While many residents of the virtual world of Second Life have taken themselves off on a short break to Chicago for Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) 2007, I have had to settle for a virtual holiday instead. Courtesy of German travel company, TUI, I have been rafting, scuba-diving, and exploring wrecked pirate ships at their virtual beach resort in Second Life.
The TUI AG group is perhaps the largest holidy tour operator in the world, and includes brands such as Thomson in the UK. This Second Life presence, spanning 4 islands, is intended to advertise their German tour operations. These are classed under 3 major “sub-brands” which are reflected in the names of their islands. TUI SchÃ¶ne Ferien (classic seaside holidays), TUI Weltentdecker (city breaks and circular trips) and TUI Premium (high-end holidays).
You actually arrive in the islands at the airport on »Tui Island«, stepping off the inbound TUIfly.com jet and making your way to the entrance plaza. Here you can pick up those all-essential holiday freebies, like swimwear, scuba gear and surf boards, before heading out into the island complex. The site is manned currently for around 4 hours a day. There is also a treasure hunt for those so inclined, but as that doesn’t include me, I have no idea of what’s involved or what you stand to win.
As I’ve already mentioned there are a number of things to keep you entertained. As well as the soggy sports alluded to aboue, you can try your hand at golf (on the tiny driving range) or visit the temple, with its vaguely pre-Columbian American imagery. There is a firework display every half hour and a thalassotherapy centre. As you might expect, there are also many meeting and dance area, and throughout there are links to relevant pages on the TUI website. And this is only scratching the surface of the activities available.
It will interesting to see how this island complex is received. Aside from its role as a 3D advertising hoarding, I assume it is also an experiment to explore what a future 3D internet site might offer. There is much here to amuse and engage people, but right now it feels like it is missing something. The site has been open about a month, but as yet there is no sign of a schedule of events. Also, the majority (if not all) of the activities are individual, not group, pursuits. With such a large site at their disposal I think that TUI and their virtual world consultants are missing an opportunity to encourage a community. However, it is early days and the site is still finding its feet. There is a group, the “TUI Island Club”, that will be used to advise of events once a schedule has been worked out.