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Virtual Reality is turning out to be the new frontier of travel. Accessible, affordable and not calling for extensive planning, what’s not to love?

Words by: Ayesha Reza Rafiq

Possibly the best thing to happen to travel since the advent of the jet engine, Virtual Reality (VR) is providing a visual medium to showcase destinations and experiences that are far more vivid and realistic than traditional media.

VR has offered the travel trade a much-needed revolution in marketing destinations to would-be travellers. And the tourism industry is sitting up and taking note. Many travel agencies now feature VR headsets in their offices as an inspirational shopping tool for prospective customers.

The technology involved is also evolving to meet the industry’s needs. Lower-cost cameras and headsets that enable users to create their own VR videos are rapidly taking the concept into the blogosphere – which is commonly acknowledged as the primary driver of tourism promotion in this day and age.

For travellers considering a trip to China or the Antarctic for example, the opportunity to ‘look before you leap’ by experiencing the wonders of the Great Wall of China or Antarctica’s stark beauty can be a virtual game changer.

From walking through a choice of hotel rooms to scuba diving and experiencing the thrills of a hot-air balloon ride, VR travel is offering travellers more control over their destiny while enabling hotels and destinations to sell their products and services more convincingly – for instance, by providing a range of services from enticing clients to upgrade to a premium room to encouraging them to sample the sights and activities on offer.

VR travel has the potential to transform tourism as we know it. You could watch the sunrise by an exotic beach in the morning, stroll around street markets in the evening, experience the power of a tornado, swim with sharks and visit Machu Picchu… all without breaking into a sweat!

For those looking to experience VR travel, a number of options are now available – and like everything else, some are better than others.

YouVisit is among the most popular VR tour apps currently on offer. With a lifetime too short to experience everything amazing our world has to offer, the YouVisit app is dedicated to VR travel and features thousands of travel destinations, college cam—-puses, businesses, hotels and restaurants.

Discovery VR, the virtual reality studio from Discovery Networks, specialises in offering extreme experiences such as scuba diving in shark-infested waters and zip-lining over remote canyons.

Jaunt VR is a newer VR studio that offers high-quality videos of exotic locations like Nepal, Machu Picchu and Jerusalem to name a few, while Ascape focusses on inspiring travellers by featuring more than 100 virtual tours of gorgeous destinations and offering a variety of travel experiences.

And if you’re seeking something a little more out of the ordinary, what’s life without a little weirdness in it? Perhaps best for avid naturalists, Marshmallow Laser Feast’s VR helmets allows users to see what a forest would look like if they were a dragonfly, an owl or a frog. This means that while all our lives we’ve seen things in three-colour wavelengths, users of the VR helmet can see the world the way dragonflies do – in 12-colour wavelengths!

Medical students will find The Body VR useful as it takes viewers inside the human body to travel through the bloodstreams, enter cells and much more.

Ever wanted to visit Chernobyl? The Chernobyl VR project walks users through the area’s Exclusion Zone with a Geiger meter in hand to check radiation levels while hearing stories about those who suffered from one of history’s worst nuclear catastrophes.

Service innovations such as Virtual Reality room service that allows hotel guests to order virtual-reality experiences complete with a VR headset and headphones to their room.

No matter how one sees it, Virtual Reality is revolutionising the way we travel, and bringing richness, diversity and accessibility within arm’s reach.

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