An Attraction Operator’s Guide to Virtual Tourism

An Attraction Operator’s Guide to Virtual Tourism

In the ever-evolving landscape of travel and technology, virtual tourism has emerged as a transformative force, offering a unique way for individuals to explore destinations from the comfort of their homes. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the definition of virtual tourism, explore its benefits, discuss different types, and showcase inspiring examples that redefine how we experience the world.

What is virtual tourism?

Virtual tourism, also known as armchair travel or digital tourism, refers to the use of technology to provide individuals with immersive, virtual experiences of destinations without physically being present. It leverages various digital mediums such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), 360-degree videos, and interactive online platforms to transport users to far-flung places and cultural sites.

For a more detailed understanding of virtual tourism, check out this insightful piece from Cvent .

Benefits of virtual tourism

Virtual tourism comes with a plethora of benefits, making it an enticing option for both travelers and businesses in the tourism industry. Let's explore some of these advantages:

  • Accessibility : Virtual tourism opens up travel experiences to individuals facing physical or financial barriers to traditional travel. It promotes inclusivity and allows a broader audience to explore the world.
  • Sustainable exploration : By reducing the need for physical travel, virtual tourism contributes to environmental sustainability by minimizing carbon footprints and the impact of mass tourism on fragile ecosystems.
  • Cultural exchange : Virtual tourism facilitates cultural exchange by allowing individuals to engage with and understand diverse cultures, customs, and traditions from the comfort of their homes.
  • Educational opportunities : It serves as an educational tool, offering insights into historical landmarks, natural wonders, and architectural marvels, fostering a love for learning about the world.

Discover more about the benefits of virtual tourism from these sources: Cvent , Yugen Earthside , Tourism Teacher, and Enjoy Travel Life .

Types of virtual tourism

Virtual tourism encompasses various types that cater to different preferences and interests. Let's explore the diverse ways individuals can virtually experience the world:

  • VR travel experiences : Virtual Reality (VR) technology immerses users in a simulated environment, offering a highly interactive and lifelike travel experience
  • 360-degree videos : These videos let viewers control their perspective, providing a panoramic view of destinations, attractions, and events.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) tours : AR overlays digital information onto the real world, enhancing the physical environment with additional details, facts, and interactive elements.

For a deeper dive into the types of virtual tourism, visit Smart View Media .

Virtual tourism examples

To illustrate the breadth and depth of virtual tourism, let's explore some compelling examples:

  • Google Arts & Culture : This platform offers virtual tours of museums, cultural landmarks, and historical sites worldwide, providing users with an enriching cultural experience.
  • : Known for its live streaming of wildlife and nature, allows users to virtually visit natural wonders, observe animals in their habitats, and connect with nature.

How attraction operators can leverage virtual tourism to drive visitation & revenue

Leveraging virtual tourism can be a strategic move for venue operators to drive visitation and revenue. Here's a comprehensive guide on how venue operators can maximize the potential of virtual tourism:

Enhance online presence

  • Develop a captivating and user-friendly website that showcases virtual experiences, emphasizing the unique aspects of your venue.
  • Optimize your website for search engines to ensure it ranks well when users search for virtual tourism experiences.

Offer virtual tours

  • Create immersive 360-degree virtual tours of your venue, allowing potential visitors to explore different areas and attractions.
  • Incorporate storytelling elements and interactive features to engage users and create a memorable experience.

Host virtual events

  • Organize virtual events or live streams that provide a real-time connection with your venue. This could include behind-the-scenes looks, live performances, or interactive Q&A sessions.
  • Utilize social media platforms to promote and host these virtual events, creating a sense of community engagement.

Collaborate with influencers

  • Partner with virtual influencers or content creators specializing in virtual tourism to feature your venue in their content.
  • Influencers can provide a fresh perspective, reaching new audiences and generating interest in your venue's virtual offerings.

Integrate online ticketing

  • Implement an online ticketing system that allows users to purchase virtual experience tickets seamlessly. See how Lollipop’s is generating an additional $600/day after switching to ROLLER’s checkout.
  • Offer bundled packages that combine virtual experiences with exclusive perks or discounts for future in-person visits.

Monetize virtual experiences

  • Consider monetizing virtual experiences by offering paid access to premium content or exclusive virtual events.
  • Implement a membership model , providing recurring revenue and building a loyal virtual community.

Virtual merchandising

  • Create a virtual merchandise store where users can purchase venue-branded products or virtual souvenirs related to their online experiences.
  • Offer limited-edition virtual merchandise to create a sense of exclusivity.

Personalized virtual experiences

  • Provide personalized virtual experiences, such as virtual guided tours or custom virtual events for small groups.
  • Cater to special occasions or celebrations by offering tailored virtual packages.

Analyze guest data

  • Use analytics tools to gather data on user engagement with your virtual content.
  • Analyze the behavior of your guests to understand preferences, identify popular virtual features, and tailor future virtual offerings accordingly. See how ROLLER’s reporting can provide you with comprehensive, actionable data and user-friendly reports you can use to grow your business.

Cross-promotion with local businesses

  • Collaborate with local businesses to create joint virtual experiences, fostering a sense of community and supporting each other's virtual tourism initiatives.
  • Cross-promote these experiences to expand reach and attract a diverse audience.

By strategically implementing these measures, venue operators can not only enhance their virtual tourism offerings but also drive visitation and generate additional revenue streams. Virtual tourism provides a dynamic platform to connect with a global audience and build a community around your venue, ultimately contributing to its long-term success. Virtual tourism has become a powerful tool, offering a new dimension to how we explore and connect with the world. From its numerous benefits to the various types and inspiring examples, virtual tourism has the potential to redefine travel, making it accessible, sustainable, and culturally enriching for a global audience. As technology advances, virtual tourism will likely play an increasingly significant role in shaping the future of travel experiences.

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The Faroe Islands is just one destination using new technologies to create a virtual tourism experience Image:  Knud Erik Vinding/Pixabay

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virtual tourism types

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Stay up to date:, travel and tourism.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the travel and tourism industries;
  • Businesses in this sector must build infrastructure and practices that allow people to travel safely in a post-pandemic world and support local communities that benefit from tourism;
  • Augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies can offer alternative ways to travel the world and an exciting new model for the industry.

The tourism industry has hit a nadir owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will continue to feel the effects for at least the first three quarters of 2021 – according to a recent UN report , tourist arrivals globally in January 2021 were down 87% when compared to January 2020.

Travel will prevail over post-pandemic anxiety, making it incumbent on the aviation and tourism industry to build safer infrastructure and practices that take care of travellers’ well being.

Have you read?

International tourism is set to plunge by 80% this year – but some regions could recover more quickly, how global tourism can become more sustainable, inclusive and resilient, virtual reality adds to tourism through touch, smell and real people’s experiences.

After a year thwarted by the pandemic and with the future not looking too upbeat for the industry at this juncture, tourism business owners should look at alternative modes of interaction for holidaymakers that can also aid the people and economies who depend on tourism.

The COVID-19 pandemic has noticeably hastened the testing and rollout of forward-looking technologies. Technology has not only enabled citizens globally to interact with loved ones, but also helped industries such as healthcare, information technology, education and many more to work remotely.

COVID-19's Crushing Impact On International Tourism

In the last few decades, technology has helped travel and tourism industries increase their reach through travel booking websites, videos, blogs and travel photography. Digital tools and content are a vital source of information for vacationists organizing their next holiday or creating a destination wish list. Whilst remote or virtual tourism has been a futuristic theme within industry forums for some time, the world today, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, might now be ready to accept it.

A human-centric design that draws insights from cognitive behaviour, social psychology, neuroscience and behavioural economics applied with cutting edge technologies such as augmented, virtual or mixed reality (AR, VR, MR) could be a game-changer. AR, VR and MR can enable a seamless, uninterrupted interactive experience for viewers from their own private space. The design principles will create a frictionless digital user experience and construct a positive perception of a tourist destination.

Pandemic Could Set Tourism Sector Back by $1 Trillion

There have been previous attempts to achieve this feat: if you are an aqua sightseer, you might be aware of a documentary exploring the Great Barrier Reef . Through an interactive website, one can view the clear, tranquil currents of the Pacific Ocean and the biodiversity of the reef, and experience the sounds of a healthy coral reef. Another much-discussed VR experience is Mission 828 which allows you to take a virtual parachute jump from the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The Official Tourist Board of the Faroe Islands has also crafted a virtual experience to entice post-pandemic visitors from across the world.

Imagine a human-centric designed, interactive space online that makes a destination accessible and so real for a sightseer with sound captured by electro-acoustics researchers. You could view holiday sites in a video or through self-navigation using voice or joystick controls, interact with people using video-calling platforms, travel through the streets of said location, eavesdrop on local music and much more. This could be stitched together in a single platform individually or in silos on the internet and further enhanced by setting up physical experience tourism centres locally. Such a setup would allow tourist guides, artisans, craftspeople, hoteliers and transport business to create their own digital and virtual offerings and interact with possible customers.

Here’s how it might look: a vacationer starts their experience from the time their flight commences. The plane descends to the destination runway and pictures of the vicinity from the aircraft window pane are captured. The airport signage welcomes passengers and directs them to a pre-booked taxi. The vacationer gets to choose their first destination and travels through the streets in a chauffeur-driven car whose interactions en route become part of their cherished memories. On arrival, a tourist guide walks you through the destination all controlled with just a tap on your gadget. During the sightseeing, you hear random people speaking, posing for photographs and more. You take a photo to post on social media, go shopping and negotiate with a local vendor to purchase an artwork and get it delivered to your door. You learn how a local dish is prepared and get familiar with local customs.

A virtual platform could even provide an opportunity for people to explore areas that are affected by or fighting terrorism. For example, imagine seeing the diverse wildlife and snow leopard of the Gurez Valley, in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, India. It doesn’t stop there: if thought through, one could experience travelling to the South Pole, space and beyond. It could also serve as a learning portal for students to understand geographies, culture, art and history.

With technology improving lives globally, virtual tourism could reignite the tourism industry and its people and help build a more sustainable economic model. As a human-centric platform, it can establish local tourist guides, artisans and others as global citizens in the tourism industry.

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What is a Virtual Tour in 2024? Types, Feature­­s, Development

Traveling to new countries and locations can be an eye-opening and even life-changing experience, but few of us get to do it as often as we’d like. However, most of us have probably tried virtual tours at one time or another. Such tours are highly prized by everyday people but certainly carry the most practical and financial use to real estate companies, as well as businesses and institutions in other industries.

Enjoying a digital tour is easy, but developing it is no walk in the park. Thus, anyone who aims to make a virtual tour likely has many questions about the format, features, and other development aspects. As a VR app development company that has produced a variety of virtual tours for customers around the globe, we are ready to answer your questions and help get you started with building your own virtual tour.

What exactly does "virtual tour" mean?

Let’s figure out the answer to the question “What is a virtual tour”? A virtual tour is any digital solution that lets you walk around/explore a location or area without visiting it in person. As for the format of the tour, everyone has a different perception of it, but most stick to the description that virtual tours are presented with lifelike visuals that recreate the physical experience in one way or another.

