experiences have become more accessible and affordable during these times. New apps and VR hardware are enabling users to visit locales around the globe – whether for entertainment or education. Virtual reality’s most popular applications are in gaming and fantasy worlds, but travel is seen as a new growth vector. In the commercial world, there are certainly possible uses for the technology in marketing, sales, and training.
VR has emerged as both a substitute for real-world travel and as a complement to trip planning for the future. Both businesses and organizations – such as National Geographic and the World Wildlife Fund – have created travel experiences from around the world. Hardware includes Facebook’s Oculus, Sony’s PlayStation, and Google Cardboard, among others. Some gear costs as little as $300 and many apps are free. As more and more people are buying and using these VR systems, the potential for commercial usage increases. The travel industry is already using VR to allow potential customers to “see” hotel rooms and event venues.
One prominent adopter of pandemic VR is Germany’s national tourist board, which has unveiled a number of immersive projects. The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation is using VR to showcase experiences such as beach yoga and snorkelling.
One of the newest features found in currently offered VR systems is the ability to share the experience – allowing interaction and the capability of leading others who may lack the technical skills to navigate in a VR headset.
“In this time of social distancing, people are looking for different ways to stay entertained, connected and active, and VR offers that,” said an Oculus spokesperson. “Whether you want to transport yourself to different places in the world, play with friends, get fit or just hang out together and feel like you’re in the same room, people are realising they can with VR.”