I am incredibly curious about Virtual Reality and how it will relate to, and impact, our industry of travel. Here’s where I am at, right now, and you can see why I am so interested!
So up here at the top, the TL;DR is what real-world travel “games” or software have you seen in VR? Google Earth is an obvious one… but not sure what else is out there? I’ve put some examples at the bottom, but would love to know what you’ve seen or what’s coming!
I am REALLY REALLY interested in VR and tech to help people who can’t move, or are disabled. My grandmother was in a bed for quite some time, and I would have loved to take her to the beach, etc. This is a bit OT, but I am just blown away by the uses of tech, like a cafe that uses robots operated by paralyzed people. I think this VR will be de rigueur for convalescent, old folk’s homes, senior care, etc.
I am also incredibly concerned with travel’s impact on the rapidly accelerating issue of climate change. Cruise ships’ daily emission of particulate is the equivalent of a million cars. Flying is really, really, really bad for the environment. In fact, tourism is responsible for about 1/10th of the earth’s emissions. I wash my hands of it a tiny bit, because the hotels I work with are small, proximite, and we’re a relatively small-regional company. You can travel hyper-locally without a big of impact. Hotels have also made huge strides in being “green”, not just because it’s the right thing to do, and not just because guests expect it… but because it saves a lot of money. Washing towels once a stay, capturing grey water, cogeneration heat capture, using less paper and going paperless, in room occupancy sensors, LED bulbs, less water bottles… the amount of things we’ve done to reduce our footprint is awesome, and I think some hotels could easily be carbon neutral. Lastly, the lasting impacts of over-tourism and damage to world heritage sites means that they’re not only limiting tourism, but they’re likely going to fully restrict access at some point. There’s already recommendations of places to *not* visit, like Iceland, Machu Picchu, Venice, Nepal, Bhutan, etc. I realize I’ve written in detail about this here, and there’s a bunch of links, info, etc. Also a bunch of stuff on how the fires are impacting everything. But that overlong explainer aside, I want to see people have access to places like the Galapagos, Easter Island, etc. And instead of waiting for those sites to be completely and totally off-access, it would be so cool if we could develop some sort of World Heritage Site VR tour that would approximate the experience enough that it would educate people on the places, without them having to spend the time and money to actual go there and damage the places. And, I don’t mean damage like people have done with graffiti in the national parks, or the heinous destruction of slow growing Joshua Trees, or those boy scouts who toppled ancient rocks. I mean the natural damage from utility consumption and carbon footprint, or the crazy mountains of trash. I know VR is a simulacrum, but I truly think it could have a huge impact in this arena. What’s more, it will create an accessibility for millions of people who otherwise *wouldn’t* travel, so that they can experience, be educated, and most important, find empathy for other cultures and places. There’s a crisis of empathy, globally, and it would do wonders to help everyone understand that we’re all in this together. What’s more, the Four Seasons branding their own Wailea Beach experience could drive some new revenue. They just need to send a box of sand and a signature cocktail. =) I am being tongue and cheek, but I do really, REALLY feel strongly that VR needs to get acquainted with Baudrillard.
I see Real Estate companies doing “open homes” in VR, whether 360 version, or fully mapped out “living spaces” that you can organize and design, etc. I wonder how affordable it would be for a hotel to do a proper VR representation? We don’t have the marketing dollars large groups have, so this would be way into the future, as it would be time/money on a currently small but rapidly growing audience. What’s more, Expedia (& I think Tripadvisor) seem to be using it to educate people about their destinations, and give a little “Rick Steve’s travelogue” prior to the actual vacation. I am sure this will help in conversion of travel searching, to actual bookings. Imagine being able to quickly view your room in VR from a booking engine? Sabre’s Synxis, et al, should work on this. I know Travelclick has added video capacity to their booking engines, so this would be the natural next step.
So, I’m obviously interested in this space, a LOT. As interest grows, and more VR come online, I am sure we’ll soon here “It’s the year of VR!” from marketing departments, convincing the public the bleeding edge is actually for the everyman. I am sure we remember the 2009-2016 “Year of Mobile” claims, that was simply the rapid adoption of a new technology. As VR gets the same treatment, I’ll be excited to see where it goes in more practical senses, vs just the fun and mind blowing games out there.
So that’s a long ramble to ask what real-world based travel concepts you have seen in VR, and if there’s any developers out there planning on real world vs imagined world type experiences? Thanks for listening to my overly long post!!! =)
If you are as interested about this intersection of travel and virtual reality as I am, I have included a few more articles that may be interesting:
Saveur notes it’s the future of travel, not just for planning, exploring, but even going back in time: https://www.saveur.com/virtual-reality-travel
Great VR apps for Travel: https://www.digitaltrends.com/virtual-reality/best-vr-apps-for-travel/
Conde Nast has 5 travel experiences almost as good as the real thing: https://www.cntraveler.com/story/virtual-reality-travel-experiences-that-are-almost-as-good-as-the-real-thing
10 great travel apps: https://www.gearbrain.com/vr-travel-samsung-gear-vr-google-cardboard-1735875065.html
8 VR travel experiences that will blow your mind: https://www.lifewire.com/virtual-reality-tourism-4129394