Before COVID-19 spread across the planet and brought international travel to a halt, trapping people inside their homes for months at a time, and making the thought of engaging with outsiders a terrifying business, running live tours was a thriving industry.
In tourism hotspots all over the world, various businesses fought to associate tourists with locals who ran in-person tours for small groups of people, offering experiences that could not be accomplished without the skills of the person who lived there.
Then the pandemic struck, and tour guides decided to carry their experience online.
The best virtual tours are not the ones that take you across a 360 image of a site! The tours that come to the top are those that have professional guides to speak to you about the experience, too.
Already, as many nations and some U.S. states are starting to loosen lockdown regulations, interest in virtual stuff is waning, and we’re all dreaming of going back to business as normal. And yet: some of us are still a long way from guiding as we were. And the industry we’re going to return to will be changed.
Below, we want to give you some reasons why learning how to create virtual tours will help your in-person guiding business.
What’s a Virtual Tour?
Let’s talk about what we mean by “virtual tour” or “online experience” before we get started. There’s no sharp and quick description, so it’s a category that’s being invented every day. A virtual tour aims to bring an online travel trip to a destination without getting there.
It could be any of these things:
- A walking tour is now provided using still photographs or captured footage, with a guide narrating to a live online audience, using video conferencing applications such as Zoom or Gotomeeting.
- A food tour company bringing food to the customer through UPS, and then follow up with an online session talking about the products.
- Recorded short videos of the destination
- A museum developing to display its collection online, with curators or lecturers giving commentaries.
Reasons Why You Might Want to Try Virtual Tours
Are you doing something more important right now?
You may be! If you’re working hard, or you’re using this opportunity to dig deeper into research or get out of the rat race to spend time with your family, so maybe you’re not going down this path.
After Covid-19, the travel industry might look very different.
Who knows if strangers from all over the world want to share a motorcoach with each other? Who knows when foreign travelers will once again fly outside their borders? We see modern obstacles—emotional, mental, and physical—to travel as we used to. Virtual tours are a way to build connections with current clients and give more to visitors who won’t travel physically any time soon.
The skills you learn will serve you well, beyond just virtual tours.
There are many technical skills involved in various forms of virtual touring: video production, digital marketing, website design, presentation development, e-mail list creating, and the list goes on. You may want to provide a simple version or delve into some of the more nuanced aspects. Anyway, you will have the skills that will be valuable for the potential growth of your guiding company.
Some people are making money out of this at the moment.
There have been some amazing success stories from a number of guides or small tour operators who have poured their hearts into this new endeavor. It takes a marketing understanding and a system to offer these encounters, so if you’re curious, it’s a path that might bear fruit.
It’s an opportunity to dig deeper and plan new material for the tour.
If you’re doing the best when you have a goal, then why not use this time to create a “virtual” tour by researching and reading new content, and then intend on bringing it to an in-person experience as travelers return to your region?
Virtual travel helps you to interact with your guests before and during the journey.
If virtual tourism is doing something right now, it’s getting a lot of people to think differently about how online and in-person environments can better interact. It’s not a matter of either/or, but rather of how you can use both of them to broaden what you sell:
- Host virtual meetings until the arrival of your group
- Give customers a preview of what they’re going to see ahead of time
- Enable those who can’t travel to get a taste of the trip
- Sell the tours to prospective clients by providing “teasers”
- A follow-up to the tour with continuing online meetings, a sense of friendship and loyalty to you
This is an opportunity to expand your future client base for a tour.
As so many of us lose our “usual” clients, maybe for a long time, it’s worth thinking about how you can sell these tour experiences to different types of customers. Your tour topics may cater to guests who do not normally travel to a destination but are still interested in your material. Growing your online presence (and hence your reputation) is vital as a reference, whether you have a business or not.