Our family has a tradition: Every year, my partner’s parents come to visit in December or January. It’s mostly to spend time with us, but if we’re being honest, it’s also partly because we live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Sydney, Australia. We don’t mind. Every visit is an opportunity to play tourist in our own city and show them around. However, this is 2020. Travel is not the same this year, and neither is our family tradition. So how do you travel without actually travelling?
Welcome to virtual tours.
What is a Virtual Tour?
Virtual tours have been a massive hit in 2020, thanks in a large part to the COVID-19 lockdowns. When lockdowns first started in early 2020, many popular venues and institutions were offering virtual tours via social media. Museums and zoos from all around the world were quick to set up streaming accounts. Some places, like museums, opened their virtual doors for kids learning from home. Zoos and aquariums were looking for new ways to stimulate their customers and their animals; the penguins at Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, became an internet sensation with a video of their ‘field trip’ around the empty aquarium. We may not be able to travel but our favourite tourist destinations want to keep our travel bugs stimulated.
As the travel plans remain in a holding pattern, more and more destinations have been turning to virtual tours. Did you have travel plans to see the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland? Take a peek now with the UK National Trust’s virtual tour here. Perhaps you had plans to chase the Northern Lights. Lights over Lapland is sharing live streams and footage from Abisko National Park in Sweden. Maybe you simply wish to float around the city and explore like a local. A new group called Virtual Trips will connect you with locals offering live tours around their cities—like this Holiday Special Christmas tour in New York City. Many of these options are perfect for sharing with loved ones with who you had planned to travel. It is uplifting to know we have options to fly, even without wings.
Create a Custom Tour
Our idea is to personally create a ‘virtual tour’ of our lovely city and exchange it with loved ones. There are a few ways we can do this:
- Live Video Call: Great for having an instant connection with the opportunity to chat while exploring. The downside is how much data you will use up during the call.
- Social Media Live Stream: Allows you to share with a group rather than one person. However, you will still need to consider your data on the phone.
- Sharing a fixed video: Can be shared via platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or YouTube. Record the video while you are out and about, then upload when you have access to Wi-Fi. You sacrifice the personal interaction for affordability, depending on your data plans.
Each of these is easy to use and, in most cases, is already set up and ready to go. All you need to do is consider what to share.
- What is your favourite place to share? For Sydney, there is a park on the water’s edge at the northern end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It looks directly over the Harbour, across to the Sydney Opera House, the CBD, and along the water in both directions. It is a great place to catch both the image of Sydney and the quiet calm of a local respite.
- What is your favourite mode of transport? Hong Kong has iconic trams to move around the bustling city. Locals affectionately call them “Ding Ding”, and you can easily guess why. Share a ride of a Ding Ding, giving the experience with the sights.
- What are you eating today? This may seem a little unfair for your intended audience because NOTHING compares with eating delicious food. It’s one of the few things technology has not mastered. However, you can still take them on a tour through food markets, a stop at your favourite cafe, or even simply watch you cooking at home. Top of my wishlist is a video of my cousin making Maltese pastizzi—even if only to catch a glimpse of his secret ingredient!
When you are out and about with your video camera, please remember to be safe and follow any COVID protocols in your area. It is easy enough to keep your tour to outdoor areas, even in cold weather. Tourist hotspots are often in public spaces so maintain social distancing.
This is the year for creative thinking. For thinking outside our usual boundaries and continuing to expand our horizons. We still have the desire to travel, and to share our travel experiences with others. Just like our travel options, we are thinking of new ways to do this. Whichever option you take, sharing a virtual tour with loved ones is a great way to cross our borders until we can do it freely again.