No doubt, Covid-19 pandemic hits tourism really hard. Nonetheless, some tour operators refuse to give up just like that and decide to launch virtual tours. Atourin, a tour operator offering destinations within Indonesia is one of them.
I wasn’t interested at first as I believe the sensation won’t be the same as I do the trip myself. Nonetheless, there were several members from my Whatsapp traveler group who wanted to join as they miss traveling so badly that it can’t wait until the pandemic is over.
The destination I joined was Natuna Regency in Riau in the province of Sumatera, which is famous for nature lovers offering spectacular views of sea, beaches and waterfall, presented by a local guide living there.
I’m not here to tell you stories about Natuna, but rather tell my experience in virtual tour for the first time and some facts you need to know before taking it.
Remember, when the tour is on, you’re at home in front of the computer, laptop or smartphone. So, for sure the meeting point is not on the island. Instead, it was on an app, like Zoom, that you can download on Playstore. Otherwise, choose join through browser. I did the second.
GOOGLE MAP, PANORAMA VIEW
The guide showed the island on Google Map, from marking some stops we will (virtually) visited until the close up looks on each destination with 360-degree panorama view. Just like how tours should be presented, he explained the history, points of interest followed by related images.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WATCHING ON NAT GEO AND JOINING THE TOUR VIRTUALLY??
By joining a virtual tour, you can (virtually) see who’s talking on the small square on top right side of your screen. On a TV program, you may see the narrator or not. Except if the program is presented by a particular host owning his or her own show.
The best part is that you can ask questions on the chat box on the right side (depending on your setting and app you use), that will be answered on Q&A session after the tour.
On that day, a tour member asked very good questions about the internet connection on the island and which provider works the best. Sometimes, a guide may forget telling you this.
VIRTUAL TOUR FINISHES WITHIN A COUPLE OF HOURS
When a real tour can take days, a virtual tour can finish within a couple of hours. Of course, you don’t have to walk, take a bus or plane, take pictures on nice spots, sleep to continue the journey next day etc.
IT COSTS YOU MUCH LESS
The cost of the tour with Atourin is in a shoestring, 2 persons for Rp. 50.000 and 5 people for Rp. 100.000. As you can see, the more the better deal. Finally, a group member could finally persuade 5 people to join, so I only paid Rp 20.000. No harm at all. The money you need to spend in real life is more than Rp. 5.000.000.
I don’t know how much a virtual tour in your country, but it must be cheaper than a real one.
May be some of you ask why not for free. Here I remind you. Virtual tour is made to survive financially during the outbreak and feed freelance tour guides while not having flow of income. Moreover, it takes an effort and time to set up a virtual tour, create a script, etc.
In the eye of tour operators and travel agencies, it’s a very good way for brand awareness and promote their programs in the future.
DONATION FOR TOURISM
By paying some (little, I think) amount of money to participate in any virtual tour, you are helping tourism industry and their teams to survive during the outbreak.
BUCKET LIST OR NOT
It doesn’t take a genius to know that the joy of virtual tour won’t be the same as the real tour on a chosen destination. You can’t bathe under the sun, swim in the ocean and feel the breeze.
But it gives you ideas where (not) to go next. Images and words on brochures or the story from mouth to mouth can be so tempting that sometimes you ignore about reality you could face when you’re on location. May be, you love the picture of the sea view but you don’t like swimming in the ocean and there’s nothing much to do other than that. Therefore, you can decide whether you take it as your next holiday trip or skip it for other destinations that suit you better.
In the end, you have your own taste and are not obligated to like what other people like.
MY VERDICT: VIRTUAL TOUR, YAY OR NAY?
As a traveler, I won’t be obsessed with virtual tours, yet I may take it for the second time and on to kill the time. But not within a few days or next week. It gives me broader knowledge from a legitimate source, which is a licensed tour guide, and it’s a great way to gather and get new acquaintances while being at home, though I still can wait until we’re all free from this virus.
However, I’m not saying that virtual tours don’t sell well. On virtual tour to Natuna, there were 41 participants. So, basically people are pretty excited about it. An added value of joining the tour? No other than you’re doing a good deed.
Have you been joining virtual tours and what do you think about it? Will you be a regular customer in the future or just wait until Covid-19 is vanished from mother earth?