What are the main advantages of virtual tours?

One of the biggest mistakes that companies in the tourism/hospitality/other industries make in regards to virtual tours is viewing them as an equal or altOne of the biggest mistakes that companies in the real estate/tourism/hospitality/other industries when they design a virtual tour is viewing it as an equal or alternative to a real physical tour. In reality, virtual tours are no replacement for visiting a place in person, but they can still be a valuable resource for any such experience, especially for people who have not made up their minds about visiting in person. Let’s examine some of the key virtual tour benefits:

Freedom of movement

Digital tourists are not constrained by time or physical ability – they can view the locations of a virtual tour at their own pace and get an unprecedented level of detail. For example, they can also “approach” exhibits and objects up close, seeing them with a beautiful level of detail.

Greater learning opportunities

Instead of listening to a tour guide drone on with boring information, digital tourists can instantly choose which information they want to learn and take their sweet time reading or listening. There is no pressure, expectations, or need to absorb everything on the first try.

No crowds or limitations

Most of the time, a virtual tour will be an independent experience, so you can get away from crowds, noise, and pressure, focusing only on what you see. This experience can happen at any time and anywhere, as long as you have access to the necessary hardware and software.

A powerful marketing tour

Taking the time to create a virtual tour is not easy or cheap but is a great way to break ahead of the pack and beat your competitors in presentation value, which is especially efficient for industries like real estate or hospitality. You can give new visitors a good reason to visit your locations in person or conduct their business online, as well as boost your online presence.

Show more than physically possible

Not all virtual tours are modeled after existing physical locations. Thus, you can create an experience (e.g., underwater, in space, in a fantasy world) that users would not be able to get anywhere else, stimulating their senses, imagination, and state of awe.

Explore the virtual tour created by Program-Ace

What are the most common virtual tour features?

As you consider the design and purpose of your app, you will probably devote much thought to the specific features that you offer users. You are welcome to create your own, or choose from some of the time-tested and highly-popular ones listed below:

Rotate and zoom

While some tours are highly curated and only show you items according to a script, others let you explore at your leisure, and zoom in on things that they want to pay special attention to.

Click and learn

Many tours have some way of interacting with the surroundings, at least in the selection of objects, buildings, etc. Thus, when something is selected, information about the object is presented, often in the form of text or an audio description.

Virtual interactions

Sometimes, interactions are more elaborate than text showing up on a user’s screen. For example, they might unlock animations showing some processes, or even handle objects – opening doors, picking up and moving items, etc.


Some tours are designed for gradual movement that mimics walking, while others let you jump around different locations at a moment’s notice. In some cases, users open a map and select the point that they want to be teleported to.

Virtual tour guide

To fully mimic a traditional tour experience, some providers add a digital avatar or AI to the tour, guiding visitors and providing information through audio tracks.

What are the Main Types of Virtual Tours?

Most virtual tours can be broken down into 3 formats, each with unique strengths and drawbacks.

360 Virtual Tour

What is a virtual tour 04

Though a 360-degree virtual tour can be any that allows you to look around from all angles, the traditional definition of this tour is one filmed with a camera. This virtual tour is either created through a sequence of camera shots merged together, or one continuous shot filmed on a 360-degree camera .

Among the benefits of 360 virtual tours are high accessibility and ease of development since they can be deployed on any website and app. Some companies, namely real estate businesses, choose to create a Unity 360 virtual tour since this game engine has multiple plugins and extensions that make development easier.

3D Virtual Tour

What is a virtual tour 05

As the name suggests, this virtual tour is presented through 3D models. In fact, the whole environment of the tour tends to be modeled in 3D. Such a 3D experience starts when a user opens an application (or it runs automatically), and then they see the 3D location on their screen.

3D tours can be created with beautiful details and a multitude of interactive options. They can be deployed on the web or packaged into apps for mobile, desktop, and other platforms. Amazingly, these tours can even be created for fictional and long-destroyed locations.

Virtual Reality Tour

What is a virtual tour 06

3D virtual reality tours are the closest you can get to visit a place in person without actually being there. They offer an unprecedented level of immersion, realism, and user control. Essentially, it feels like you are standing in this location and taking in the views.

With a headset and proper software featuring the digital world in 3D, users are transported to the location, where they can look around just by turning their heads, and interact with the environment using the controllers that come with the headset.

Top Examples of Virtual Tours

You might think that virtual tour technology is only meant for visiting famous landmarks, museums, and historical locations, but this could not be further from the truth. Modern consumers love to have the option to preview places that they frequent regularly, and many specialists in different lines of work like real estate or construction have a serious need for virtual visualization and planning.

Virtual tour in real estate

It has become popular to use VR for real estate agents and customers, as exemplified by the agency Squarefoot in Hong Kong, which offers VR house tours for numerous locations.

Virtual tours for retail

Our company developed a VR experience for Magrabi Optical, an eyewear provider based in Dubai. This application lets users virtually visit the store and see its product lineup, which is quite common for solutions of VR in retail .

Virtual tours for restaurants

Digital tours are commonly offered by restaurants, eateries, and pubs since many of them strive to attract patrons with a snazzy interior and then seal the deal with food. For example, wrestling star Conor McGregor used a drone to film a tour of his pub , The Black Forge Inn.

Virtual tours for education

We have already covered some key features (like interactions and click & learn) that bring benefits to virtual tours in education. For instance, Tairua School in New Zealand is just one of many educational institutions using VR for education . Their experience features Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica and teaches about this harsh environment.

Virtual tours in construction

BIM Visualization App is a solution developed by Program-Ace that features a full-scale and detailed model of a facility planned for construction. It provided construction crews with valuable references (including floor plans, walkthroughs, and semi-transparent views) helpful to their operations.

Virtual tours in manufacturing

Plants and factories tend to have a complicated layout, making it hard for new workers, visitors, and even managers in general to find certain areas. This problem was addressed by Altran, an engineering firm that created a VR tour of a manufacturing plant and aims to expand its functionality to digital twins.

Virtual museum tours

Virtual museum tours are available in the hundreds, with some operators even making a profit from digital admissions. On the other hand, many of these experiences are free and still amazing, like the 360 tours of the Vatican Museum offered on their website .

Virtual grocery shopping tour

Kroger, a major American grocery provider has created a virtual shopping experience for their customers to find the groceries they need at any time. They have also paired it with a delivery service, giving customers the best of both worlds.

Virtual tours in hospitality

As with real estate, taking a digital tour can help you get a sense of the facilities available and the quality of accommodation. For example, our team built a VR Hotel application for guests and staff, which allows them to freely explore the various floors and rooms of the building.

Virtual reality travel tours

When you lack the option to travel, you can still do it digitally simply by visiting a website or using an app. If you have a VR headset, you can get even more from the experience. For example, many tourists in Italy are offered VR tours for Oculus that let them explore ancient monuments restored to full glory in 3D.

How to Make a Virtual Tour

Making your own virtual tour for real estate or any other business is a process that ranges in difficulty. After all, it is quite easy to film a video or take some photos and merge them together. However, if you choose to create a 3D experience presented through software, you can expect to spend weeks to months working on it.

Program-Ace designed an interactive virtual tour

Firstly, you will need visual references (photos, videos, sketches, etc.) of the target location and its many areas. With the references, you can get to work creating the 3D environment and all accompanying 3D models. If you plan to make the models detailed and realistic, e.g., if you are working with real estate, this stage will probably take up the bulk of the development time. After that, it is just a matter of importing the 3D assets into a development platform, building all your interactive functionality and packaging the app, and conducting plenty of testing.

How much does it cost to create a virtual tour?

IIf you have made a choice to build a 3D or VR application, you will probably need to employ a team of 3D modelers, developers, and other specialists (like a QA engineer, or project manager) for one or several months, as well as purchasing necessary hardware and software. It is not uncommon for such projects to cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Virtual tour design services

You don’t necessarily need to add developers and artists to your staff to create a digital tour since you can easily hire a company that creates these solutions on a regular basis. In many cases, the best virtual tour company will help you save time and money, and focus your company’s operations on other matters.

Program-Ace is a qualified custom software development company that provides digital solutions to enterprises in many industries. Our experience in VR development, 3D visualization, and digital transformation allows us to create virtual tours with amazing features and detail as we did with the aforementioned Magrabi Store , VR Hotel , and BIM application .

All it takes to get started is to tell us what you expect and provide a few references. Your solution will be made according to these exact specifications. When you’re ready to make a virtual tour, just send us a message .

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Virtual Tours in Real Estate

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Online Virtual Tours: The 69 BEST to Explore in 2024

You found our list of the best online virtual tours !

Virtual tours are online experiences that enable visitors to experience museums, zoos, national parks, landmarks, and attractions. These tours use methods such as 360 pictures, satellite imagery, virtual reality, or video conferencing to bring famous sites into living rooms or classrooms. The purpose of these tours is to inspire, entertain and educate audiences. These experiences are also called “online tours.”

These tours are popular virtual field trips and can be fun online classroom activities .

This post includes:

  • virtual museum tours
  • online tours of national parks
  • virtual zoo tours

So, here is the list!

List of virtual museum tours

Here is a list of online museum tours that are perfect for both adults and kids. We also have a list of virtual museum scavenger hunt templates for you to use.

People in a virtual museum gallery

1. Smithsonian

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers a self-guided virtual tour of current and past museum exhibits. This experience includes narrated components, accessible via computer or smartphone. The Smithsonian also offers virtual experiences for its other institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery, National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the National Museum of the American Indian.

Visit the Smithsonian .

2. British Museum

The British Museum hosts an online “Museum of the World” that enables visitors to browse exhibits by area of origin, era, and subject matter. For example, you can search the collection by themes like “power and identity” or “art and design.” Each digital exhibit includes a picture, description, audio file, and links to related artifacts.

Visit British Museum .

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3. Auschwitz

This virtual tour of Auschwitz offers a panoramic birds eye view of the camps, Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau, along with clickable descriptions of each area. Online visitors can also switch to an illustrated map of the grounds to better understand the scope of the concentration camps. The online tour is available in both English and Polish.

Visit Auschwitz .

4. Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House welcomes visitors from around the world with digital experiences such as video, virtual reality, 360° photos of the Frank home, and translations of the diary in over 20 languages. Virtual visitors can also browse a pocket gallery by downloading the app.

Visit Anne Frank House .

5. 9/11 Memorial & Museum

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum website has a learn and explore feature which includes live, guide-led panoramic virtual tours of the rebuilt center, interactive videos, and webinar stories. The site also recommends activities to do at home with children to simulate the museum’s activity stations.

Visit 9/11 Memorial & Museum .

6. Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums provides an online experience consisting of 360° high resolution photos of over a dozen features such as the Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s Rooms. The website also grants web access to archaeological areas, various departments, and a searchable online catalogue.

Visit Vatican Museums .

7. Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien in Austria hosts a digital museum consisting of an online collection, artist talks and lectures, podcasts and Spotify series, and high resolution images of works and galleries. The museum also has its own app that enables online walk-throughs, including specialty tours for children.

