From weekend surf camps to live-stream tours of Chernobyl, the worldwide travel ban has inspired a host of new virtual travel experiences that could be around for the long-haul. Samuel Ballard reports
Globetrender recently reported that the Faroe Islands’ innovative “Remote Tourism” campaign inspired more than 7,000 virtual tourists – in just six weeks – to log on and take part in live online tours of the destination with local guides.
Meanwhile, Airbnb’s new Online Experiences platform (launched at the beginning of lockdown) has reportedly become the company’s fastest-growing product – surpassing the offline Airbnb Experiences and its home and apartment rentals.
Ranging roughly between £15 and £40, consumers pay to immerse themselves in a local experience held over Zoom by an Airbnb host, be it something artistic, cultural, culinary or athletic.
The options are as diverse as the hosts themselves; options include “Dance Like a K-pop Star” in South Korea, “Meet the Dogs of Chernobyl” in Ukraine and “Sangria and Secrets with Drag Queens” in Portugal. During lockdown, some hosts have reportedly made thousands of dollars per day.
But what else is out there in terms of virtual travel experiences? Globetrender predicts that thanks to Zoom video-calls and Instagram Stories becoming a part of mainstream everyday life, the best of them (particularly the interactive, live ones) will be around long after the coronavirus pandemic is over…
1. Soul & Surf
Yoga and surfing company Soul and Surf, which has surf hotels in destinations including India and Sri Lanka, is currently running Soul & Surf Pause – a two-day virtual holiday. The company offers a schedule of live online yoga and cooking classes as well as surfing tutorials.
“We wanted to recreate the elements of a retreat with us – and stay connected while we can’t travel,” co-founder Ed Templeton told The Guardian. “There’s the yoga and surfing, but that sense of community too.” Prices start from £80.
2. US National Parks
The Google Arts & Culture app is hosting interactive documentaries on a number of US National Parks including Kenai Fjords, Alaska; Hawaii Volcanoes, Hawaii; Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico; Bryce Canyon, Utah; and Dry Tortugas, Florida. The tours are hosted by park rangers who know where to find the hidden spots for when we can start travelling again.
3. Seven Wonders of the World and World’s Best Museums
Energy comparison website USwitch has compiled a list of the best virtual experiences, from the Seven Wonders of the World to some of the greatest museums on the planet. Virtual experiences include Petra and Christ the Redeemer to the Vatican Museum.
The Chilean tourist board has created a new app, Chile 360 that lets users explore the country – from the Atacama Desert to the peaks of Torres del Paine in Patagonia.
5. Audi factory
The German car maker is offering enthusiasts the chance to go behind the scenes and explore its production site in Ingolstadt. The plant, which is the size of Monaco, has been producing Audi cars for more than 70 years – last year producing almost half a million cars. The 15-minute tour includes the chance to ask tour guides questions.
6. Two Point Four
Family travel operator Two Point Four has created a virtual holiday to connect different families wanting to create a holiday experience. Simply complete the short survey and the company uses the information to set up a series of video chats with like-minded families and travel experts from tourist boards to local guides or travel journalists.
7. Arctic Sweden
Virtually Visiting has created a four-day virtual holiday to the Swedish Arctic that includes seeing the Ice Hotel, meeting Fredrik Broman, the founder of Aurora Safari Camp, and taking a tour of the Treehotel, where each treetop room has its own theme. The perfect way to get you in the mood for when we do emerge from our own caves.
8. Ancient Egypt
Egypt’s antiquarian sites may be off limits right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit them, at least virtually. Last month the Egyptian Tourist Board opened up virtual tours of the 5,000-year-old tomb of Queen Merekankh III. You’ll have the whole place to yourself.
9. Western Australia
Tourism Western Australia has created a 13-day virtual reality tour of the region that includes relaxing with kangaroos on the whitest beach in Esperance, soaring over the vineyards in Margaret River and even swimming with Orca’s in Albany.
Are you a keen cyclist? While you can head out around the UK now, cycling holidays abroad are currently on ice – at least for now. However, if you’ve got an exercise bike then Zwift might be the answer for you. The app mimics famous terrains around the world, including some of the famous courses of Italy and France.
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