The pandemic outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 has profoundly affected the global leisure and tourism industry, with international travel bans affecting over 90% of the world’s population. Widespread restrictions on community mobility have resulted in a projected decline of international tourism arrivals up to 30%.
The rapid development of Virtual Reality (VR) and its effectiveness in the simulation of real-life experiences provides an opportunity for virtual holiday making especially when actual travel is not possible.
Due to the nature of traveling that facilitates the spread of the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and national governments imposed the closure of borders resulting in a disruption of tourism activities worldwide .
However, the wish to travel and escape from everyday life still prevails, with novel possibilities offered by information and communication technologies (ICTs). Immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR) enable users to travel virtually using computer generated images or videos, simulating real-life experiences and offering a travel alternative.
Researchers demonstrate the potential of VR to be used as a virtual imagery tool to induce travel experiences and potentially substitute travel. Political or environmental instabilities may force customers to make new decisions and adapt their traveling style to the circumstances by using VR for instance . In order to enhance its power, it is imperative to add economic value to it. It is up to marketeers to recognize and use the possibility to create virtual reality content and provide a realistic preview of the destination which eventually translates into a purchase intention. A challenge is to plan activities that take advantage of the technology, even though its used to substitute travel while maintaining the attractiveness of actual traveling and encouraging wanderlust.
Researchers are continuously investigating how this technology can provide real value and purpose to the tourism industry with an aim to promote strategic investment and management. They think that the increase will be sustained, especially with the Gen Z and millennials in coming years, as they move into higher-paid jobs, and marketers take them more seriously as a consumer group. They will not feel alienated by the technology.
Italy, during the pandemic period, has unveiled a number of immersive projects to highlight the country's potential as a travel destination. For exemple "Gran virtual tour" is a digital journey along the entire peninsula: explore the beauty of Italian cultural heritage online from home through virtual tours of theaters, archives and libraries, museums and state archaeological parks to discover audiences, foyers and stages, of the precious paper heritage and collections rich in known works and many masterpieces yet to be discovered | #I stay at home