Visit the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien .

8. National Museum (New Delhi)

New Delhi’s National Museum, often called the National Museum of India, displays the largest collection of art and artifacts in the country. The institution’s Museum at Home web portal consists of dozens of videos depicting sculptures, artifacts, and customs, with accompanying cultural analysis from curators. The site also links to several 360° and 3-D virtual galleries that enable online walk-throughs of the building.

Visit the National Museum (New Delhi) .

9. National Palace Museum & the Forbidden City (Beijing)

The National Palace Museum sits in the heart of Beijing and houses centuries worth of art and history. The museum building is a monument to classic Chinese architecture, as is the surrounding palace complex, the Forbidden City. Virtual visitors can tour works inside the museum and stroll through the outer courtyards by indulging in interactive and immersive virtual and VR tours. Both options give viewers the opportunity to explore the grounds up close without navigating the crowds.

Visit National Palace Museum and the Forbidden City .

10. Pergamonmuseum

Pergamonmuseum in Berlin contains a wealth of art and archaeological treasures, and curators give home viewers a glimpse into the collections through several online exhibits on Google Arts & Culture. The collection includes over 1,000 images of objects made of clay, metal, copper, and gemstone, originating in regions such as Iran, Spain, Turkey, and Germany.

Visit Pergamonmuseum .

11. National Museum of Australia

The National Museum of Australia offers free one hour digital excursions to schools that cannot visit the museum in person. The tours are available on weekdays between 9:30-10:30 am or at other times by request, and accommodate groups of 10 to 30 students. Classes meet with museum staff via Zoom and complete missions based around themes like the fight for indigenous rights. Virtual exhibition gallery tours are also available on occasion.

Visit the National Museum of Australia and check out these Indigenous Peoples Day ideas .

The Louvre virtual tour consists of 360° panoramic views of exhibit halls such as Egyptian Antiquities and the ruins of the Louvre Moat. By downloading a special app, visitors can also experience Mona Lisa in virtual reality. The museum website hosts multimedia online exhibitions of famous works such as Portrait of the Marquise de Pompadour and Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.

Visit the Louvre .

13. Guggenheim

The Guggenheim museum offers staff facilitated online tours for students ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. Educators can book interactive, real-time tours for classes that engage students and enable question and answer sessions. Tours are no cost for New York City public schools. For other districts the tours are less than $100, and discounted rates are available. Tours have a maximum of 30 participants, meaning groups are sure to receive an intimate experience.

Visit Guggenheim .

14. Musée d’Orsay

The Google Arts tour of the Musée d’Orsay includes background and history on the museum building, as well as images, descriptions, and details of some of the museum’s most famous works. For example, the collection includes Van Gogh’s Self Portrait , James McNeill Whistler’s Whistler’s Mother , and Bartholdi’s Liberty .

Visit Musée d’Orsay .

15. Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is a Dutch National Museum that hosts an impressive array of art and history. Rijksmuseum’s virtual tour, which includes a Rijksmuseum from home series, consists of high definition pictures, videos, and audio narration that details seminal works inside the museum. The experience also includes interactive components such as a “find the key” challenge and creative tutorials.

Visit Rijksmuseum .

16. Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City launched a virtual views series which enables website visitors to browse rotating online exhibits. As part of the series, the MoMA site also hosts virtual events with components such as live Q&A sessions with artists and curators, readings and theatrical performances, 3-D renderings, and interactive games.

Visit MoMA .

17. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Met 360° Project is a collection of six wide-lens videos compatible with both virtual reality systems, or regular computer screens or smartphones. Virtual viewers take a point-of-view tour of museum areas such as the Great Hall, the Met Cloisters, and the Arms and Armor Gallery, set to a soundtrack of instrumental music. The Met website also hosts an Art at Home series that offers up close virtual access and analysis to famous works, as well as videos of conservation projects and instructions for art projects.

Visit the MET .

18. Paul J. Getty Museum

The Google Arts & Culture online tour of the Getty Museum spans dozens of exhibits with thousands of digital artifacts. Pieces span as far back as the eighth century until modern times, with notable pieces including The Virgin Mary with Saints Thomas Aquinas and Paul , Rembrandt Laughing , and Irises .

Visit the Getty Museum .

19. Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago facilitates online visits consisting of virtual video and audio tours, searchable online collections, digital publications, as well as online lesson plans and art projects. There is even an “Ask an Educator” form that enables parents or teachers to communicate with museum staff who hand-pick resources to assist with lessons planning.

Visit the Art Institute of Chicago .

20. National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.)

The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. website hosts digital perspectives, virtual exhibitions, and digital collections. The online experience also includes streamable films visitors can watch online.

Visit the National Gallery of Art .

21. The National Gallery (London)

The National Gallery of London offers immersive virtual tours accessible via smartphone, computer, or virtual reality headset. Through three different remote tours, virtual visitors can explore multiple wings of the museum, 18+ rooms, and 300+ paintings. The Gallery’s robust social media presence promotes further interaction with online art.

Visit The National Gallery .

22. Uffizi Gallery

The Google Arts & Culture Tour of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence explores four online exhibitions and hundreds of pieces of arts and artifacts, many in the Renaissance style. Notable pieces include Birth of Venus by Botecelli, Portraits of the Duke & Duchess of Urbino by Piero Della Francesca, and Madonna of the Goldfinch by Raphael.

Visit Uffizi Gallery .

23. Frida Kahlo Museum

The virtual tour of the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City is one of the most colorful museum tours online. Virtual visitors tour various areas of the grounds in a 360°, up close experience. The colors of the architecture and artifacts are works of art in themselves, and are sure to brighten viewers’ days. The website offers additional resources including downloadable photos, videos, quotes, and even recipes.

Visit Frida Kahlo Museum .

24. Russian Museum

The Virtual Russian Museum is a web portal consisting of several digital resources such as online lectures, virtual 3-D walk through tours of the museum complex with accompanying audio, and a multimedia center. The multimedia component of the virtual branch includes digital content and displays, broadcasts and video conferencing, and interactive web workshops.

Visit Russian Museum .

25. Tokyo National Museum

The Tokyo National Museum contains artworks and antiquities dating back several centuries, and displays over 100 digital images of textiles, clay-ware, ceramics, and similar artifacts on its Google Arts & Culture tour. During this remote museum tour, virtual visitors peruse Asian art and conduct Google Earth walk-throughs of museum galleries.

Visit Tokyo National Museum .

26. National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

This online tour of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea enables web visitors to explore the country’s unique culture and heritage. The tour includes multiple online exhibits, hundreds of pieces of modern artwork, and several floors of the building, including sections of the outdoor sculpture garden.

Visit the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art .

27. MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo has an impressive online presence with over 1,000 images of paintings, photographs, and objects in its Google Arts & Culture collection. Online visitors can delve into South American art and culture by exploring online exhibits and browsing through digital collections. The Google App also enables virtual reality tours of the museum via smartphone.

Visit MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo .

28. Space Center Houston

Space Center Houston offers free interactive virtual learning experiences like an online Apollo 13 exhibit, video series, and an app that offers mobile tours plus augmented reality and virtual reality experiences. The center also occasionally hosts virtual stargazing camp-outs and suggests at home science experiments and games. Plus, the website is a wealth of online outer space resources.

Visit Space Center Houston .

29. American Museum of Natural History

The American Museum of Natural History suggests several options for virtual visits. These options include virtual field trips, an “inside the museum” high resolution picture tour, guided tours on Facebook live, and an expedition app experience that includes quizzes and exhibit highlights.

Visit American Museum of Natural History .

30. Oxford University’s History of Science Museum

The Oxford History of Science Museum website displays past exhibits so virtual visitors can learn more about concepts such as antibiotics, the human brain, and the Transit of Venus. The format of each online exhibit varies, but most contain, at minimum, sample images and descriptions.

Visit Oxford University’s History of Science Museum .

31. The National Museum of the United States Air Force

The National Museum of the United States Air Force provides digital resources such as 360° photo cockpit tours, podcasts, and videos. The site also supplies lesson plans broken down by grade level, with extras like aircraft coloring pages and word searches.

Visit The National Museum of the United States Air Force .

32. The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing offers a comprehensive 3D virtual tour of the entire museum, with multiple touch-points explaining the significance of fixtures. The online walk-through enables a point-of-view, clickable dollhouse tour of the entire building, with a wealth of supplemental materials like videos, audio files, and documents. For a fee, the museum also arranges curated virtual tours that form a more personalized experience.

Visit The National Museum of Computing .

33. Boston Museum of Science

Boston’s premier science museum presents a Museum of Science at Home experience consisting of virtual exhibits, daily live streams, podcasts, town halls, and family STEM activities. The museum provides digital programs for both adults and children, with highlights including live social events, an ant colony webcam, and stimulating multimedia content.

Visit the Boston Museum of Science .

34. Glazer Children’s Museum

The Glazer Children’s Museum website hosts virtual experiences such as digital field trips and weekly facilitated live Zoom play sessions. These sessions have educational themes like music and movement or STEM. The site also publishes content designed for anytime learning, such as instructional videos and blog posts that lead visitors through at-home art projects, science experiments, and story-time.

Visit Glazer Children’s Museum .

35. Children’s Museum Houston

The Children’s Museum Houston advertises an ongoing all-time access program. This program provides regular content such as 3-D digital field trips, virtual adventure camps, daily broadcasted project tutorials, webinar workshops, and video call-in shows. The museum also has a free smartphone app for additional at-home adventures.

Visit Children’s Museum Houston .

36. Children’s Museum Indianapolis

Children’s Museum Indianapolis provides a museum at home experience including ongoing virtual events, digital museum programs, follow-along hands-on activities, and virtual birthday parties. The museum also creates holiday-themed downloadable activity bundles and resources for teachers.

Visit Children’s Museum Indianapolis .

37. The Strong National Museum of Play

The Strong museum in Rochester, NY, examines the history of playtime throughout recent history. Its online exhibits follow fun themes such as “Pinball in America”, “The History of Valentines”, and the Oregon Trail computer games. The online collection hosts a staggering 77,000+ images, many of which are designs for games throughout the decades.

Visit The Strong National Museum of Play .

38. Boston Children’s Museum

The Boston Children’s Museum website provides learning resources including weekly activitiy emails, Mad Libs, and links to mini digital museums and interactive apps. This section of the museum’s website has many tools to keep kids occupied for hours.

Visit Boston Children’s Museum .

List of online national park tours

Here is a list of national parks to visit online.

A simple interface for a virtual national park tour

39. Joshua Tree

A virtual tour to Joshua Tree includes video, readable web content, photos and other multimedia. To captivate younger visitors, the park posts digital scavenger hunts, a junior ranger program, and guest speaker series. Educators can schedule virtual field trips with park rangers centered around topics such as plants and animals, rocks and minerals, and weather and erosion.

Visit Joshua Tree .

