As the concept of the metaverse gained momentum, many brands found themselves in a race to establish their presence in this new universe. But amidst the frenzy, it becomes crucial to question the motives behind such pursuits. Does it truly align with the brand, its business objectives, and future aspirations? Or is it merely a fleeting trend to chase after?
These questions arise whenever we encounter transformative tech tools that reshape our connection with the world. In recent times, a city has taken a step further and created its own virtual world: a place where key landmarks have been recreated, offering virtual tours for tourists and facilitating engaging experiences like concerts, sporting events, and local design shopping… Meet the city embracing the multiverse.
Virtual Helsinki: a bold initiative in an innovative city
Virtual Helsinki is an online digital experience in which, only with VR glasses, you can visit the city, see its main sights, and feel — even if not with the usual cold weather of the Finnish capital — what it’s like to walk through its streets.
A project created in high-quality 3D for VR by Zoan, takes digital tourism to another level, enabling different actions, such as shopping, training, concerts, simulations and virtual citizenship for example. This is all part of a larger plan to make even more complex interactions with the city possible through the virtual world.
Helsinki developed the city tour but continued thinking about actions that would actually bring a piece of what exists in the world to virtual reality, enabling deeper interactions and allowing tourists to move freely.
Visitors can tour Helsinki as it was in the early 20th century or enter a virtual store and purchase Finish design products, which will be delivered to their homes by post,explained the CEO of ZOAN in an interview with Tomorrow City.
Helsinki has been a pioneering city in the development of technological solutions, collaborating with the scientific community, companies, and residents in the quest to renew and develop. Chosen as the most “smart” destination in Europe in 2019 (European Capital of Smart Tourism), the city creates a new possibility for the future of travel and becomes a reference for the whole world.
The future of travel and the metaverse of cities
When we think about technological progress, we often envision a positive future. It seems plausible to create metaverses of cities and virtual realities with the right resources and partners, doesn’t it?
However, if we pause to contemplate creating virtual realities as a project for the future of the tourism industry, we must consider various factors.
While visiting a city virtually can be fascinating and provide entertainment, it offers limited possibilities for engagement. Considering that it is much easier to explore a city online than in the physical world, we cannot rely solely on initial excitement. It is crucial to engage people and ensure the recurring return of visitors.
The primary objective should be to understand why people would repeatedly return to digital experiences and utilize the virtual city more frequently.
This is precisely where Helsinki sets an example. By combining the efforts of valuable partners, leveraging cutting-edge technologies, and involving key players in the travel sector, Helsinki has successfully created authentic and positive experiences within the virtual world. Such endeavors could bring about real shifts in people’s perception and understanding of travel.
Online vs Offline: Will real-world tourism lose ground?
Imagining the profound impact that technology already has on our industry, the first question that comes to mind is: Will travel in the physical world eventually become obsolete?
Attempting to answer this question proves to be quite challenging, and we believe it may not be the right question to ask. As human beings, we have an innate love for firsthand experiences. We witnessed the exponential demand for travel following the period of global mobility deprivation during the pandemic, serving as a recent example.
Nevertheless, with that being said, why can’t we, as an industry, also explore the realm of virtual environments to provide experiences related to travel, history, and tourism? We can collaborate with various stakeholders to offer online experiences in entertainment, shopping, transportation, education, design, and beyond.
We believe in a hybrid future of travel, one where it becomes possible to immerse oneself in a place regardless of location – imagine schools utilizing virtual reality to teach history – while still cherishing and valuing the unique experiences that only physical travel can offer.