The idea of virtual holidays is nothing new. In Schwarzenneger’s seminal 1990 sci-fi flick ‘Total Recall’, a travel company implanted virtual holiday memories into their clients. Being an Arnie movie, it didn’t go off without a hitch*.
The film was based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick novel, ‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’, so the concept of taking a virtual vacation has been floating around for almost half a century now.
So much for the fiction, but what about the reality?
Are we any closer to being able to book a virtual holiday? What would these holidays look and feel like? Could Marriott Hotels have the answers?
Marriott International recently unveiled these VR travel booths outside a few of its hotels in the US.
People were invited to stand in the booths, and put on an Oculus Rift VR headset to be magically transported to dream locations like Hawaii and – less exotically – downtown London. The booths also featured synthetic scents and fans to add to the sensory experience.
It’s easy to see how this kind of technology could be used to get people thinking about their next Marriott-based mini-break location. And a few UK travel agents have started using VR in the same way…
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
In August 2014, Thomas Cook started trialling VR technology in selected UK branches. Wannabe holidaymakers donned Samsung Gear VR headsets and could then choose from 12 virtual experiences, including a Manhattan helicopter trip and a boat tour around The Statue of Liberty.
And at the start of 2015, Virgin Holidays – with the help of Google Cardboard – created ‘try before you buy’ experiences for holiday destinations such as Disneyland Florida and Barbados. Guests are invited to view their VR devices in specially-themed areas, so for Barbados they’ll be able to feel the sand under their feet, the sun on their face and hear the sound of crashing waves and distant steel drums. Not something you experience all that often in Manchester.
WOULD YOU GO ON A VIRTUAL VACATION?
VR holidays, as opposed to actual travel, could offer a lot of benefits. They’d be better for the environment and much cheaper than real holidays. And they could offer ‘virtual only’ access to help protect heritage sites from damage caused by actual tourists.
As for the drawbacks of a VR holiday… well, it’s not a real holiday, is it? Yes, you’ll avoid lengthy queues and delays at the airport, but if you go on holiday to meet new people, take part in adventurous activities, and maybe top up your tan, then you might be disappointed.
THE FUTURE OF TRAVEL & TOURISM TECH
Over the next few years, we expect to see travel and tourism embracing VR technology to help potential customers choose their holiday destination.
And once travellers reach their destinations, technology will be a bigger part of the actual holiday itself. Wearables will be able to offer real-time translations and act as virtual assistants to help tourists get the most out of their visit.
As for the big question – will we be replacing our real-life holidays with virtual vacations any time soon? We think it might be a while yet…
Having said that, some experts are speculating that in a decade’s time, it might be possible to manipulate images directly into the brain to create virtual memories. Yes, just like Total Recall – but without the added drama. Unless you pay extra for it, perhaps.
* Final body count – 77.