Be there. Without actually being there.

Virtual travel is actually having the experience of traveling to a destination (whether near or far) without physically traveling.  In other words, you would experience the destination as if you were there, but without being there.

At the outset, I ask: If you could have a travel experience and couldn’t distinguish whether you were physically there or not, would you insist on physically being there?

I believe that we will have such a choice to make in less than 10 years for business travel and somewhere between 20 and 30 years for a full-fledged leisure travel experience.

When I chat with people about this, they say, “Of course, I would still want to go.” When I ask why, they say, “Well, I want to really experience the place, the people, the sights, the sounds.” They say they really want to “be there.” They also say it wouldn’t be the same if they were not physically at the destination.

But if I persist, and repeat: What if you could really experience it, complete with sights, smells, touch, interaction with people and places? I don’t mean experience it like watching a movie or a television program.  I mean experience it as if you were really there—in the movie—where your five senses actually tell you that you are there?

Let’s just assume that such a realistic experience will be possible and affordable at some point.  Given that, I wonder about the potential impact this capability will have on how we all live and work.

This impact on the physical world, including businesses and individuals, are the primary focus of my book Virtual Travel: Embrace or Expire.  The physical world, both natural and as constructed and maintained by humans, will be fundamentally changed when people no longer have to physically travel to have a real travel experience, either to accomplish work or to “get away from it all” for leisure.

When this happens, I believe large chunks of today’s physical world and its products and services will be bypassed.  When they are, if the businesses that deliver these products and services do not adapt, they will wither and die.  At the same time, incredible opportunities await existing businesses, industries, and individuals that adapt and grow as these radical changes occur.

What do you think will happen?  I would love to hear from you!

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