Out of all of the industries that the COVID19 pandemic has impacted the most, it’s hard to imagine any sector as negatively affected as travel and tourism. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), international travel fell 74% in 2020 compared to 2019.
They say Necessity is the Mother of Invention and tourism boards across the globe needed to innovate quickly in order to keep locked-down and stay-at-home consumers engaged. They knew that one day, people would be traveling again, so it was important to find compelling ways to interact—and drive revenue—with these potential customers in the interim.
One of the most powerful tools to do this has been the use of Extended Reality.
Extended Reality (XR) includes such innovations as Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Virtual Tryon, Virtual Tours, 360° product views, and other cutting-edge technologies.
Check out 4 unique ways that tourism boards from around the world have used XR to stay top-of-mind with their travel-deficient, pandemic customers:
XR Tourism Example #1 - The Faroe Islands remote tourism tool
The Faroe Islands’ remote tourism tool, with which users can interact live with a local and use the latter as their eyes and ears to experience the islands. From the Faroe Islands tourism website:
Like all other countries in the world, the Faroe Islands has felt the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on during the global crisis, we wondered how we could recreate a Faroe Islands’ experience for those who had to cancel or postpone their trip to the Faroe Islands – and for everyone else stuck in isolation around the world.
We had an idea. What if we could allow people anywhere in the world to explore the islands as virtual tourists through the eyes of a local? Or even better; what if the virtual tourists could control the movements of the locals in real-time?
A couple of weeks later, our idea became reality. We created a new remote tourism tool, the first of its kind. Via a mobile, tablet, or PC, virtual visitors could explore the Faroes’ rugged mountains, see close-up our cascading waterfalls and spot the traditional grass-roofed houses by interacting – live – with a local Faroese, who acted as their eyes and body on a virtual exploratory tour.
XR Tourism Example #2 - Virtual Reality reconstruction of the Baalbek ruins in Lebanon
In a non-pandemic time, travelers would be flocking to check out a new dig site that uncovers some of the most compelling new ruins of the Western World. The ruins at Baalbek are a once-in-a-lifetime archeological find the entire world should experience.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, few visitors can currently travel to Baalbek, a city in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley that houses some of the Roman Empire’s greatest temple ruins. Luckily, a new virtual tour allows people anywhere in the world to view the site both as it appears today and as it looked at its peak in 215 A.D.
The free app—available for computer, mobile devices, and virtual reality headsets—offers interactive, 360-degree views of 38 locations in the city. Users can listen to expert audio commentary in Arabic, English, French or German and call up additional images and text for more information about specific spots. They can also toggle between seeing the buildings as they appear today and as they looked almost 2,000 years ago.
XR Tourism Example #3 - &Beyond’s virtual safari program
The luxury tour and travel company &Beyond offers a virtual safari program that features live streams from South African game reserves. Virtual travelers can also book Zoom sessions with park rangers to learn more about the region.
From the Forbes.com article, Take A Virtual African Safari In 2020 In Real-Time From Your Sofa:
While a physical visit to Africa isn’t possible, the chance of seeing rhinoceros, elephants, and lions in the wild is, thanks to some game reserves and organizations offering virtual game drives. Virtual safaris are being live-streamed allowing you to virtually “drive” with expert guides who offer commentary and a chance to ask questions along the way.
South African travel company andBeyond has joined forces with wildlife broadcasting experts WildEarth to stream personalized game drives, twice daily, that travelers can view from their living rooms. Viewers are able to join two live safaris a day, one in the early morning and one in the afternoon, each of which lasts approximately three hours.
XR Tourism Example #4 - Lights over Lapland VR-based northern lights tour
Before the pandemic, Lights over Lapland offered amazing in-person tours for travelers to see one of the amazing natural wonders, the Northern Lights, in Sweden. While tourists are back and doing things in reality, the company still offers these virtual tours.
While nothing is as exciting as an evening of chasing the northern lights in person, we believe that we may have found the next best thing – watching the lights in virtual reality (VR)! We realize that it is difficult to travel right now so we thought our loyal fans might enjoy watching a few VR videos that we captured last season.
The first video captures a typical day in Lapland: We start at the world-famous Icehotel before traveling north to the shoreline of Lake Torneträsk where we watch the waves gently roll in. We then head south to Rautas to spend a few minutes with a herd of reindeer before hopping on a sled and moving through pure Arctic Wilderness. Finally, we head back to Abisko and visit the Sami hut at the STF. After a long day of exploring we finally get to see what we were all waiting for: the northern lights dancing in the sky above Abisko National Park, Sweden.
Keep your customers engaged...wherever they are
As transactions continue to surge online during the pandemic, brands struggle to compete in a landscape where customers can move on to your competitor’s products in just a single click.
Arlene’s Extended Reality (XR) platform delivers an epic customer experience that drives consideration, increases sales & revenue, and enables you to interact with consumers showing interest in your products and services.
- Interacting with products that have AR experiences leads to a 94% higher conversion rate
- 76% of people expect and desire to use it as a practical “tool” in their everyday lives