During the period of Covid pandemic, almost the whole world was under lockdown. Our tourism sector is facing a tourist crisis physically. Because all borders were shut down and every tourist sports were closed for the time being, so people stayed at home. They are having a tough time. According to the Singapore Tourism Board, tourist arrivals in Singapore in June 2019 was around 1.55 million and in June 2020 around 2170 only. The tourist arrival rate was down by almost 99.9 per cent.
On October 13, 2020, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that international airlines were carrying only about 10 per cent of normal levels. According to IATA's estimate, Covid-19 affected travel and tourism, putting more than 41 million jobs at risk across the whole travel and tourism sector. This scenario is everywhere on earth. While traveling to different parts of the world is almost impossible, there is still an opportunity for visiting the world's most amusing places. It's a technology that spread its hand out for us to enjoy many things abroad by introducing virtual tourism widely.
A virtual tour consists of a sequence of videos or still images on an existing location. It may also mix up with other multimedia elements like sound effects, music, narration, text, etc. The medium we use for virtual tourism is VR. It is a hybrid concept. It combines both virtual reality (VR) and tourism. In short, virtual tourism is facilitated by a tourism experience where we travel to any tourism destination of the world but without travelling anywhere. This means without going to any destination we can visit a place. This sort of tourism gives us an experience, where actually we don’t have to travel anywhere on earth.
Virtual tourism may be in many different styles based on technological capability. The simplest form of virtual tourism is showing a video of a tourism destination with details, and ‘tourist’ watches the video, utilising their senses of hearing and sight.
More advanced forms of virtual tourism include being drowned in an environment through a headset or a simulator. They may use various props, users may be required to wear gloves, and there may be additional sensations such as movement, feeling and smell.
There are few world-famous virtual tourism apps and sites like Wonders of India initiative, Google Earth VR, Outsite VR, Boulevard, Everest VR, NASA's Mars 2030, the Blu, etc., where we can easily visit any place through VR.
Pandemic took our valuable times away but it provided us lots of opportunity and forced us to think about new things and create new ones. But technology alone can't start the tourism and travel industry. It can only help till the pandemic passes, and it will. Some of the innovations that have emerged this year will transform the way we travel tomorrow. These innovations will never expire.
Actually, the growth of virtual or online activities expands far beyond the reach of the tourism industry. People buy houses without actually seeing them in person, they acquire a feeling of a place with a virtual tour, and it's sufficient for now. Moreover, people are visiting museums via virtual tours and also teachers are using virtual realities to enhance the educational experience of their students.
Shikder Mohammad Jakaria
is a student of the University of Dhaka