40. Zion National Park

An online visit to Zion National Park includes virtual hikes and shuttle tours, along with a free app that launches a historical exploration of the region. Web visitors explore the canyons in virtual reality from multiple vantage points, exploring the terrain from the comfort of the couch.

Visit Zion National Park .

41. Yosemite

Virtual Yosemite provides an aerial view of the park with zoomable scenic spots. The remote park tour also features a panoramic index for easy navigation to various locales within the preservation, but visitors can also click through and rotate the views to explore more organically. Virtual Yosemite presents high resolution images of a variety of landscapes, highlighting the geographical diversity of the land.

Visit Yosemite .

42. Bryce Canyon

While not an immersive experience, the Bryce Canyon virtual tour provides pictures and descriptions of locations along the trail so that virtual visitors can imagine hikes and plan future trips. The points of the online tour outline the landscape variety of the canyon, describing sights like Mossy Cave, Swamp Canyon, and Natural Bridge.

Visit Bryce Canyon .

43. Death Valley

This 360° online tour of California’s Death Valley National Park allows visitors to pan around the attraction’s various landscapes, from dunes to craters to canyons. Each spot contains a short description of the geography. The high resolution images create a virtual reality experience that immerses viewers in the environment.

Visit Death Valley .

44. Grand Canyon

This virtual tour of the Grand Canyon consists of 3D satellite images via Google Earth. Virtual visitors can rotate or click through trails, view the canyon from above, and navigate to photos of notable landmarks like Yavapai Point and The Abyss. High resolution pictures enable cyber sightseers to take in the views without the fear of falling.

Visit the Grand Canyon .

45. Redwood National Forest

Redwood National Forest facilitates virtual reality experiences via smartphone or computer, where online visitors take in 360° canopy tours for a panoramic view of the forest. The site also hosts multimedia presentations that include narrated videos, documentaries, songs, and other educational materials.

Visit Redwood National Forest .

46. Hot Springs National Park

Exploring Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park from home is possible thanks to a collection of photography, suggested readings, and an aerial digital map. The latter presents a birds eye view of the bath house district with clickable panoramic views inside the buildings. These resources enable virtual visitors to learn about the region’s rich cultural past and recent scientific research.

Visit Hot Springs National Park.

47. Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis provides a series of short pre-recorded videos exploring the history of the region and the exhibitions within the park, along with livestream webcam views from the top of the arch. The park website features historical analysis and photo galleries too, along with a virtual stamp for visitor’s National Park Passport books.

Visit the Gateway Arch.

48. Niagara Falls

This panoramic tour of Niagara Falls presents rotating 360° photos of park vistas such as the Cave of the Winds, Prospect Point, and the river rapids. A short description accompanies each photograph, outlining background information about the scenic spots.

Visit Niagara Falls .

49. Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park provides a robust selection of virtual experiences. The options include a 24/7 live wildlife webcam, short documentaries and educational videos, audio narrated virtual tours, and an official digital photography collection. The park website offers a free curriculum for distance learning programs as well.

Visit the Everglades .

50. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

This online multimedia presentation guides virtual viewers through the islands and volcanoes of Hawaii. The experience includes audio, video, and panoramic photography of volcanic cliffs, caverns, and rainforests. Web visitors can also explore an active volcano by joining a digital helicopter flyover and watching an eruption from the 1950s.

Visit Hawai’i Volcanoes .

51. Table Mountain and Kruger National Park

South Africa has stunning national parks. Discover Africa enables visitors to explore the sights of South Africa via immersive video and interactive panoramic photography accompanied by narration. Virtual visitors choose from five attractions, including Cape Town’s Table Mountain and Northern South Africa’s epic Kruger nature preserve. The digital experience constitutes a virtual safari that lets viewers experience the country’s diverse landscapes.

Visit Table Mountain and Kruger National Park .

52. Mount Everest

This digital rendering allows website visitors to scale the peaks of Mount Everest from behind a screen. The website is a 3D geographic model of the mountain with clickable descriptions for key peaks. While many folks will never climb Everest in person, they can explore the range through this immersive cyber expedition.

Visit Mount Everest .

53. Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha-Ke Bang in Vietnam contains one of the world’s largest caves alongside lush rainforests. Digital visitors trek through caves, viewing high resolution images and listening to realistic background sounds. The result is an immersive experience that simulates the sensation of navigating the caves in person.

Visit Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park .

54. Zhāngjiājiè National Forest Park

For much of the world, Zhāngjiājiè National Forest Park in China is more recognizable by sight than by name. The park’s steep, wooded cliffs appear in movies like Avatar, and the landscape looks more like a film set than a natural occurrence. Website visitors navigate between explorable panoramic views to the sounds of instrumental music for a simultaneously captivating and calming web experience.

Visit Zhāngjiājiè National Forest Park .

55. Namib Desert

This digital tour of the Namib Desert in Southern Africa gives viewers birds eye perspectives of dunes, parched plains, and rolling mist, plus vast starry skies. The high quality, panoramic images constitute virtual hikes through the vast landscape, without the scorching heat of day or the freezing chill of night.

Visit Namib Desert .

56. Banff National Park

A remote tour of Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada consists of dozens of 360* videos showing scenes like snowy canyons, serene lakes at sunset, and mountainous trails. Though short, the videos enable you to pause and take in the scenery, and watching the playlist gives online visitors the benefit of viewing the park during multiple seasons.

Visit Banff National Park .

57. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a coastal region of Italy renowned for its colorful hillside houses. In this experience, online visitors take a panoramic photo tour of the coastline at various angles and times of days, set to a backdrop of calming music. The site also includes educational descriptions and an additional photo gallery.

Visit Cinque Terre .

List of virtual zoo tours

Here is a list of virtual zoos and aquariums that enable up-close online animal encounters.

Three girafes representing an online zoo tour

58. San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo streams live cams of animals including polar bears, tigers, penguins, baboons, and koalas, and as well as hosting highlight archive footage of past panda cams. For a fee, the zoo also offers virtual programs that enable private online encounters with animals. The website also hosts an online directory of zoo animals and plants so that virtual visitors can learn more about the zoo’s exhibits from home.

Visit the San Diego Zoo .

59. San Antonio Zoo

The San Antonio Zoo arranges online meetings between virtual visitors and animals like hippos, giraffes, and rhinos for $100. For an additional $50 fee, guests can add a question and answer session with a zookeeper. Experiences are available Tuesday through Saturday. The zoo also offers online educational workshops.

Visit the San Antonio Zoo .

60. Houston Zoo

The Houston Zoo website includes a variety of live webcams with stars such as rhinos, gorillas, flamingos, and elephants. Cameras are live between 7AM and 7PM CT. The zoo also advertises live virtual experiences including web conference meet and greets with animals and virtual scavenger hunts. Notable digital offerings include an animal painting experience where guests watch a creature create art and receive a copy in the mail afterwards, and a Cameo video greeting to send to a friend.

Visit the Houston Zoo .

61. Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo offers a home safari consisting of videos recorded during Facebook Live streams. Website visitors can browse through over 50 animal encounters and learn facts about creatures like red pandas, parrots, zebras, and orangutans. Online modules also include activities such as homemade birdfeeders and balancing exercises so kids can participate more fully in the virtual experience.

Visit the Cincinnati Zoo .

62. Bronx Zoo

The Bronx Zoo streams live between 10AM and 4PM ET, showing off visitor favorites such as sea lions and lemurs. The zoo also books out virtual wild encounters with creatures like cheetahs, alpacas, sloths, and warthogs, for prices ranging from $80 to $150. Each session takes place over Zoom and allows virtual visitors to get up close to animals while asking caretakers questions.

Visit the Bronx Zoo .

63. Alaska Zoo

The Alaska Zoo presents a distance learning experience through its virtual animal encounters and arctic discovery programs. Each session lasts approximately 45 minutes and costs $150. These experiences include interactive presentations and virtual visits with animals such as tigers, gray wolves, polar bears, or seals. A scheduled visit ensures the animals are unlikely to be camera-shy, creating a memorable and intimate online experience for students.

Visit the Alaska Zoo .

64. Singapore Zoo

The Singapore Zoo proposes a variety of e-learning options designed to enrich virtual classrooms. The website modules sort experiences by grade level, making it easy to choose an experience appropriate for your classroom. Students can explore topics such as zoology careers, reptile habitats, and African wildlife.

Visit the Singapore Zoo .

65. Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo offers virtual encounters on platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and GoToMeeting. During these sessions, caregivers and animals such as armadillos, giraffes, elephants, sloths, and lemurs join virtual visitors for a 15 minute meet and greet. The two available daily time slots are at 10AM and 2PM PT.

Visit the Oregon Zoo .

66. Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium hosts ten live webcams featuring critters such as penguins, jellyfish, sharks, and sea otters. The variety of exhibits means that teachers can switch between streams when a particular camera is not live. The aquarium also facilitates narrated feeding times on certain webcams during weekdays, with the feeding schedule posted on the site.

Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium .

67. National Aquarium (Baltimore)

The National Aquarium in Baltimore offers an interactive virtual map folks can navigate for an online tour. Virtual visitors can follow the arrows for a walk-through experience, or can click a menu of creatures like dolphins and sharks to instantly view anticipated animals. The aquarium website also hosts three 24/7 webcam livestreams , and offers guided virtual programs too.

Visit the National Aquarium .

68. Georgia Virtual Aquarium

The Georgia Virtual Aquarium allows visitors to book a 10 to 20 minute guided online tour. Participants select a tour, receive viewing instructions via email, then enjoy up-close views of animals with educational insight. Participants get to view oceans, rivers, or sea creatures within an immersive virtual environment.

Visit Georgia Virtual Aquarium .

You may not be able to jet around the world at a moment’s notice. However, you can still visit famous parks, zoos, or museums by taking an engaging, interactive online virtual tour.

These online experiences enable you to stare as long as you like, avoid crowds, learn more about a subject or piece instantly, and enjoy other benefits. Not to mention, at home experiences are a great way to educate and teach children, coworkers, and yourself!

Next, check out our list of virtual family reunion activities and this one with online volunteering ideas .

FAQ: Virtual Tours

Here are some of the common questions we see about virtual tours of museums, zoos and parks.

What are virtual tours?

Virtual tours are online galleries of famous attractions such as zoos, national parks, and museums. These experiences often consist of online exhibitions, videos, 360 degree and satellite photography, and virtual reality elements. Some tours may also include a facilitated live experience with a guide.

What are the best virtual tours?

The best virtual tours tend to include an interactive element. For example, the tour could be a live experience led by a guide and include trivia, polls, or other forms of engagement. These online tours are the best because they focus on the visitor experience.

How much do virtual tours cost?

Virtual tours are available at a variety of costs, ranging from free to $5 per person, $50 per person and upwards. We recommend starting with some of the free tours to see what your group likes and benefits most from. Then, you can invest in one of the paid options.

How do virtual tours work?

