Virtual Tourism: Discover the World from your Armchair

Traffic at top 360° video websites breaking all records
/ Kolkata
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With widespread closures and cancellations across the globe, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism boards, national parks, art galleries, and museums are turning to virtual tours to engage with their prospective audience.

With the transport industry in total shambles due to the lockdowns and various other restrictions on the movement of people imposed by nearly all governments across the globe, tourism destinations and other players in the industry have come up with the novel idea of offering virtual tours of popular destinations not just as a relief to the people staying put at their homes, but also to continue to promote themselves amongst their target customers.

These virtual tours also allow destinations and attractions to keep themselves engaged with their customers even during the lockdown. Hence, many have mounted and made available to the people, a 360° virtual tour to allow the potential tourists to get a foretaste of the real thing.

One of the top tourist attractions of the world, the New York City has rounded up online resources from museums, galleries, comedy clubs, theaters, and other venues so that the audience can experience the best of the Big Apple virtually, while maintaining the social distancing.

The city’s famous Broadway has recalibrated its famous productions and is streaming them through social media for public viewing. While the Amazing Max is on hiatus from Off-Broadway performances, he himself will offer online magic lessons for the kids. The American Museum of Natural History has opened a digital tour of its impressive collection.

Many public libraries have opened their collections for public access. On Spyscape’s website, one can learn what kind of spy he or she can be, solve all kinds of puzzling cases and register to tour the James Bond exhibition, that would be made available online.

The capital of the United States, Washington DC, has a plethora of museums, including 17 from the Smithsonian family, where one can enjoy a voyage to space, see live animals or discover famous women in history from a whole new perspective. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery captures America through the imagery of remarkable people who have shaped history.

The Air and Space Museum takes visitors to the sky, showcasing the amazing technological achievements in aviation and space exploration through the last century. Another screen connects directly to the live cams showing giant pandas, the lions and the elephants at the conservation site in Virginia. The National Museum of Women in the Arts situated in DC is the only museum in the world solely dedicated to celebrating the diverse artistic achievements of women. During Women’s History Month, they are also trying to engage the audience with a contest.

France, terribly hit by the pandemic closed its iconic tourist destinations like the Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace and the Louvre Museum during the second week of March. The Louvre in Paris is the world’s most visited museum and has quite well curated virtual tours. People from all over the world are visiting various websites for online tours of these hotspots.

“I am an art enthusiast. It was in my bucket list to visit Louvre in 2020. But the pandemic has made such an impact, that I don’t think I will be able to go. My savings are gone and now I am trying to keep myself content with various virtual tours of top art galleries including Louvre,” says Amin Islam, a commercial artist working at a Delhi based advertising agency.

Britain’s famous tourist attractions including palaces and castles, galleries and zoos have opened virtual tours with easy access and millions of people are reportedly taking those tours according to the Association of Leading Visitors Association (ALVA).

Bernard Donoghue, the director of ALVA said, “There has been an explosion in the number of people virtually visiting the UK’s top visitor attractions.”

The British Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, and National Gallery have all seen a substantial increase in visitors to their websites. “The number of visitors to the British Museum website has doubled, while visits to the National Gallery’s virtual tour pages are up almost 800 pc compared to last week and 1,144 pc up over last year,” Donoghue added.

The Google Arts & Culture has opened the doors to La Casa Azul (The Blue House), the Frida Kahlo Museum tucked away in the suburbs of Mexico. Sharing the information on social media, professor of anthropology Nayanika Mookerji commented, “I so much wanted to go there. But it seems that it will be a long wait before I could actually make it. I am not sure if at all I will ever be able to visit this place in my lifetime, at least let my dream take its fantasy flight.”

Also, repackaging of the old videos with messages of social distancing, travel rescheduling and future travel planning is the easiest of the jobs, and most tourism boards have already done that as the first step.

The Visit Monaco team has launched an upgraded virtual tour of the entire principality called Monaco 360 allowing the viewers to get a panoramic view of Monaco’s stunning coastline and the skyline of the French Riviera while zooming in to see the city’s main destinations in spectacular detail.

Similarly, the Tourism Authority of Thailand is creating engaging videos on popular destinations in association with popular vloggers and planning to use more social media with these video clips and contests.

Visit Portugal changed its hashtag campaign from #cantskipPortugal to #cantskiphope introducing a small video. Similarly, South African Tourism says ‘do not travel now, so you can travel later’, in a small video message.

The Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) has released #visitmaldiveslater with a set of hashtag enabled pictures encouraging everyone to stay home and travel later.

DCT Abu Dhabi has come up with a video campaign full of images of the emirate, hoping to inspire people to consider their newfound downtime in a positive light thinking of better times ahead.

Luís Araújo, the president of the Portuguese Tourism Board said, “Above all, we would like for this film to serve as an inspiration for a broader reflection and that it would also be an example of a country’s effort to raise awareness and unite everyone to overcome this difficult moment in human history.”

Another interesting point to note is that most of these tourism boards, destinations and attractions are giving clear disclaimers that other than live cam or virtual videos, these video footages are shot previously; voiceover is done in a smartphone and the video is repackaged in a laptop from home giving a signal that the tourism board is also staying home and encouraging all to stay home so that everyone can travel tomorrow.

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