will a virtual tour replace an actual tour?

No. Never. Not a chance. Virtual tours will never replace actual tours.

12 months ago, this probably would have been my answer. But today, I’m not so sure. With international travel banned and interstate travel limited, exploring the virtual world may be the best option we have.

Globally, Google searches for ‘Virtual tour’ more than quadrupled in March 2020.

So what are people searching for and could it possibly be better than real life?

Nothing beats real-life… or does it? 

A cooking class in Cambodia; visiting a tobacco farm in Cuba; or snorkelling in the Bahamas. There is nothing like a real experience with real people in real places with real smells and things you can touch and feel. But 2020 has taught us that we can’t take those things for granted. 

When the world eventually returns to ‘normal’ and we can resume those real-life experiences, I think we will embrace them like never before. It won’t happen overnight, but we will eventually swap the slippers for the hiking boots and head out on adventures. And we will love it.

Thankfully, in the meantime, companies and organisations around the world are opening up to being virtually visited.  

What a virtual tour may lack in a fully sensory experience, it can make up for in exclusive access. Often real-life tours are limited by everything from opening hours, the time of year, staff availability and safety concerns. But when you take that experience virtual, these limitations are lifted. You can see the behind the scenes and explore the otherwise impossible. When we captured a behind the scenes virtual tour of the Adelaide Town Hall, we were granted access to areas normally restricted to the public. You can visit the CEO’s Office, get up close to the Town Hall Organ and (my personal favourite) see inside the Bell Tower while the bell ringers work in unison. 

Virtual tours open possibilities

With more galleries, museums and places of interest opening their minds (and budgets) to being visited virtually, the advantages go well beyond 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barriers have gone. It was never just a pandemic that was keeping people from visiting and experiencing these places. It was disability, economic disadvantage, a preference for quiet spaces, a fear of flying or crowds, chronic disease and the list goes on. But when COVID-19 hit and we all turned to virtual experiences, these groups also benefited in a massive way.

What are people searching for? 

A big spike in searches for virtual tours in March 2020 got us curious about what people were actually looking for. So let’s take a look at the top 3 results.

1. the Vatican Museum

2. The Louvre

And a bit closer to home

3. the National Gallery of Victoria

Have We seen the peak of Virtual tours?

Perhaps we won’t reach the high numbers like we did in March 2020, but I’m excited that there are more of these experiences now available for everyone to enjoy. My hope is that once we return to ‘normal’, we don’t forget that there will still be important groups in our society who really benefit from virtual experiences.

TL;DR (aka, in summary)
Google searches for virtual tours quadrupled in 2020. People were in lockdown and looking for something to do, but lockdown won’t last forever. Once COVID-19 is a distant memory, we should still create virtual tours for those in our society who benefit from cheaper, easier and digital access to places and experiences around the world.

If you know somewhere or something that should have a virtual tour, let us know. We are always on the hunt for exciting and interesting places to capture!

Laura Tolson

Co-Founder of Lateral Vision

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