Response to the opinion poll on virtual tourism

Reinventing the future of tourism

The pandemic has accelerated the tech and virtual reality scene across all industries, including travel and tourism. Is virtual travel the new way to travel? Will virtual travel completely replace the need for physical travel?

In addition to online travel and virtual reality (VR) tourism, visitors can also opt for a virtual island trip via Nintendo Co.’s life simulation game “Animal Crossing: New Horizons”. This includes Sentosa Island in Singapore and Sado Island in Japan. In early January 2021, Universal Studios Japan shared a virtual tour of the Super Nintendo World theme park ahead of the official opening date of February 4.

Hosting a global online experience

While travel borders may have been closed, Singapore has pushed for ‘Experience Singapore Now, Travel Later’, where virtual tours and local experiences inspire interested visitors to explore and enjoy 360 ° experiences. of the main attractions of Singapore.

In October 2020, Airbnb Experiences and the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) announced a two-year strategic partnership to support the recovery of international tourism amid the COVID-19 pandemic by co-promoting and producing a range of experiences Airbnb hosted by passionate residents on the Airbnb Experiences Platform. Both parties plan to activate co-branded content available to travel industry partners through STB’s tourism information and service center. To kick-start, the two organizations jointly developed and launched Singapore Virtual Trips, a collection of online experiences hosted by partners from Singapore’s tourism industry. The partnership aims to help local entrepreneurs realize the economic benefits of experience-driven travel while providing international travelers with the ability to explore Singapore virtually. In addition, it will strengthen Singapore’s brand image and ensure that the country remains a priority as a tourist destination among the global audience.

Beyond online experiences, there are also plans to collaborate in the future to deliver in-person Airbnb experiences across a variety of categories including food and beverage, nature, wellness, and the arts.

This year, SingapoReimagine MICE Virtual Show was launched from March 3-4, 2021, featuring live cultural and leisure tours, culinary masterclasses by celebrity chefs, a live roundtable, one-on-one virtual meetings between attendees and up to ‘to 40 main suppliers. including hotels, tour operators and convention centers.

Vandana Kumar, founder of Hong Kong-based travel market TourHQ, mentioned that virtual travel is growing in popularity due to longer-than-expected border restrictions since the start of the pandemic. She added that many visitors who have experienced the virtual tour said they would definitely visit the destination once the travel restrictions are lifted.

Similar initiatives in Asia

  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government offers online tours featuring sights throughout the Japanese capital. A total of 19 tours featuring different sights using the Zoom video conferencing system have been scheduled between October 2020 and February 2021. Travel agencies in other parts of Japan have also set up various online tours. In November 2020, East Japan Railway Group hosted Japan Railway Fair, offering a myriad of seminars and activities on travel, food and culture in Japan. This is followed by the Japan-wide train journey hosted by JR West, JR Hokkaido and JR Kyushu.
  • Indonesia’s largest travel portal, Traveloka, has collaborated with a tourism technology company, PT Atourin Teknologi Nusantara, to launch the Online Xperience virtual tour which offers experiences of local and foreign destinations in October 2020.
  • Virtual tour of the Maldives was successfully launched in partnership with Visit Maldives on December 31, 2020, with a collection of over 2,000 virtual tours of over 150 islands. Maldives Virtual Tour Expo, a quarterly consumer virtual travel fair, is also expected to launch this year.
  • In February 2021, the Hong Kong Tourism Board launched its first global fan engagement program, “Hong Kong super fans“, with a Chinese New Year-themed virtual tour that took online attendees to popular attractions.

Virtual reality tourism

While people have been talking about VR for some time, many virtual travel agencies did not gain much attention until the COVID-19 pandemic struck. A VR tour provides a 360 ° view of a place that can be viewed using VR headsets (Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Samsung VR Gear).

In January 2019, Changi Airport Group collaborated with STB to launch Trishaw 360 Singapore Stories using VR and 4D simulation. The partnership aims to bring a different experience, allowing passengers to get a first impression of Singapore without having to leave Changi Airport. Each trishaw ride has three different locations and takes around 3 minutes.

In October 2020, STB announced that it was working with the National Heritage Board to create 1,000 3D models of cultural and heritage objects, among others, that can be viewed through a user’s phone camera. It’s part of the Augmented Reality (AR) strategy, their continued efforts to drive digital transformation in the tourism industry.

As part of its marketing campaign, Tourism Australia is harnessing a host of cutting-edge virtual reality and 360 ° mobile technologies starting in 2016. In September 2020, Tourism Australia is launching “8D Escapes” which includes a series of new immersive videos featuring sound and sensory experience of iconic Australia destinations.

In India, the Ministry of Tourism collaborated with OutsiteVR, a travel technology startup in August 2020. The goal of this collaboration is to enable people to virtually travel to India and to further promote the Incredible India campaigns.

Recently, the Tourism Authority of Thailand launched a series of virtual reality tours to four destinations in Thailand, including Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Surat Thani. Tours allow visitors to explore attractions in 3D through individual links on Tourism Thailand’s virtual tours main page.

Tourism boards in other countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam, have also used 360 ° videos and images of major attractions on their tourism websites.

Survey overview

In anticipation of future travel needs, we conducted a virtual tourism opinion poll which received a total of 290 responses worldwide. While most of those surveyed have heard of the travel experience online, 36.2% of them are unaware of this alternative travel experience.

Since the majority of respondents (74.6%) prefer a private, group or individual setting for the online travel experience, and most of them get to know the online travel experience by Word of mouth, there is enormous potential to attract and engage new travelers through this form of marketing strategy, coupled with a strong awareness campaign.

Only 5.5% (16 respondents) tried the online travel experience before COVID-19 while 4.8% (14 respondents) tried during COVID-19, which is a small share. Generally, the online travel experience has elicited positive feelings for those who have experienced it. More than half of them rated the whole experience as above average and tried it more than once. The majority of them indicated a strong interest in visiting the place after the online travel experience and in continuing this form of travel after COVID-19.

Slightly more respondents are willing to try online travel during COVID-19 compared to before COVID-19. The neutral interest of respondents can be contributed to irreplaceable elements of the physical journey, including tangibility (smell, touch, taste, weather, ambiance), quality of visuals, social interactions, travel experience, excitement of traveling to another environment and the ability to take pictures with the landscape to keep the memory alive.

On the other hand, over 70% of respondents prefer VR Tour to the online travel experience and agree that incorporating AR as part of the travel experience can inspire them to visit the destination.

Key points to remember

The top three reasons for the online travel experience:

  1. Get the first impression of the destination
  2. Hassle free
  3. Easy accessibility to not-so-convenient destinations

The top three reasons that are not in favor of the online travel experience:

  1. Impersonal / incomplete experience
  2. Uninteresting / Not engaging
  3. Lack of social interaction

The top three preferred types of online travel experience:

  1. Cultural
  2. Nature
  3. Adventure

The top three reasons to try the online travel experience:

  1. Expand knowledge
  2. Preliminary insights on places to visit
  3. Convenience

As we expect the popularity of virtual tourism to increase, travelers will want to fill the gaps in irreplaceable items through physical travel. However, tourism authorities and businesses will be able to exploit this emerging trend to raise awareness of new destinations and their tourism offerings before the borders reopen.

Virtual tour experience survey

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