Virtual tours take place on online platforms such as Zoom, Google Street View, or custom software. Users login solo or as a group, and follow along with either a live or automated guide to learn about the tour stops.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Marketing Coordinator at Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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Virtual Tourism Explained: What, Where And Why

virtual tourism types

As the COVID19 pandemic restricts the whereabouts of people, hotels, destinations, and travelers have felt the effects. Tourism has been halted, local vacations are often out of the question, and as more people work from home, business travel has also declined. 

However, virtual travel is picking up speed. Hotels and destinations that know how to use the trend will set themselves up for success as the world returns to normal and travelers pack their bags again. 

virtual tourism types

(image source)

What is virtual tourism .

Virtual Tourism offers people an amazing experience of a travel destination through the use of technology. There are countless different types of virtual tourism offerings, but generally, there is a combination of virtual reality, still, images, video, audio, narration, interactivity, and other multimedia formats.

You can access this virtual travel through a virtual reality headset for the most enjoyable experience, you can also use a normal computer or even a mobile device.

What Are The Advantages Of Virtual Tourism? 

virtual tourism types

Since people are experiencing , places and destinations from the comfort of their own homes , virtual tourism has many clear advantages. The obvious advantage is that the person can see and experience a place without having to travel to it, which means they are not limited by available flights, travel logistics, safety concerns, and rules of destinations. You don’t even have to think about time zones or weather conditions. 

The other big benefit for viewers is cost. Virtual travel makes destinations accessible to people who could not otherwise afford to travel there. Viewers can derive benefit from the rise of virtual tourist destinations and the growth in quality and quantity of virtual content.

Virtual tourism technology also offers great marketing opportunities. Prospective guests can see a 360-degree view of a property and its amenities instead of flat images on a brochure or website. Viewers who have experienced a hotel or venue through virtual tourism are more likely to book a future stay and eagerly await to experience the activity in the “real world.” 

virtual tourism types

Other Advantages Of Virtual Travel

  • The phenomenal experience allows people to imagine a travel destination. 
  •  The viewer can control what they see of a subject by experiencing 360 degrees of a location. 
  •  All aspects of a travel destination can be displayed in high resolution. 
  •  The impact of tourism in vulnerable destinations will be reduced. 

Here is the list of some of our most popular virtual tourism experiences from around the world. While each place offers something unique, the common thing is that each is created to give easy, secure, and interactive access to a location. 

Most Popular Virtual Travel Experience

The faroe islands .

The Faroe Islands launched a virtual travel experience during the pandemic and began offering people an alternative way to travel there. 

At the beginning of this global crisis, they sat together wondering how can they create an experience in the Faroe Islands for those who had to cancel their trip. They had an idea. What if people from anywhere in the world travel to the islands as virtual tourists? What if virtual tourists could monitor the movements of locals in real-time? They acted on these thoughts and created the fantastic Farore Islands virtual tour.

Bristol From Home 

Visit Bristol in England has also created an engaging virtual traveling experience during the COVID19 pandemic. Bristol From Home offers a collection of travelers’ favorite ideas, inspiration, and resources so they can have an interactive and enjoyable experience of Bristol.

The site offers tons of virtual options, including luxury Victorian boat tours, hot air balloon rides, walking trails , all in one place. 

See the amazing architecture of Dubai with Dubai 360 , a fascinating virtual sightseeing experience that allows users to get a panoramic view of the city and learn all about the places scattered around the place. 

Dubai 360 brings a professional and high-quality experience and improves your traveling experience from the comfort of your homes. This service is equally beneficial for Hotels, Restaurants, Beaches, national parks, etc.

4. Great Barrier Reef 

The Great Barrier Reef offers a virtual travel experience as well. The amazing journey is hosted by legendary historian David Attenborough , who guides viewers through the world’s largest coral reef system. 

This is much more than just a replacement for tours of the Great Barrier Reef, it is an experience in itself and shows just how dynamic virtual tourism can be. Showing all that destination has to offer is a great way to spark excitement and inspire them to plan their real holidays in the future. 

Thus, Virtual tourism has been regarded as a way for destinations to underline the intangibles of their place, capture the aura of the place, and spark the interest of travelers who might not visit otherwise.

Even for the audience, virtual travel is a unique experience that definitely leaves its mark. It is the gift of the pandemic to the world, but it will continue to last even after the pandemic. With its interactive and engaging content, virtual travel will be a preference for many people in the coming years.

Do you want to book a virtual tour? Read our blog on Virtual Travel Agencies and Their Amazing Tours.

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World Leaders in Research-Based User Experience

Virtual tours: high interaction cost, moderate usefulness.

Summary:  Virtual tours are an occasionally useful secondary tool for checking on specific details, but most users find them to be high effort, slow, and of limited value.

By Page Laubheimer

  • Page Laubheimer

on 2020-08-30 August 30, 2020

  • Interaction Design Interaction Design
  • Share this article:

While the world currently is locked down due to COVID-19, many businesses which rely on  physical spaces have turned to virtual tours to provide a sense of the space for users who are currently unable to visit. Especially in real estate, there has been a lot of recent emphasis on virtual tours of homes. Many other types of business, such as cultural institutions, universities, wedding venues, and even outdoor attractions, have followed suit.

This technology has been slowly maturing in the background for years, and many users have been exposed to the basic interaction paradigm through popular examples such as the Street View feature within Google Maps.

We conducted a qualitative study with 16 users to find out the good, the bad, and the dizzying aspects of modern virtual tours.

We tested a variety of websites from industries that use virtual tours: real estate, wedding venues, outdoor adventures (national parks, scuba diving, etc.), cultural institutions (such as museums and art galleries), theme parks, and university campuses (soon to be covered in a separate article). Among all these websites, several types of virtual tour were commonplace:

  • Free-movement 3D walking tours
  • A series of 360° photos linked together (much like Google’s Street View)
  • 360° videos
  • 2D video tours offering a guided (but noninteractive) tour of a space

VIDEO: Artland offers a 3D gallery tour that enables users to move relatively freely through the virtual space. This type of tour had the most coverage, but still had fixed points where 360 ° images were taken.

The Vatican's virtual tour offered only a single 360-degree photo per room

Virtual Tours Typically Used for Checking Details Later in the Process

In our study, users often noted the presence of virtual tours on sites that offered them, and used phrases like, “ if I were interested, they offer a virtual tour, which is nice.” While the positive sentiment toward the option to take a virtual tour was fairly consistent, many users then went about their business without interacting with the tour, demonstrating that they were not actually very interested (and further proving one of the first rules of UX — “ don’t listen to your customers, observe their behavior instead ”). Indeed, in many of the test sessions, users did not interact with the virtual tours until later in their visit on the site or when directly instructed to open the tour by the study facilitator. (A skilled facilitator will prompt participants to use the feature of interest only at the end of the task, to avoid bias .)

In fact, especially when the task involved gathering information for consequential decisions, such as buying a home, booking a wedding venue, or choosing a university, participants chose to interact with standard photo galleries, text descriptions, and even prerecorded video tours before using the 3D virtual tours. Their comments showed that they expected the virtual tours to take effort to use and they preferred to start by looking at photos to decide if the property, artwork, or physical space was interesting enough before investing in a virtual tour. Thus, like is often the case with such intricate features, users were doing an (unconscious) cost-benefit analysis of the virtual tour, weighing in the expected interaction cost against the extra information delivered by the tour. A study participant summed this up well and said:

“I don't see a point of just the 3D tour without photos — [photos] are primary and [a 3D tour] is secondary”

This preference for still photos as the initial touchpoint was due to two factors — (1) photo galleries can be quickly swiped through to see a wide variety of views within the space in a short time, and (2) photos afford a degree of direct access to certain details (as one doesn’t need to walk through the whole house to look at a particular bedroom). As one study participant put it,

"The photos are like an advertisement to entice me to go in. If I take the tour, I'm investing a lot more time, so it's good for looking at all the nooks and crannies. The 3D tour is when I start to fall in love and want to see the details.”

However, all participants noted that, once they reached the point in their decision making where they wanted to get into details, a virtual tour was superior to photos for truly getting a sense of the place, warts and all. Several users noted that (especially in real estate or for renting event spaces), still photos with professional equipment can be rather misleading — making a space look larger, more glamorous, or having better light than in reality. One user explained:

“I do like that it allows me to move around freely in the home, so I can see the spatial relationships. This gives me a much better idea what it’s actually like in, say, a bedroom, because seeing it in this 3D tour, the room looks much smaller than it did in the [still] photos. If you get the right camera lens and angle [with a still camera], you can make a room seem much larger than it really is.”

Real-estate and event-planning users often sought out virtual tours to check on details such as:

  • The overall flow of the space, from room to room
  • How big each room felt
  • The condition of windows, flooring, and fine details such as crown moldings
  • The type and condition of appliances
  • The number of power outlets in a room
  • Quality of light and views from windows
  • How many people could comfortably fit in a space
  • What type of furniture could fit and how it could be arranged

Virtual Tour Users Craved Expert Guidance

Many users in the study also wished for a traditional, narrated 2D video as a secondary step (in between viewing a photo gallery and taking a 3D tour) to give them a guided, expert walkthrough, and get them excited about the space. Several users noted that watching a video involves low effort, but provides similar benefits for understanding the flow of the space and getting to see some detail. They noted that an expert guide (such as a realtor, wedding planner, museum docent, or park ranger) could offer up useful information at the right moment — often things that users wouldn’t even know to ask.

This desire for credible, expert guidance was pervasive in all types of virtual tours — people wanted someone who had expertise to share the key details about the home, venue, artwork, or national park rather than exploring by themselves.

Surface-Level Delight Fades Quickly, and Users Move On

While many of the visually impressive virtual tours elicited a substantial wow factor in study participants, the initial deligh t quickly subsided. Many users exclaimed, “Oh, this is so cool” mere seconds before closing the tour and moving on to something else, such as a photo or prerecorded video.

The quick dissipation of superficial deligh t was most prominent on leisure tours — national parks, art galleries and museums, zoos, tourist attractions, and cultural institutions such as the Vatican or Buckingham Palace. Initial excitement was followed quickly by a shrug and dwindling engagement.

The leisure tours that were engaging for the longest were those that limited the interaction cost of users and presented a somewhat guided or curated experience. These tended to be 360° videos or photos that offered substantial narrative (either literal audio voiceovers or written text presented at key contextual moments).

The Harry Potter amusement park's virtual tour was not very engaging

Moving Within the Space Is Slow and Effortful

One of the biggest problems users encountered was slow and difficult movement through the virtual space; turning around in particular was incredibly effortful. For example, a mobile-device user “walked” into the bathroom in a virtual house tour and grew frustrated trying to turn around to go into another room. He noted, “for me to turn around and get out of [this room], that was 8 thumbs [referring to the number of swipe gestures he needed to turn 180°]  […]  Which is fine, but to explore a whole house in this kind of model is a little frustrating.”

A virtual tour image of a bathroom proved difficult to turn around

In many ways, this experience resembles the crude 3D video games of the 1990s — in fact, several participants compared virtual tours to the 1993 video game MYST. While video games have progressed dramatically since then, virtual tours are still stuck in a very similar interaction paradigm. L oading times are slow , the number of spots with 360° “coverage” are often limited, and moving speeds (both turning and moving forward or back) are limited to ensure that users aren’t given vertigo.

