*(Photo: Jan Wullimann)
Sophie Bennett from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and Jan Wullimann from Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt Germany, discovered some of the ways travel companies have been forced to change their business models.
Travel operators are targeting armchair travellers as they look for ways to recover from Australia’s international travel ban.
Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham’s advice to “holiday at home” saw Devour Tours come up with virtual “foodie” experiences.
The award-winning culinary adventure company normally specialises in private and group tours of Europe, but is now offering 10 online tours.
The company’s marketing director, Rachel Schneidmill, concedes she was “skeptical at first.”
“… but what I came to learn is that there are different ways to experience another culture and if you can’t be in the location eating the food, at least you can replicate it [at] home with someone who is dying to tell you how special it is.”
The virtual experiences include live cooking courses such as “The Spanish Paella Experience”, ‘”The Vermouth Experience” and “Discover England’s History through Ten Dishes’.
Senior Lecturer in Tourism at the University of Technology Sydney Dr David Beirman, believes virtual tourism could be here for the long haul.
“I really think that consumers will not accept cramming into planes, trains, tour coaches and cruise ships like sardines,” he said. “The demand for extra space is likely to see price increases for many tourism and hospitality services.”
In Germany, cultural holidays specialist Gebeco has also added free virtual travel to its catalogue.Press officer Alicia Kern, said the idea of offering virtual travel followed the cancelled of “a special trip to France”.
“We wanted to make it up to our customers. That’s why we had a virtual event that spread across three evenings. We reenacted the whole trip, so to say.”
Virtual tours are also supporting domestic travel industries by keeping hosts and guides in employment. “Virtual travel is a way of [tour guides] staying active, and continuing their passion of showing foreign countries to customers [while earning] some money on the side,” Ms Kern said.
Dr Beirman says that while virtual tours may not be a substitute for really experiencing another culture, they may be enough to whet the appetite.
“I would see [the experiences] as a means to build up a desire to experience the real thing once regulations and restrictions are lifted.”
*Quotes from Ms Alicia Kern are translated from German.