5 Types of Online Tours We Have to Thank COVID-19 For

Anna Linnikova, July 22, 2020

Whether we want it or not Coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives like no other event in the last several decades. Sad but true, the most affected by the pandemic are the spheres that bring lots of joy and freedom to our lives: travel, leisure, sports. While sports and leisure spheres are slowly recovering from this gut-punch, international travel has nearly stopped everywhere and we are advised to avoid even short-distance unnecessary travel – this is the new post-corona reality for the travel community.

Online Tours

Having to adapt to the new conditions in order to survive these spheres of life went online: online sports classes and trainings, sports competitions broadcasted on television/internet without live spectators cheering for their teams, birthday parties and even weddings (!) on Zoom, online excursions and tours with live broadcast on various platforms. For some the latter might feel like a tasteless substitute of a real experience but hey, this is something new and much easier accessible. Shoo away the pessimism and put on your ‘Adventurer’ hat on, this might be worth trying out!

So here are the 5 new types of online sightseeing tours which we have to thank Covid-19. Below we list their pros and cons so that might help you choose one of them as your new activity:

  1. Virtual Museum Tours.
  2. Online Presentation Tours.
  3. Online Google Streets Tours.
  4. Live City Tours with Limited Interaction.
  5. Interactive Live City Tours.

1. Virtual Museum Tours


An amazing project gathered online the most famous and sought after collections of the greatest museums of the whole world! The best pieces of art are now available to admire online and are featured in free virtual tours! The list of the museums participating is now quite long: The Louvre, The British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Hermitage Museum, Prado Museum, Vatican Museums, Rijksmuseum, National Gallery, London, Van Gogh Museum, Salvador Dali Museum – the list goes on and on. All you have to do is Google ‘free online museum tours’ and voila!

Pros: This is absolutely free. You can stop the video whenever you like and get back to it when you feel like it again. Many virtual museum tours allow visitors to get closer to art than they could do in real life. Finally, no queuing for tickets!

Cons: Unless you are a true art fancier, it might be best to take these tours in small portions. This is not a city tour, it will not give you any ‘travel vibes’.

2. Online Presentation Tours


Online tour of a city with a tour guide live broadcasting from his home/other set location showing photos of landmarks and giving info about each of them.

Pros: You get a lot of historical info and info about architecture, as well as some travel tips for when you actually make your way to this city in the future. You can cover quite a number of locations which can be quite interesting and useful for planning out your future trip. And of course you can ask your guide extra questions.

Cons: The tour is structured more like a PowerPoint presentation and might be difficult to comprehend with a lot of historical dates and details. Brace yourselves, don’t fall asleep!

3. Online Google Streets Tours


Online tour of a city with a tour guide live broadcasting from his home/other set location with using Google Maps and Google Street View.

Pros: Gives a bit of a more real feel when you see not only the pictures of the landmark itself but all the surroundings. Some real life objects (like cars, city infrastructure, shops, etc) depicted on Google Street View photos can inspire you on some extra questions to your guide and lead to more active discussions about the city everyday life as well as give you a rough idea how the location looks in real life.

Cons: Google Street View is a great instrument for you to define your location in order not to get lost when following Google Maps (hello to my fellow brothers and sisters who are good at getting lost but really bad at finding their way in the city) but not a great instrument for an online excursion. Blurry photos, slow turning for panorama, static pictures, not too detailed and looking quite deserted to be honest. Not quite an inspirational online ‘trip’.

4. Live City Tours with Limited Interaction


Live city tour when a guide is actually taking a walk through the location broadcasting it in Instagram/Facebook/YouTube/Zoom etc. in real time.

Pros: In our humble opinion this is a much better alternative to the above listed city tours as it does give the real time feeling, the picture is not static and quite entertaining as you can see the actual city life going on with real people walking past the camera and your guide telling you about the landmarks on the way.

Cons: As attractive as it looks at a first glance there are a few technical moments that you should consider before booking such tour. Most of the streaming industry providers have either limited quality of the video (Zoom, Skype, Google Meets) or have considerable latency issues (Youtube, Facebook, Instagram). The camera keeps shaking as the guide walks and you might get nauseous because of the picture constantly jumping and turning too fast. And the last but not least: the number of participants of such tour is usually unlimited (or limited to 100 viewers) and the only way you can communicate with the guide is by likes or comments. Mind, that it will take some time for the guide to see your question in the Comments due to latency issues (if the guide sees it at all) so the interactive part of such tour is rather questionable.

5. Interactive Live City Tours


And finally something truly exciting! So far a unique experience provided by a Russian tour company Moscow Private Tours specializing on sightseeing tours in Moscow and other Russian cities. A live real-time interactive tour with a professional guide walking around the must-see sights of Moscow and broadcasting in Full HD quality and with almost no latency.

Pros: This virtual tour provides a true ‘being there’ experience: the data is transferred within milliseconds to a special media server which provides a Full HD quality picture (you can see most details even from a distance) and nearly no latency; the picture does not jump or randomly rotate as the guide uses special stabilizing equipment for the camera – you will not get nauseous. This is a 100% interactive experience: you can communicate with the guide by just turning your microphone on and asking the question you are interested in at the exact moment you want to ask it (or maybe you want to make a joke or comment on something – the atmosphere on the tour is very friendly and relaxed). Additionally, the number of participants is limited to 8 so each of you has enough opportunities to ask the guide any questions you like or even vote on going inside a building or taking an odd turn to add even more interactivity to the tour! There is also an option to book a private live tour – then there will be no other people on the tour – just you and the people you want to invite and share this experience with. We also see it as a really unique gift for someone (in the times we can not travel freely), luckily the gift vouchers are also available! On the technical side: if you happen to get any issues with video or sound there is a tech support person online during the tour that will help you to sort everything out as fast as possible, so you will not be left alone with your problem.

Cons: The only downside we can find is that this experience gives you such a real feel and a great insight into Moscow that you will definitely be craving for a trip there once you can travel again!

We hope this digest has been of use to you and you have made up your mind on where your first virtual trip will be! Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, and get ready for new experience!