In a physical space, users can (unconsciously) choose how quickly they turn their head and their walking speed. This is thanks to the unsung “sixth sense” called proprioception, or the ability to be aware of one’s own body’s position and movement in space. Modern video games offer a limited, but still powerful ability to control movement speed through the common dual-joystick control system (left joystick for moving through space, and the right joystick controlling the camera angle). How far the joystick moves from the center controls how quick the movement is. Even though this process is a more conscious than quickly turning one’s head, it’s still a relatively intuitive design. Even mobile games such as Fortnite have usable controls for moving a character through a 3D space using a virtual version of the dual-joystick setup. Yet, virtual tours seem to be stuck in an outmoded control paradigm.

Changing panning sensitivity isn’t the answer, however. On tours that panned with a higher velocity, users disliked the twitchiness and felt dizzy and out of control. The same problems plagued virtual tours that used an AR interaction model , taking advantage of the mobile device’s gyroscope to track the user’s position in space and move the tour around — all participants decried this experience as nauseating, twitchy, and complained about “gorilla arm” (fatigue from keeping one’s arm extended).

Poor Wayfinding

Another major issue was related to navigation and wayfinding . Users frequently complained that they weren’t sure where they currently were (i.e., which specific room they were viewing) and what other rooms were nearby. While most participants quickly understood the common signifiers that indicated that you could move to a different perspective spot (a circle or arrow superimposed on the ground were reasonably clear), they often didn’t know what room they would end up in if they clicked that icon. Even more to the point, when multiple arrows appeared near one another (as was common on tours hastily adapted to mobile devices), the clarity of the signifier was reduced.

The Google Maps tour of the Van Gogh museum had too many navigation arrows superimposed on top of one another

Some tours solved this wayfinding problem by labeling each arrow with the room it led to. This approach worked well for tours that only had one 360ᵒ  image per room; however, for virtual tours offering a relatively free movement within the space, it would be deeply unwise to have that many labeled arrows. When free movement is enabled, place the text label for room names so that it is not in the way ( e.g.,  on thresholds between rooms).

Zillow's 3D home tours offered clear text labels on the navigation arrows.

In addition, moving to a specific room was often a slow affair. Many virtual tours force users into a linear-access paradigm that mimics physically walking through the space and going from one room to the next. While that’s useful when “getting the vibe” and understanding the flow of a space, if you find yourself on the third floor and wish to jump back to the basement to double-check something, direct navigation would be very helpful.

Some tours enabled users to teleport from one part of a space to another. One approach was a filmstrip-style gallery of labeled images at the bottom of the screen to allow for faster access to specific rooms. Others offered a birds-eye floorplan view or a 3D dollhouse view that allowed for zoomed-out context and fast navigation. Still, these solutions were plagued by buggy, stuttering performance, and users often became disoriented and lost their spatial awareness when zooming in or out of these high-level views. The filmstrip-style navigation was frequently ignored; many of our participants interacted with it only after being asked about it (at the very end of a task or session, so as to not prime the user beforehand).

VIDEO: The dollhouse view offered by Matterport virtual tours elicited an initial delighted response from many users, but was a somewhat confusing method of navigating within a space. Often, when switching back from the dollhouse view to the standard tour view, users would teleport directly up against a wall and needed several seconds to orient themselves spatially.

Opportunities for “Better than Reality”

In many ways, it’s a shame that virtual tours suffer so many basic interaction problems, as there is a huge opportunity for these tours to go beyond an in-person visit. Users frequently wished that the tour would reveal important, contextually relevant details (such as room size or whether it’s been recently updated), like an experienced realtor or tour guide might.

While some tours offered measuring tools, they were plagued with frustrating mode changes , poor icon signifiers, and required a frustrating degree of precision. Measuring tools made the user tap a series of points in the virtual space in order to measure the distance between them; however, to get accurate measurements, users had to tap very precisely — a nearly impossible feat on a mobile device and still very difficult on a desktop computer with a mouse . Users often bemoaned that the tool should provide basic dimensions of the room (e.g., ceiling height, room dimensions) by default , without requiring the user to do all the work!

A virtual tour with a measuring tool was difficult to use

While there’s no completely universal list of information that all users want in each room of a virtual tour, domain-specific themes are easy to identify. Home buyers want to know the size of the room, the number of power outlets, how well sound is insulated, the brand (and age) of appliances, and so forth. Those planning weddings want to know how many people can comfortably fit in a room for a meal, how many people reasonably fit on a dance floor, and what the space looks like both during the day and the evening. People virtually visiting museums and cultural institutions want some information on what they are seeing and why it’s important. For virtual tours to truly be better than reality , these needed details should be provided by default.

Users of these virtual tours craved a guided, expert-led experience — not an overbearing audio narration, but thoughtful details revealed on demand. For example, one virtual-art gallery focused on a single piece of art — rather than a 3D space-based approach, it offered an interactive tour of just one painting, zooming in to various parts and offering expert information about brushstrokes, symbolic themes in the painting, and how the painting related to the artist’s life and other works. This example demonstrates that moving in space is not a precondition of an effective tour — rather, what makes a “tour” valuable to users is rich detail and meaningful context.

A closeup of Frida Kahlo's Self Portrait with Monkey includes additional textual detail about the painting

COVID-19 lockdowns have forced many businesses that rely on access to physical locations to adapt quickly. Unfortunately, most virtual-tour software follows 1990s video-game interaction paradigms and is largely unsatisfying for many users. Still, there are opportunities to provide valuable experiences by focusing on guided, expertise-driven tours, rather than freeform exploration of a 3D space. A virtual tour should be a secondary or tertiary source of information for users after high-quality still photography, well-written descriptions, and even traditional video tours.

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About the Author

Page Laubheimer is a Senior User Experience Specialist with Nielsen Norman Group. He helps organizations focus on delivering outstanding user experience in order to achieve their strategic goals. He combines his expertise in website usability with experience managing a team of designers and developers to successfully implement UX best practices across a range of platforms.

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5 Types Of Virtual Tourism

5 Types Of Virtual Tourism

Virtual tours may be relatively new but they have been around long enough to develop different types to offer to the public. There are types of virtual tourism that can be whipped up with just a computer or a smart device. On the other hand, some types require a complex setup of technology to produce. Get to know a bit about all of those and discover the beauty of each of them.

Try Before You Buy

In the beginning, virtual tours were mainly used as a marketing tool. Businesses that offer products or services that come at a steep price would offer virtual tours for customers. Basically, it is to sample or experience what they have to offer so they can decide if they want to proceed and buy.

In fact, it’s been a very effective marketing technique that a survey done by Planet Home Study , shows that 75% of buyers agree that a virtual home tour is a major deciding factor whether they would buy a property or not. Aside from that, some airlines like British Airways have implemented this as well. They now offer a virtual tour of their business class only aircraft operating between London City Airport and New York. Interested customers can now see and experience, virtually at least, for themselves what it’s like inside and decide if the cost of the ticket is actually worth it for them.

Virtual Tours Of Real Places

It’s no secret that travelling is a fun activity many people chase all the time. However, even before the pandemic happened, not everyone had the luxury to just go.

Good thing modern technology has made virtual tours possible! Sure, it’s not the same as being able to physically visit places, but for the general public and avid vacationers, it helps. Google earth for that matter has made it possible to explore places you’ve always wanted to visit or even revisit your favourite locations in the comfort of your own home. Whether it’s the Louvre in Paris or the town next to yours, Google earth can now take you there ticket-free as long as you have an internet connection!

Virtual Tours Of The Past

Who needs a time machine if you can visit places or attractions that existed in the past? If you’re a huge geek who has always been fascinated with history and have wished to be born in the Victorian era or something like that, then you’d enjoy this type of virtual tour!

Modern technology has allowed it so developers can use current images along with computer generation projections to develop experiences that can tour the past. Some programs can now virtually transport users to any time or place that they want to see. Cool, right?

Aside from that, if you ever wanted to take that interest to another level, there is actually a course free for anyone to sign up at The University of Reading . The course aims to educate and shed light on ancient Rome which many people, especially broadcasters and journalists, are still interested in. This award-winning and ambitious digital model of the entire ancient city was developed by Reading Classicist Dr. Matthew Nicholls.

Visit Areas That Are Inaccessible

You’d think that in today’s world, every corner of the planet can be visited. But apparently, not really. Many places are still off-limits due to various reasons like not having enough resources to actually travel there, too remote or being entirely closed-off to visitors.

But who said you need to physically go to those places anyway? Virtual tourism has made it possible for people to reach those areas through their fingertips! So, if it has always been your wild dream to climb Mt. Everest but know for a fact that you’re not cut out for that kind of challenge, Google it instead! There are virtual tours of it now that you can take that will allow you to enjoy the view without sweating—or in this case, freezing.

Fantasy World Virtual Tour

Ever thought what would happen if you were minding your own business one day and then all of sudden you get sucked into a whole different world? Yes, I know, too much anime. But seriously, you can actually do that without really being transported to another world.

You can visit places that don’t exist in the real world through a popular platform called Second Life. This virtual tour lets you live that fantasy where you can create your avatar and then just roam around different places and connect to different people who are on the same platform.

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Many sectors have started to employ virtual tours more significantly in recent years, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Many businesses, on the other hand, haven’t embraced this technology yet. Virtual tours are beneficial to companies, and it’s vital that businesses step up their game and fully optimize it.

What is a Virtual Tour?

A virtual tour is a collection of panoramic pictures stitched together to create a ‘virtual’ overview of a place. After it has been created, the viewer can experience the feeling of being in a place even if they are not physically present. They can gain virtual experience by viewing it on their desktop PCs, laptops, tablet devices, and even smartphones. Some virtual tours feature audio effects like music or narrative that describes products or topics of interest. You can see an examples of a virtual tour demos below.

Virtual Tour vs. Video Tour

Despite their similarities, virtual tours and video tours should not be confused. In a video tour, users can only see a single point of view at a time during video tours. They are also not able to view the property as they please. They are required to view the property according to what the video shows. Here is an example of a video tour .

In a virtual tour, users can view a complete 360-degree view of the panoramic image or even zoom in to get a closer look at a specific location. The user can look at the entire room or landscape and choose where to look. They are in complete control on where to look around.

Virtual Tours: How to Use Them

You can use panoramas and virtual tour software to promote your business in various ways. Here are some examples of how and where to apply panoramic virtual tours to promote your business.

3d House Tour

360-degree panoramic pictures are used in real estate to create virtual tours, sometimes referred to as a 3d house tour. This is becoming a very popular tool for real estate sales and rental properties to make their listing stand out. Panorama software can stitch together many 3D pictures to create a 360-degree panorama.

With real estate virtual tours, the tenant and buyer can explore the property from all dimensions while staying at home with their PC. While creating your 3D house tour, you can include some hotspots in the real estate panorama to link to Google/Bing Maps to indicate where the apartment or buildings are located or hyperlink to a URL to promote your business. You can also use a pop-up 3D image to display your interior facilities.

