In the later part of 2020, BBC News published an article exploring the idea of virtual reality tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic’s massive impact on the travel and tourism industry left millions jobless and most economies worldwide in shambles. In response, innovative businesses suggested the possibility of going places for entertainment virtually.
Proponents of VR hardware felt like the time had come for their devices to show real-world applications. Ralph Hollister, Global Data analyst for tourism, said that VR could finally shake off its image of being a mere gimmick. As the first quarter of 2021 is about to close, has virtual reality tourism become a thing?
No VR explosion but virtual entertainment surged
So far, the boom in VR use for tourism has not happened. Microsoft’s Hololens and other VR equipment have not become popular yet. Other virtual reality and augmented reality products have yet to take off.
However, there was a notable surge in online or virtual entertainment. Video streaming, online games, and mobile apps saw notable growth at the height of the pandemic. Even the online gambling market experienced a boom. Casinos have improved their offerings to attract more customers and improve their services. Of note, signing up to a new casino is easier than ever before.
The online entertainment spike is not expected to slow down anytime soon. According to Mashable, the live streaming boom is unlikely to slow down soon. Roku saw revenues increase by 58% during the 2020 holiday quarter. The live streaming industry nearly doubled year-on-year in 2020. The video gaming industry became bigger than the movie industry during the pandemic. Similarly, the online casino market experienced double-digit growth while COVID-19 was raging.
Virtual reality tourism did not break out into a game-changing new factor in the entertainment and recreation market. There are no authoritative market figures reported about VR tourism, most likely because it did not explode into the kind of paradigm-shifting development some expected. However, other forms of digital or virtual entertainment made significant strides.
Not a complete flop
The failure of VR tech to go big and serve as a practical substitute for traditional tourism does not mean failure. The majority of businesses did not turn to VR to provide virtual travel and tourism alternatives, but some did. This is a good enough step towards more widespread VR tech adoption in the tourism industry.
Some hotels like Atlantis Dubai have already started offering virtual reality tours of their rooms. Some provide a virtual booking interface. Marriott Hotels has been using VR to offer virtual honeymoon packages. Qantas features a 360-degree virtual reality visit to Hamilton Island. A handful of other companies have already started exploring the practical applications of VR tech.
Virtual reality travel and tourism still has massive room for growth and it is slowly gaining attention. The new experiences offered by tourism companies are excellent ways to showcase the benefits of VR technology. The possibility of viable virtual reality tourism is far from over.