The coronavirus pandemic effectively brought the world to a standstill and did something that even two world wars didn’t achieve – halt international travel. With movement restrictions forcing people to cancel vacations, trips and leisure travels, interest in virtual tours spiked.It become one of the 2020s top Google searches.
As the world went into lockdowns, the team at Globetrotter VR had already been designing immersive travel experiences. Once the pandemic hit, its Founder, an award-winning Director of virtual travel experiences, Anastaia Pash, realised that Globetrotter VR could help millions of people who were now grounded, to keep exploring the world through interactive virtual tours, as well as provide a new source of income to travel businesses suffering from the pandemic They designed their virtual tours to satisfy both casual and passionate travellers, by offering them to experience destinations with the help of professional tour guides and virtual reality, from the comfort of their couch.
To help you dip your toes into virtual travel, the company offers a free virtual experience of one of the most famous shipwrecks in history; the Zenobia. The ferry, which is dubbed the ‘Titanic of the Mediterranean’, sank to a depth of 42 meters on her maiden voyage in 1980, taking her estimated £200 million worth of cargo down to the seabed off the coast of Cyprus. Decades later, it has turned into an artificial reef, hosting tens of fish species including kingfish, grouper, barracuda and octopus and has been one of the most popular spots for scuba divers in the world. If you’ve been wanting to try diving but never got around to it, this is the perfect opportunity to do so! No special gear, or training required.
What Do Globetrotter VR Tours Look Like?
From far, Globetrotter VR offers the same thing that tens of other online ‘virtual tour’ services do. But once you experience their tours, you will immediately know the difference. You will be pleasantly surprised at the effortless blend of innovativeness, playfulness and sophistication that the company espouses.
One of the company’s most notable selling points is the fact that its tours are viewable across all devices and not just via VR headsets. The tours are powered by Web VR technology, which optimizes the VR experience to fit browser specifications. No app downloads or extra gadget are necessary. All you have to do is pay for your tour, log on to the GlobetrotterVR portal and you’re good to go.
With that said, Globetrotter VR does something that very few, if any, other virtual travel companies do. All their tours are conducted by local tour guides hired after demonstrating deep knowledge of the locations. Even better, anyone can apply to be a tour guide even if they have no experience creating virtual tours. The company handles all the technical parts, and does not charge their guides for the production of the tour. This is a refreshing policy, especially at a time when tour guides have lost over 90% of their usual business.
The company’s virtual tours fall under two main categories; On-demand and Live Guided Tours. The former are pre-recorded and are available to watch at your convenience, similar to Neflix. While the latter are conducted in real-time which allows guests to converse with the tour guide, get them to clarify things, and feel as if they are on a real-life walking tour. Live tours run on a regular basis and can also be booked for private groups.
It is a common belief that culture, unlike cities and beaches and wildlife, cannot (and should not) be ‘seen’ but experienced. For many people, the concept of virtual cultural tours is controversial. .
However, Globetrotter VR has shown that VR cultural tourism can allow us to experience cultures,, and affordably so. The tour of Barcelona, for instance not only showcases the physical places like the Felip Neri square or the iconic Pont del Bisbe but also sheds light on parts of the city’s culture. The tour guide who is a local – gives insightful cultural tips ranging from the key local phrases, to the do’s and don’ts of visiting the city throughout the experience.
The Globetrotter VR’s modern approach to cultural tourism, built on the reverence of local norms and respecting the local heritages, is commendable and can be seen as a welcome change from the usual insolent ways of many large tour operators. Further, their belief that working with local guides, artists and showcasing local talent will surely resonate with eco-conscious travellers all around the world.
Although initially considered a “passing cloud” virtual tourism is seemingly here to stay. Apart from increasingly depressed incomes, on-going travel restrictions, the other contributor to the industry’s growing popularity is the increasing environmental consciousness about the need to reduce tourism’s carbon footprint.
Globetrotter VR with their immersive, culturally conscious, 360° walk-throughs of the world’s top destinations, as well as lesser-known gems, will undoubtedly be the trailblazer in this new market.
Despite being a relative newcomer, the company has accomplished a lot in a short space of time. They have an ever-growing library of curated virtual tours, exploring cultural European hubs such as Barcelona and Budapest, and more exotic destinations such as Dubai. The start-up has caught the attention of several governments and large travel corporates, who are looking to reinvent themselves post-COVID using virtual reality. They have also been covered by the international press, including Fox News and CBS. There are over a dozen of tours in the pipeline for this year, including to popular destinations like Venice, New York, Edinburgh and Paris. This is one to keep an eye on.