As COVID-19 enters the stabilization phase, tourism destinations are preparing for reopening. Many are investing in virtual tours to entice travelers. Virtual tours create simulated experiences of real destination holiday situations. They offer an interactive way to promote holiday destinations by allowing tourists to take tours and visit attractions. Will these redefine tourism promotion post-COVID-19 crisis?
Virtual tour experiences can be so convincing that you would actually believe you are taking part in a real tour. This aspect meets primary motivations for travel, giving the tourist a chance to experience a new environment, and giving them a break from their current reality. Who wouldn’t need such a break in a lockdown period? This is the change that many people really want in the current lockdown situation, and virtual tours are providing a solution. Missing out on that dream holiday, canceled bookings, closed borders? Book a virtual tour and have complete near-perfect destination experiences without having to leave home.
Virtual tours are not to replace real travel experiences. Providers are hoping that in a post lockdown economy, tourists will seek and experience the realities of simulated experiences for psychological rewards. At the moment, virtual tours are just allowing the tourist to escape the lockdown reality. In doing this, virtual tours are also selling to tourists the dream to travel once lockdown is over. This kind of promotion also allows past visitors to re-experience memorable aspects of their holiday in a destination.
We ran an online poll, asking respondents if they have been on any virtual tour, and their motivation or lack of it. The results showed that 42.4 % of respondents had never taken a virtual tour. This begs the question of whether virtual tours, currently used as promotional tools, will be accepted by tourism markets. It is important to understand market demographics before investing in creating virtual tours. Some market segments are already enjoying it, because it offers near-perfect holiday experiences, not affected by bad weather, overcomes limitations to access needs, and has no crowds. Perhaps, virtual tours are needed more during this crisis to keep the traveler connected.