You can also add info sign, markers, floor plans and even your own brand logo. Customizing the virtual tour with your brand details can be easily done. Once complete don’t forget to share the tour on social media and get more leads on your listing!

Scenic Spot Panorama

Panoramas made with panoramic software can be used to travel. In terms of scenic spot promotions, 360-degree panoramic virtual tours can bring the whole scenery spot than standard written narratives and local plan images. A panoramic view of the picturesque scenery is possible. When you integrate 360 panoramic tours on your website, visitors will be able to quickly explore the sights and have a powerfully immersive experience, stimulating their interest in traveling.

Museum Panorama

Because tourists arrive to see the museum’s fine art, additional details about the exhibitions tend to be important. Most museums have had a difficult time since the pandemic started. However, a few museums maintained their good reputations by providing free online virtual tours of parts of their sections while encouraging paid virtual tours of other segments.

With 360 panoramic virtual tours, online tourists can take virtual tours of the museum pavilion and their favorite exhibits. They can see a detailed image of the object when they click the hotspots linked with relevant intro texts.

Museum Panorama stitching is a blend of classic exhibits and panorama widely used in exhibitions and other academic facilities. Virtual tours are also an excellent approach to preserve ancient artifacts on the internet.

There are several virtual tour software that allow museums to charge customers for accessing the virtual tour and therefore increasing their revenue significantly. This is a great approach since it allows customers from another city, state or even country to access the museum without the need to be there!

Hotel Virtual Tours

A growing number of hotels are using virtual tours to entice tourists and travelers. Before making a reservation, many people would want to glance through hotel rooms. Panorama software can stitch hotel panoramas together and highlight the features of your booked accommodation.

The hotel’s 360-degree panoramic lobby, restaurant, and conference hall are all available for guests to enjoy. You can also look at alternative options, such as a suite room or a luxury ocean-view suite if you choose.

Automobile Virtual Tours

Some cars may have a similar exterior design as others, but a unique interior finish and configurations. You gain insight into the car’s layout by viewing the stitched automobile panorama; you can check for your desired features, including the interior trim, sunroof, audio system, etc. The automobile panorama gives you an immersive insight that will enable you to buy the kind of car you desire. Many automobile companies and exhibitions have made extensive use of it for their businesses.

University Virtual Tours

Because private colleges and universities try to compete for the top students, it’s understandable that many would use a virtual tour to accentuate their facility, classes, and other resources. Although parents can visit the schools, they are usually people occupied with other things. They would choose to research colleges or universities from the internet rather than visit the schools physically.

Most recently, universities have been using this approach to attract top students to join their programs as students are able to learn more about the university. It also provides a more professional look to the university vs. universities that do not offer virtual tours. Here is an example of a university Virtual Tour.

Virtual Tours for Online Shopping

Although online shopping is an enticing trend in this digital age, some consumers still prefer learning about products in physical locations. As a result, it’s a good idea to combine online and offline retail purchasing. Buyers may benefit from 360 store panoramas because they combine the convenience of internet buying with a physical store’s high-quality service and experience.

Companies with storefronts can use a virtual tour to display products 24/7, 365 days a year. A panoramic picture of a store is significantly superior to a collection of high-quality photos since it allows potential consumers to zoom in on certain products that capture their attention.

When consumers find their preferred dresses or suits, they may view additional information by clicking on the hotspots linked by photographs, which may encourage more customers to visit your store and make purchases.

Restaurants & Bars

Customers usually observe whether the environment is conducive for hanging out or relaxing when patronizing a bar or eatery, and if it is not, they will not come back. Restaurant owners can create a virtual tour and post it on their site to capture the attention of those who are looking for a decent spot to chill or have a nice meal.

A well-designed virtual tour of a restaurant will always entice potential consumers to visit, and if they have a nice time during their first visit, they will most likely return. This is a great way to increase leads and revenue for a restaurant.

Art Gallery or Exhibition Halls

Art Galleries and Exhibition Halls are two sectors that could benefit from virtual tours. Most art galleries and exhibitions host live events regularly to display the artworks that are available for auction or sale. The good news is that these works of art can also be auctioned and sold on the internet.

If you’re hosting a paid event without putting the artworks up for sale, you can use virtual tours in two ways: Firstly, host an online event and encourage people to pay a little fee to access them. Secondly, you can create a free virtual tour of some parts of the exhibit and sell tickets to them to participate in the main event.

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Which Virtual tour seems to be the best suited for you or your business? Let us know in the comments below!

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Book cover

Handbook of Tourism and Quality-of-Life Research II pp 545–557 Cite as

Virtual Tourism and Consumer Wellbeing: A Critical Review, Practices, and New Perspectives

  • Tingting (Christina) Zhang 11 &
  • Ahmet Hacikara 11  
  • First Online: 24 September 2023

196 Accesses

Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)

Virtual tourism aided by revolutionary technologies—including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and livestreaming (LS)—has been the topic of increased discussion among practitioners and academics as an innovative yet sustainable means of achieving tourism recovery. The emergence of virtual tourism provides a means of traveling and explorations of new places and has opened the possibilities for people to experience places and activities they may not have had the opportunity to have before. With these cutting-edge technologies, consumers’ wellbeing is creatively achieved and enhanced. Given the scarcity of literature on this topic, this chapter elaborates on the scope of virtual tourism, provides exemplary cases of its applications, synthesizes existing knowledge on this topic, and postulates new perspectives and priorities for future research endeavors. Furthermore, this chapter thoroughly examines the intricate connections between virtual tourism and consumer wellbeing, which has attracted considerable attention both in practice and in academia.

  • Virtual tourism
  • Consumer wellbeing
  • Cultural heritage tourism
  • Augmented reality

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A multi-dimensional concept that describes a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

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Zhang, T.(., Hacikara, A. (2023). Virtual Tourism and Consumer Wellbeing: A Critical Review, Practices, and New Perspectives. In: Uysal, M., Sirgy, M.J. (eds) Handbook of Tourism and Quality-of-Life Research II. International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life. Springer, Cham.

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Virtual Tourism: The Complete Guide

woman using vr headset for virtual tourism

With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting where people have been able to go over the past couple of years, hotels, destinations, and travellers alike have felt the effects.

However,  creative marketing  and  new virtual offerings  can make a big difference in the years to come. Virtual tourism and travel are taking off, and hotels and destinations that know how to capitalise on the trend will set themselves up for success as the world returns to normal and more and more travellers once again pack their bags.

Take a look at our expert advice below to learn all about virtual tourism and the benefits it can offer. Plus, explore examples from some of the top virtual tourism campaigns across the world.

What is virtual tourism?

Virtual tourism presents viewers with an immersive experience of an activity, location, or destination through the use of technology. There are tons of different types of virtual tourism offerings, but there's usually a combination of virtual reality, still images, video, audio, narration, interactivity, and other multimedia formats to provide an experience of a destination that a user cannot get through images or websites alone.

Viewers can access virtual tourism content using a virtual reality headset for the most immersive experience, but they can also usually view the content on a normal computer or even a mobile device.

What are the benefits of virtual tourism?

Because viewers can experience activities, locations, and destinations from the comfort of their own homes, there are many clear benefits to virtual tourism. The most obvious of these benefits is that viewers can see and experience a destination without travelling to it, which means they aren’t limited by available flights, travel logistics, safety concerns, and whether destinations are open. They don’t even have to think about time zones or weather conditions.

The other huge benefit for viewers is cost. Virtual tourism makes destinations accessible to millions of people who may otherwise not be able to afford to travel to them. Viewers are embracing the rise in virtual tourism destinations and the increasing quality and availability of virtual reality technology to see and experience things they never thought possible.

For hotels and destinations, the clear benefit is the ability to stay top-of-mind with potential customers and to highlight a location,  amenities , and offerings. Viewers who have experienced a hotel or location through virtual tourism are more likely to book a future stay, and will eagerly anticipate experiencing the activity in the “real world.”

There are also great marketing opportunities offered by virtual tourism technology. Potential guests can see a 360-degree view of a property and its amenities, rather than the flat images on a brochure or website. Experiencing a property this way increases the chances that viewers will want to visit in the future, and means that they can easily share the virtual offerings with their friends and family.

And that’s not all. Virtual tourism has a handful of other benefits:

  • The immersive experience allows the viewer to imagine themselves at a travel destination.
  • The viewer can control what they see of a destination, experiencing 360 degrees of a location.
  • All aspects of a destination can be showcased in high resolution.
  • Hotels,  Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) , and travel agencies can stand out from the crowd.
  • The impact of tourism on vulnerable destinations is reduced.

How is virtual tourism used?

There are lots of great ways for hotels and destinations to take advantage of this technology and the demand for virtual tourism, and it goes well beyond COVID-19.

CVBs have been using virtual tourism for years to highlight the unique aspects of a location, including everything from history and culture to exciting activities, local attractions, and fun trivia.

Hotels, CVBs, and local governments use 360-degree VR video to capture everything about a destination in an immersive way. This lets viewers experience a remote mountaintop, an idyllic beach, a network of hiking trails, or a buzzing city with the press of a button.

VR photography, on the other hand, captures still images and pieces them together using specialised software, creating an immersive image where a user can look in any direction. This technology is great for showing hotel interiors, artwork, museum exhibits, and anything that can be fully experienced without motion or sound.

Finally, fully immersive VR experiences let users get in on the action, interacting with the environment and discovering more through their actions. This is often a curated experience focusing on one aspect of the location, like the food scene, music, history, or art. Virtual reality yoga classes, nature walks, stargazing, and bird watching have all become popular ways for a location to show off everything it has to offer.

What are some examples of virtual tourism?

Below are a handful of our favourite virtual tourism campaigns from across the world. While each campaign offers something different, the common theme is that each one was created to give users easy, safe, and interactive access to a location.

The Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands created a virtual tourism campaign once COVID-19 began to give people an alternative option to travelling to the location.

"Early on in this global crisis, we sat and 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 insolation around the world," reads the virtual tourism segment on  Faroe Islands' website . "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 local in real time?"

Bristol From Home

Similar to the Faroe Islands, Visit Bristol (England) created an immersive experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Bristol From Home  features a collection of travellers' favourite ideas, inspirations, and resources "so that you can continue to enjoy Bristol, during social distancing measures, from the comfort of your own home." 

The website features a myriad of virtual options, including tours of a luxury Victorian ship, hot-air balloon rides, gin tastings, and much more, all in one place. 

Tour the awe-inspiring architecture of Dubai with  Dubai 360  — an immersive virtual tourism experience that allows users to travel the city through a bird's-eye view and learn all about the locations scattered throughout. 

"Our services help increase online presence, which is crucial to marketing anything in the present," reads Dubai360's website. "We aim to raise you above your competition by presenting a professional and high quality look, and improving your customers' first impressions. This service is equally useful for Hotels, Restaurants, Malls, Real Estate, or anything that can be presented visually."

