It’s true that many of us are still stuck at home, reminiscing about swinging in a hammock and sipping a cocktail from a coconut. But tourist boards around the world have been hard at work, creating a range of imaginative virtual campaigns to keep travellers engaged and getting us excited about future trips. Here are 12 of the best “virtual tourism” campaigns to while away the sofa-bound days.
Bring a slice of the Caribbean to your living room with the fantastic #GrenadaDreaming campaign. There’s plenty to love, from positive news straight from the island – where the rum distilleries have been producing hand sanitizer and luxury hotels have been putting up key workers – to Spotify playlists that will have you feeling chilled and Caribbean in no time. When the sun comes out, it’s the perfect way to get tropical.
Sharon Bernstein, the Grenada Tourism Authority’s UK Director, says that “#GrenadaDreaming aims to provide positivity and hope in the lockdown days and beyond” – a sentiment we can all get behind!
2. The Algarve, Portugal
The Algarve is the Portugal of the popular imagination: golden sands, crashing surf breaks and enough sunshine hours to make you dig out that straw sunhat. Though you might not be able to visit in person, that’s no reason not to visit at all. A range of online videos and photos showcase the best of the region, while Visit Portugal’s #CantSkipHope campaign reminds us that Covid-19 can be an opportunity: a reason to pause, reimagine our future and dream, dream, dream. And if it’s some calming exercise you’re after, join the Campus at Quinta do Lago’s live-streamed yoga classes.
Prepping for when you can visit in person, the Algarve is also working on a “Good Practices – Covid Free” stamp to help guide travellers to safe places in the region.
Beautiful bay near Lagos town in the Algarve © Shutterstock
3. Bristol, UK
For something a bit closer to home, the Bristol from Home campaign will keep you busy for days. As well as a superlative collection of online visits and tours – including a Banksy street art trail – there are games and activities to do at home, with plenty of resources to amuse young ones, too. Bristol bingo anyone? Or perhaps you’d prefer to design a new hat for Brunel.
Visit Bristol’s Marketing Manager, Jon Chamberlain, says, “Bristol From Home is a reflection of the creative and open city that we love and is being added to all the time. Whilst we can’t welcome visitors in person just yet we are loving sharing all the creative ways that we can stay in touch, from "paying it forward" to a Bristol lockdown bingo game. Our aim is to bring a bit of the city into people’s living rooms.”
4. Virginia, USA
Virginia’s We’ll be Waiting For You campaign is helping to keep travellers dreaming. Its main video serves as a brilliant reminder to visitors of all the best reasons to visit the state, from its stunning, empty landscapes to its neat vineyards and dazzlingly starry skies. Several of the state’s attractions have introduced virtual visits and other resources to keep you busy, too, from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture to the Chrysler Museum of Art.
Rita McClenny, CEO of Virginia Tourism says, “What do you say as a tourism brand when it’s irresponsible to ask people to travel? During this extraordinary and challenging time, we wanted to offer some comfort, and encourage everyone to take a deep calming breath. All of the incredibly beautiful places throughout the world, including those in Virginia, will still be there when we get through this. The welcoming people; the dynamic, educational, attractions; the fun and laughter; and the time spent with those we love, those are all still there. For now, we are sharing our love from a distance. But we are here, waiting for that day when everyone is ready and able to travel again.”
5. Dubai, UAE
There’s always something new in Dubai, and now is no exception. Dubai 360 is an online platform with a range of panoramic video and photo content, taking in a whole host of city sights. You can pay a virtual visit to the Etihad Museum and the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, and even take a look inside the sky-kissing Burj Al Arab. Art lovers are in for a treat too: while this year’s Art Dubai fair had to be cancelled, you can view all the content online – for free – instead.
Shahab Shayan, Senior Manager for UK & Ireland International Operations, commented, "Right now, like so many of you, residents in Dubai have had to slow down, take a breath, and stand still. We have to take a moment to pause. While we can’t welcome guests at the moment, through our video, you can explore our city. Meet us, hear our words, see our treasures and discover hidden gems. We hope these places, these words, our people, will inspire you for the future, for when we can all travel and meet again."
