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Virtual Tours Give Destinations a Path to Post-Covid Events

By Victoria Copans

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have been hard-hit as events and travel plans around the world continue to be canceled. Some are now pivoting to reinvent themselves and convey their sales pitches to planners in a different way: virtually.

 

The ability to attend live events and visit venues and locations has been severely limited due to Covid-19. Not only have events been suffering cancelations and postponements, but organizing future events has also become more complicated since site inspections are a crucial part of the planning process.

Much of the industry has had to pivot to virtual, and destinations will need to adapt their approach to live events as recovery begins. Even though countries like China and Germany are resuming some events, attendance and international travel will not be back to normal for some time yet.

To combat this, destinations are getting creative and joining the virtual trend to continue to provide value to the industry and promote themselves to meeting planners while in-person visits remain challenging.

Here's how some destinations are making an effort to stay relevant amid the pandemic and help keep the industry running through remote site visits.

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The Faroe Islands as the Locals Experience It

Visit Faroe Islands, the Scandinavian archipelago’s tourism agency, recently set up a remote tourism experience "for those who had to cancel or postpone their trip to the Faroe Islands — and for everyone else stuck in insolation around the world."

The idea is that locals explore the islands while with a GoPro-like video camera, and people are able to tune in live to tour the islands virtually, and even control the tour guide remotely. This virtual tool was also used to offer remote site inspections on the islands last week when IMEX Frankfurt was supposed to take place.

The Meeting Partners Network in the Faroe Islands organized various site inspections over the course of several days led by local venues and DMOs. Eventprofs were able to access the live-streams on any device and be shown around hotels and meeting spaces as well as the natural attractions of the islands from the comfort of home.

The Poland Convention Bureau Becomes a Digital Guide

The Poland Convention Bureau is similarly putting together resources for planners until they're able to travel again — although they're taking a slightly different approach. Poland: Online Site Inspection isn't offering live tours of local destinations, but its aim as "a comprehensive online guide for meeting planners" is to consolidate information on exhibition centers and meeting venues in nine cities throughout Poland.

The guide also includes a welcome letter from the president of the Polish Tourism Organization, Robert Andrzejczyk, who seeks to reinforce the appeal of Poland as an event destination: "Official international statistics confirm that Poland is a safe and friendly country. Every year it hosts more and more meetings dedicated to culture, science, politics, sports and business."

Planners are able to access the guide at any time and search both by city and venue type, including Congress & Exhibition Venues and Conference Hotels suitable for different numbers of attendees. The search then generates a list of applicable venues, along with a description of each and a link to their website for further information.

London Convention Bureau Acts as a Virtual Walkthrough Hub

The London Convention Bureau launched London’s Virtual Site Visits, a directory of interactive videos and guided virtual tours of some of London’s most iconic sites and venues including ExCel London, both Buckingham Palace and Windsor Palace, the CCT Venues, and a host of others.

Some tours like ExCel London’s allow prospective planners to peruse the different rooms and areas through a map of interactive videos. Others, like Buckingham Palace, take you through a guided tour of each notable room, where you can pivot the camera 360 degrees to check out the space from all angles.

NYC Delivers a Directory of Virtual Tours

On the other side of the Atlantic, venues are also relying on virtual tools to continue to connect with planners booking future events. NYC & Company, the city's official DMO, has launched a Virtual NYC Site Tours page that keeps track of all the venues around the city offering virtual site inspections to eventprofs.

Currently, there are over 75 venues throughout the city's five boroughs offering some kind of virtual experience to planners, which are divided into two categories: event spaces and hotels. Most of the virtual tours and experiences are available on-demand with few live options. They range from videos on the reconstruction project at the Javits Center to 3D, 360-degree virtual tours of event spaces and hotel rooms to remote visits of city attractions.

Atlanta Takes You on a Virtual Journey

The Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau has created an immersive virtual experience called 360ATL — which is available as both a web and a VR app — to allow eventprofs to visit and explore the city. This tour takes things a step further — in addition to providing tours of event venues like the Georgia World Congress Center in the heart of the city, it enables the viewer to visit the city in an intuitive way by starting the tour at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport airport, where most visitors would begin their trip.

From the airport, planners can look around to see what hotels, dining options, and attractions are nearby. They can find out more information about each hotel or attraction by clicking on the corresponding icon, and they also have the option to visit the visual tour for each location. The experience covers five neighborhoods, in addition to the airport, and gives planners a better idea of the layout of the city and the distance between different venues.

 

IN CONCLUSION

The events industry is starting to look towards the resumption of live events, although a return to some semblance of normalcy will be challenging and slow. In order for planners to begin organizing and booking events for the end of the year and into 2021, site inspections need to be happening now.

By leveraging virtual tools, venues and destinations are stepping up to allow eventprofs to explore potential options from home and assist them in getting ready for future events — which will be essential until international travel and events are once again permitted and deemed safe.

about the author

Victoria Copans
Victoria Copans is a Vermont-based writer, editor, and translator who's been planning events since grade school. She worked at an events agency before transitioning to writing about the industry.
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