Virtual Vacations? No Thanks

If you already think the Internet and technology have been eating at your business little by little over the last several years, you may not want to read any further. Technologist/futurist Barry Shuler has a new book out that posits the question, “What if you could have an entire travel experience – complete with smells, sights, touch, interactions – without physically traveling?”

It used to be when I read things like that my first instinct was to roll my eyes, plant tongue firmly in cheek and let the sarcasm roll. But times have changed, I’ve mellowed, and there are a lot of things that we can do today that I would have (and probably did) ridicule in a distant time.

In his book, "Virtual Travel: Embrace or Expire," which I haven’t yet read, Shuler provides his forward-thinking view of the future of travel, that in 20 to 30 years, people will be able to travel to any location without physically going there.

“The virtual travel experience of the future will be so realistic that it will be indistinguishable from traditional physical travel,” says Shuler. “Travel to any destination will be more affordable and accessible to anyone, wherever and whenever they wish to go. All of the downsides to physical travel will be a thing of the past.”

It’s an interesting concept in a world where people enjoy visiting other places but increasingly hate the “getting there” part thanks to growing dissatisfaction with airlines and the travel process itself. But can you replicate a cruise down the Nile, the sights and smells of a Shanghai marketplace (for better or worse) or just lying on a beach knowing you’re thousands of miles from anyone who can pull you in to work?  In the end, what good would a virtual vacation be? Do you step into a booth for a few hours and get transported to your dream spot? I don’t know all the specifics of virtual travel, but I do know what a real vacation feels like (mostly from memory) and that’s not a feeling people are going to be anxious to forego.

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