A view over Atlantis, The Palm hotel via Dubai 360
Croatia’s Long Distance Love campaign is another that will tug at the heartstrings and leave you longing for a trip to the country’s craggy shores and turquoise seas. A range of online videos and articles cover everything from foodie highlights to scenic splendour and even a spot of virtual kayaking. Sofa sports never felt so good.
Croatia Long Distance Love Youtube video
7. Cape Town, South Africa
Over in Cape Town, meanwhile, a new campaign has been launched, titled We Are Worth Waiting For! – and here at Rough Guides, we couldn’t agree more. The campaign paints playful parallels to a long-distance relationship – from falling for the city at first sight to remembering that absence makes the heart grow fonder. “Postcards from Cape Town” – posted across Love Cape Town’s social platforms – highlight the city’s standout spots, while an inspirational video will be sure to fuel your wanderlust. And in preparation for your reunion with Cape Town, when it’s safe to travel once more, you can pin images and ideas onto your very own “vision board”.
8. California, USA
There are lots of fantastic virtual tourist campaigns across the USA, but California is – laptops down – one of the best. There’s a whole host of virtual events to choose from, while the Oakland From Home campaign offers “behind-the-scenes” virtual visits and videos showcasing everything from local music to “how-to” craft tutorials. Hop over to Santa Cruz and you’ve got the captivating Until We Cruz Again campaign, with yet more material to see you through those sofa hours. You’ll find recipes and a 2020 travel guide, and you can even tune in to watch Wednesday night sailboat races!
Santa Cruz Breakwater Lighthouse © Andrew Zarivny/Shutterstock
Hospitality is central to Greece: one in five Greeks is employed in the tourist industry, which generates as much as twenty percent of the country’s GDP. It’s not surprising then that the beautiful country is hoping to welcome tourists back to its shores as early as July, nor that it’s invested in a captivating campaign – #Greecefromhome – in the meantime. Its inspirational YouTube channel has videos ranging from morning yoga classes (complete with a stunning beach backdrop) to wine tastings, Greek recipes and even local make-up tutorials). There’s plenty to whet the appetite: Greece is the word, after all.
10. Faroe Islands
Flung in the North Atlantic between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands’ remote location can make the archipelago tough to get to at the best of times. And while any travel here is currently banned due to coronavirus, the island group has launched one of the most creative and exciting virtual tourism campaigns we’ve seen. Visitors around the world can now join a virtual tour of the islands – in real time – led by a local Faroese, who will “act as your eyes and body” for the duration. You are in full control of you guide’s movements (they will jump on demand!), who can travel on foot, by boat and even take to the skies by helicopter. Each trips starts from a different location, but all offer up an array of hauntingly beautiful volcanic landscapes. Virtual travel doesn’t come better than this.
A tour guide on the Faroe Islands
11. Alabama, USA
Sweet Home Alabama, or sweet Alabama from home? Alabama’s got a lot going for it – just watch the videos created as part of the state’s When the Time is Right campaign and you’ll be hooked. The tourist board has also dedicated 2020 as the “Alabama Year of Natural Wonders”, releasing a list of 20 of the state’s most magnificent scenic spots – browse the places that have made the list to see if you agree. Speaking about the campaign, Lee Sentell, Director of the Alabama Tourism Department commented, “We are looking forward to the days when all travellers can again enjoy the beauty of Sweet Home Alabama in person. Until then, we hope guests will welcome these virtual experiences that are available from the safety of their home”.
VisitScotland, in collaboration with Google and Scotland is Now partners, has utilized the latest technology to bring you a superb Augmented Reality (AR) app to keep you exploring at home. Portal AR allows keen travellers to roam around Scotland, with dazzling 360-degree videos and images that will make you feel like you’re on Scottish soil. Well, what are you waiting for? Step inside Edinburgh Castle, see how Scotch whisky is made or coast through the Highlands by motorbike.
Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing at VisitScotland, said: “There are so many exciting and innovative virtual experiences that are keeping potential visitors connected with Scotland during this time. The Portal AR app has been hugely popular and allows users to immerse themselves in Scottish culture with locals as their guides – giving an insight into how we live, work, invest and study throughout the country. It’s a chance to experience Scotland from the palm of your hand and the comfort of your home, where you can dream of visiting when the time is right.”
Scotland's Portal AR