By Nishant Kashikar
World Tourism Day: Given the massive tourist inflow into Australia over the recent years, 2020 was expected to be a superlative year for travel. Travel enthusiasts had their wish-lists chalked out, the tourism industry was raring to go; Several major on-ground events like the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia were also scheduled to take place this year. However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought this to a halt. While the pandemic deterred people from heading to their desired destinations, it certainly didn’t stop the travel and tourism industry from enabling travellers to do what they love the most – explore new places, albeit virtually.
Keeping in mind the varied sights, sounds and experiences that travellers look forward to, a host of diverse virtual experiences were developed to enable people to continue exploring. Courtesy this, one can now teleport themselves to a destination like Australia to bask in its outdoors, watch wildlife in their natural habitat and even learn about the local culture from the traditional owners of the land, while sitting in the comfort of their homes.
Bringing Immersive Virtual Experiences: To provide a virtual experience that is as close to experiencing a destination in person, a new series of videos with 8D audio allows avid travel enthusiasts to explore the sights, sounds and textures that are unique to Australia. Through this novel technology, which has been adopted for the first time to enhance the virtual destination experience for viewers, the videos are themed by various colours to evoke a range of feelings and emotions while showcasing the visual diversity found in Australia. With headphones on, one feels like they are hearing and experiencing the distinct sounds firsthand in a three-dimensional space. It puts the viewer bang in the middle of iconic destinations like Uluru and the Sydney Opera House, as well as provides the experience of walking alongside a wombat.
Apart from this, with 360-degree videos, travellers can traverse through a plethora of stunning landscapes and experiences. Through these videos, one can go snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef in north Queensland through clear water off a secluded island, get up close to the 12 Apostles along Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road and imagine they are flying overhead and exploring in a helicopter, or even watch the sunset over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House.
Sharing Live Action: Watching something in real-time elevates the experience to a next level and makes people feel like they aren’t missing out on the action. For instance, through the ‘Live from Aus’ broadcast that took place for an entire weekend in May, people could partake in a number of popular experiences that were taking place in Australia live. Those who tuned in online were able to virtually travel the length and breadth of the country from the Great Barrier Reef to Uluru, take BBQ lessons by MasterChef Australia’s Hayden Quinn, enjoy a guided tour of The Kangaroo Sanctuary by founder Chris ‘Brolga’ Barns, and also join a morning workout session with Chris Hemsworth’s trainers.
To ensure that travellers do not miss out on the Penguin Parade, Phillip Island Nature Parks also took to digitizing this experience that attracts tourists from all over. Launched to provide viewers with an up close and personal look at the march of the little penguins, the Live Penguin TV is a daily live stream that includes commentary delivered by experts as well as the park rangers.
With such a massive collection of experiences to catch up on, these virtual getaways are sure to keep travellers exploring from the safety of their homes during the upcoming holiday season as well, and also gives them much more to look forward to when they are ready to jet set again.
The author is Country Manager- India & Gulf, Tourism Australia. Views expressed are the author’s own.