I2m_googlesightseeing Everyone loves the idea of an exotic vacation, but not everyone loves all the difficulties that can come with it.  From the pains of the actual travel experience to the time required, sometimes a vacation to an exotic destination is not quite possible.  Google Sightseeing (not affiliated with Google) may have one answer for deskbound travellers … a virtual vacation.  The site offers satellite imagery from Google Earth annotated into blog posts that are categorized by region and offer commentary on the many images downloaded from the satellites.  The result is an interesting site that is inspired by Wikimapia and offers an interesting way to enjoy virtual travel from miles above your destination.  This is one of other mashups that the release of satellite imagery on Google Earth is fueling, but the world of virtual tourism seems set to expand beyond even the real world as well. 

Residents of Second Life, the virtual world, are also finding many ways to create virtual tourist destinations within their world.  Current hotspots including retail shopping, hotels, museums and films.  Others like the Virtual Terrain Project, are focused on using software modeling tools to recreate real world destinations in three dimensional models.  The convergence of these tools may signify a new form of travel as these virtual vacation options start to take shape as tools that can help to enhance the travel experience rather than just offer a few hip alternatives.  The future of virtual tourism online will be more than just virtual tours of hotels and a few mashup virtual imagery blogs.  Based on recent efforts, it’s possible this future may not be that far off.