Over half of adult Internet users have taken virtual tours, according to "Virtual Space is the Place," a backgrounder issued by Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Virtual tours serve as voyeuristic indulgences and time-saving conveniences for Internet users and have increased in popularity over the past two years. While the Google Mars project takes visitors to the red planet and sites like Arounder virtually satisfy the ambitious goals of outdoorsy types with hikes to the top of the Matterhorn, virtual tours serve more everyday purposes. Many Internet users take virtual tours to visit or preview colleges and universities, tourist and vacation locales, historical sites, museums, real estate, and hotels.
Fifty-one percent of adult Internet users have taken a virtual tour. The rate is up from 45 percent in 2004. In total, about 72 million people have engaged in some sort of virtual visit, up 33 percent from two years ago when 54 million had gone online to go to a destination. On a daily basis, virtual tours serve up over 5 million trips per day, up from roughly 2 million in 2004.
Broadband adoption accounts for a portion of the increase. Sixty-two percent of home broadband users visit destinations online, compared to 41 percent of those with dial-up access at home. Sixty percent of Internet users with six or more years of experience take tours online versus 28 percent with two to three years' of experience.
Demographic and psychographic factors also play a role. More people in the 30-49 age group take virtual tours (57 percent) than 18-29 (47 percent) or 65 and older (29 percent). College graduates take virtual tours at a higher rate (61 percent) than high-school graduates (41 percent). Households with an income of $50,000 or greater (64 percent) are more likely to take a virtual tour, compared to households below that threshold (41 percent). Internet users with children under 18 are more likely to take virtual tours (58 percent) than those without children (47 percent).
Rural households are less likely to take virtual tours online. Thirty-eight percent of those in rural areas have taken virtual tours versus 54 percent of suburban users and 53 percent of urban Internet users.
Pew Internet conducted a nationwide telephone survey of 2,928 adults in August 2006. Of those respondents, 1,018 were given a portion of the survey that covered virtual tours.
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