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See the sights on a holiday to nowhere

Akira Tomoshige and Candice Marshall, August 13, 2020 6:45PM Reuters

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The Colosseum, Rome, Italy. Katsuo Inoue chose Italy for his virtual holiday. media_cameraThe Colosseum, Rome, Italy. Katsuo Inoue chose Italy for his virtual holiday.

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Business is booming for a virtual* travel company that helps you have a holiday without going anywhere.

Japanese businessman Katsuo Inoue chose Italy for this year’s summer holiday, and he enjoyed the luxuries of a business class aeroplane cabin and soaked up* the sights of Florence and Rome, without leaving Tokyo.

Mr Inoue, 56, and his wife “flew” as clients of Tokyo entertainment company First Airlines, which is tapping into* a growing virtual reality travel market for Japanese holiday-makers grounded* by coronavirus restrictions.

“I often go overseas on business, but I haven’t been to Italy,” he said.

“My impression was rather good because I got a sense of actually seeing things there.”

Grounded travellers sit in first or business class seats in a mock* airline cabin where they are served in-flight meals and drinks, with flat-panel screens displaying aircraft exterior views including passing clouds.

Virtual reality goggles provide immersive* tours at destinations including — as well as Italy’s cities of culture — Paris, New York and Hawaii.

Customers in flight seats use virtual reality (VR) devices at First Airlines, that provides VR flight experiences, including 360-degree tours of cities and meals, amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo, Japan.Reuters media_cameraCustomers use virtual reality devices at First Airlines to make virtual holidays seem more real amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: Reuters

The coronavirus has stopped most travel from Japan. The country’s biggest airline, ANA Holdings, said numbers flying to foreign destinations on its planes fell by 96 per cent in June.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted last month that it would take until 2024 for global passenger numbers to recover.

At First Airlines, where “passengers” are even given a pre-flight safety demonstration with a life vest and oxygen mask, bookings are up about 50 per cent since the pandemic began, according to the company.

“We get some customers who normally travel to Hawaii every year and they can experience some of that here,” its president, Hiroaki Abe, said.

Girl in snorkeling mask dive underwater with coral reef fishes media_cameraFirst Airlines’ virtual holidays to Hawaii have been popular with those who go there every year. Picture: iStock

Japan has recorded more than 50,000 coronavirus cases, according to public broadcaster NHK. The rate of new infections in Japan increased in recent weeks, meaning real travel for Japanese holiday-makers is unlikely in the near future.

The Russell family continued with their plans for a trip of a lifetime, from their living room. Picture: Kirsty Russell/Twitter media_cameraThe Russell family continued with their plans for a trip of a lifetime, from their living room. Picture: Kirsty Russell/Twitter

AUSSIE DIY VIRTUAL TRIP
An Australian family made the news for creating their own virtual holiday when coronavirus restrictions forced them to cancel the real thing.

In April, the Russell family from Newcastle, NSW, were supposed to be in Europe on the trip of a lifetime.

Rather than abandon their trip, the Russell family followed their holiday itinerary in their loungeroom.

Parents Kirsty and Nathan turned their loungeroom into the interior of a plane, complete with reclining seats, in-flight entertainment, and even airline signage.

Touches of authenticity* were added to the boarding process with printed plane tickets and security gates.

On board, the family even ate microwave food delivered on plastic trays for the duration of the 15-hour flight aboard ‘Lounge Chair Air’.

Kirsty live-tweeted the whole trip on Twitter so others could share the fun.

GLOSSARY

  • virtual: not real, but seems so
  • soaked up: took in, experienced
  • tapping into: accessing, exploring
  • grounded: unable to fly
  • mock: pretend
  • immersive: 3D, completely surrounding you
  • authenticity: how real or believable something is

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Where did Katsuo Inoue go for his holiday experience?
  2. Why couldn’t he actually go there?
  3. What product does First Airlines offer?
  4. Where did the Russell family actually go on their holiday?
  5. How do we know the details of the Russell family’s experience?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Write a Story
Write a story that starts with: “We were all looking forward to our virtual holiday. That is, until …”

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Today’s story is a great example of people coming up with great ideas to still enjoy things we cannot do at the moment. Think of something that you love to do but can’t because of COVID restrictions. Think of a fun and unusual way that you can “do” this activity virtually at home with things that you have at home. Write a description of your activity and how you will do it virtually. Draw step-by-step pictures or take photos showing you “doing” this.

Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Design and Technologies

VCOP ACTIVITY
I Spy Nouns
Nouns are places, names (of people and objects), and time (months or days of the week).

How many nouns can you find in the article?

Can you sort them into places, names and time?

Pick 3 nouns and add an adjective (describing word) to the nouns.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Where would you choose for a virtual holiday?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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