Great Barrier Reef

Yes, even the  Great Barrier Reef  has virtual tourism offerings. The interactive journey is headlined by legendary broadcaster and historian, David Attenborough, who takes viewers throughout the world's largest coral reef system. This is much more than simply a replacement for Great Barrier Reef tours — it's an experience in and of itself, and it showcases just how versatile virtual tourism can be. 

What does virtual tourism mean for the hospitality industry?

Virtual tourism is one of the many keys to the travel industry’s resilience and ability to bounce back from an unprecedented time. Showcasing everything that a property or destination has to offer is a great way to build excitement for “normal” travel and keep the destination top of mind once travellers are able to vacation again. 

Virtual tourism has been lauded as a way for hotels and destinations to highlight the intangibles of their location, capturing the special feel of the place and drawing interest from travellers who might not otherwise consider it.

"A true gift of virtual travel is that we can safely and efficiently access experiences we've always wanted to access," Dennis Watkins, owner of The Magic Parlour in Chicago, said in an  article for . "People separated by oceans can look each other in the eyes and share stories, cultures, and ideas. When I do a show for a single family who logs in from London, Leeds, Norway, or Chicago, I start to see the power of the virtual space ... and I think we're just now starting to understand and leverage that power."

How can hotels capitalise on the virtual tourism trend?

To strategise how best to use virtual tourism, hotels should go back to the basics of their  hotel marketing plan . What audience are you trying to reach? What amenities, offerings, or features make your hotel and its location unique and interesting? What aspects of your property or destination do you want to highlight? The answers to these questions will form the foundation of your virtual tourism offerings.

If you have a few experiences that guests return for time and time again, these are a great place to start with your virtual tourism experience. Give viewers a tour of your on-site vineyard, sandy beach, art deco decor, or spectacular views. 

Because you can create many different virtual reality experiences, you can craft custom offerings for all of the different  types of guests  who stay at your property. A street art tour may be a perfect fit for young adult travellers, while an immersive symphony orchestra performance may be perfect for older guests. Try creating three or four experiences targeting guests who you would like to see at your hotel in the future, and follow through on the virtual experiences with custom packages,  content marketing , and targeted informational emails.

As you craft your unique virtual tourism offerings, keep in mind that this medium isn’t limited to the traditional perspective with which your guests normally see your destination. With virtual tourism, guests could fly over your property in a hot air balloon, swim in your lake without getting wet, ski down to sit by a roaring fire in your lobby, or zip-line through the trees. By adding experiences that guests may not be able to get in person, you’ll move beyond the idea of replacing "real" travel.

Additionally, hotels can use the virtual tourism boom to appeal to planners and their event attendees as well. Not all offerings have to be limited to guests. Do you have a breathtaking ballroom with a state-of-the-art A/V system? What about extensive meeting space in your beachside bungalows? Utilise  innovative 3D technology  to create a virtual experience highlighting what sets you apart and creating demand.

In other words, the sky really is the limit when it comes to virtual tourism offerings. If you can think of an experience in the real world, you can likely recreate it in some fashion through virtual reality.

Now you know all about virtual tourism!

Bookmark our blog  to stay up to date on all the trends and happenings from throughout the hospitality industry, as well as high-level overviews, industry-leading tips and advice, and much more. 

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Types of virtual tours

A virtual tour is a simulation of an existing place using sequential videos or still images. You can also use other multimedia elements such as music, sound effects, floor plans, etc. They help to recreate a realistic reflection of reality. Virtual tours help to present views of hard-to-reach places and are an interesting and great alternative to fieldwork when cost, time, or logistics are a problem for people.

There are several types of virtual tours, including:

  • Video tours
  • 360° or panoramic tours
  • More photo tours
  • Floor plan tours

There are several methods and techniques available for creating virtual tours. A good virtual tour should be able to integrate different types of data using instantly available methods. It should be able to project images from different viewpoints and scales, and should display non-visual data and be able to enhance and extend the user experience.

Virtual tours can be provided for all levels of users with flexible access and can be customized to meet the needs of users. They can give a broader view of things compared to conventional views. Virtual tours can also provide an experience that can be repeated, and this feature helps in many ways, especially in education where it can help reinforce student learning.

Virtual tours require computer knowledge to use.However, they suffer from limited navigational skills, and their lack of a tactile experience of virtual tours may not be a preferred preference for all users.They also lack the random nature of discovery, which can sometimes be less rewarding than being in a real place.In addition, virtual tours cannot convey the true three-dimensional nature of objects. Virtual tours are used in many areas such as education, entertainment, recreation, advertising, etc. Virtual tours are also integrated into websites, such as those related to tourism, and help provide more information than just text links or websites.

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  1. What Is Virtual Tourism And Is It The Future?

    Types of virtual tourism 1- Try before you buy 2- Visit real places without leaving your sofa 3- Visit places of the past 4- Visit areas that are inaccessible 5- Visit areas that do not exist Virtual tourism examples: Inspiration for your next virtual trip #1 Admire some art at the Louvre #2 Visit Ann Frank's house

  2. Virtual Tourism: The Complete Guide

    There are tons of different types of virtual tourism offerings, but there's usually a combination of virtual reality, still images, video, audio, narration, interactivity, and other multimedia formats to provide an experience of a destination that a user cannot get through images or websites alone.

  3. Exploring the World of Virtual Tourism: Advantages, Disadvantages, and

    There are several different types of virtual tourism, including: Virtual reality (VR) experiences: Virtual reality technology creates a fully immersive, computer-generated environment that allows users to explore a destination as if they were there.

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    Augmented Reality (AR) tours: AR overlays digital information onto the real world, enhancing the physical environment with additional details, facts, and interactive elements. For a deeper dive into the types of virtual tourism, visit Smart View Media. Virtual tourism examples

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    Major event companies like Eventbrite, which connects creators with a broad community, introduced new technology to move events from in-person to online, and to attract and reach new audiences.

  6. Virtual tourism can rebuild travel for a post-pandemic world

    Digital tools and content are a vital source of information for vacationists organizing their next holiday or creating a destination wish list. Whilst remote or virtual tourism has been a futuristic theme within industry forums for some time, the world today, shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, might now be ready to accept it.

  7. Best Ways to Explore the World Now

    A guided teleconference Virtual reality (VR) Augmented reality (AR) A video tour Google Arts and Culture experiences Other technology-enabled methods Viewers can use their computer or mobile device, or for the most immersive effect, use a virtual reality headset.

  8. What Is a Virtual Tour? How to Experience Exotic Locations

    Retail Store owners can make the most of 3D virtual tours to show visitors and customers the store's layout and what types of products they may find once they visit.

  9. What is a Virtual Tour in 2024? Types, Feature­­s, Development

    Freedom of movement Digital tourists are not constrained by time or physical ability - they can view the locations of a virtual tour at their own pace and get an unprecedented level of detail. For example, they can also "approach" exhibits and objects up close, seeing them with a beautiful level of detail. Greater learning opportunities

  10. VR in Tourism: A New Call for Virtual Tourism Experience amid ...

    Virtual reality has become a more common phenomenon in both destination marketing and on-site experience. The recent challenges such as overtourism and the COVID-19 pandemic have created a pressing need to examine virtual tourism as an alternative to traditional travel. This conceptual article aims at clarifying virtual experience in tourism, discussing the main antecedents and outcomes of ...

  11. Online Virtual Tours: The 69 BEST to Explore in 2024

    1. Smithsonian The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History offers a self-guided virtual tour of current and past museum exhibits. This experience includes narrated components, accessible via computer or smartphone.

  12. Virtual Tourism Explained: What, Where And Why

    There are countless different types of virtual tourism offerings, but generally, there is a combination of virtual reality, still, images, video, audio, narration, interactivity, and other multimedia formats.

  13. The Rise of Virtual Reality in Tourism: Benefits and Examples

    360-degree VR video is used by hotels and local governments to capture everything about a destination in an immersive way. With the press of a button, viewers can travel to a remote mountaintop, a beautiful beach, a network of hiking trails, or a bustling city. VR photography combines still images with specialized software

  14. What is virtual tourism and when should you make use of it?

    2 Types of virtual tourism and virtual experiences. Like everything else in life, the virtual comes in many different shapes and sizes. We can divide this into a few main categories: You can visit real places without leaving home. Google Earth has paved the way for other types of virtual tourism. Google Earth lets you explore areas around the ...

  15. Virtual Tours: High Interaction Cost, Moderate Usefulness

    Among all these websites, several types of virtual tour were commonplace: Free-movement 3D walking tours A series of 360° photos linked together (much like Google's Street View) 360° videos 2D video tours offering a guided (but noninteractive) tour of a space

  16. 5 Types Of Virtual Tourism

    5 Types Of Virtual Tourism Virtual tours may be relatively new but they have been around long enough to develop different types to offer to the public. There are types of virtual tourism that can be whipped up with just a computer or a smart device. On the other hand, some types require a complex setup of technology to produce.

  17. Types of Virtual Tours & Why Create Them

    Visit Virtual Tour vs. Video Tour Despite their similarities, virtual tours and video tours should not be confused. In a video tour, users can only see a single point of view at a time during video tours. They are also not able to view the property as they please.

  18. GlobalData reveals top five tourism types discussed in 2021

    Discussions around Virtual Tourism were related to how virtual tour has provided a new experience to the visitors through different technologies-enabled methods such as 360-degree photo,...

  19. Virtual Tourism and Consumer Wellbeing: A Critical Review ...

    Firstly, the consumer satisfaction of a virtual experience through virtual tourism is differentiating as each consumer has a different level of comfort with this new type of technology. This plays an important part in consumer's satisfaction as it relates to each aspect of consumer satisfaction.

  20. Full article: Virtual tourism experiences: adoption factors

    2.1. Virtual tourism. Virtual tourism offers tourists experiences without them needing to physically leave home (Akhtar et al., Citation 2021).It can take various forms, including virtual reality - full immersion into the digital environment, augmented reality - overlaying the real world with virtual elements, and mixed reality - where users can interact with both a physical and virtual ...

  21. Virtual Tourism: The Complete Guide

    There are tons of different types of virtual tourism offerings, but there's usually a combination of virtual reality, still images, video, audio, narration, interactivity, and other multimedia formats to provide an experience of a destination that a user cannot get through images or websites alone.

  22. 5 Different Types of Virtual Tours Explained

    1. Slideshow In its most simplified form, virtual tours can consist of slideshow presentations with features pictures to showcase the tour. In addition to having visuals, information is often provided through written text and will sometimes include audio explanations. 2. Video Virtual Tour of Yellowknife's Old Town Trailer Watch on

  23. Types of virtual tours

    A good virtual tour should be able to integrate different types of data using instantly available methods. It should be able to project images from different viewpoints and scales, and should display non-visual data and be able to enhance and extend the user experience. Virtual tours can be provided for all levels of users with flexible access ...

  24. How to Beat Math Anxiety

    Virtual Tour. Give our virtual tour a try. You can discover the beauty of campus right from your computer, phone, or tablet. Join Liz Hatfield as she shares strategies for learning math and overcoming math anxiety! Liz will share a short presentation followed by time for discussion.