Synthravel unveils guided tours for the ‘virtual’ novice

Advertisers are to be targeted by a new company offering “virtual travel” to online communities such as Second Life and City of Villains.

Advertisers are to be targeted by a new company offering “virtual travel” to online communities such as Second Life and City of Villains.

Synthravels claims to be the first tour operator to offer a guided service to virtual worlds. It is promising “many lands to discover that will ravish your imagination”.

Mario Gerosa, the co-founder of the company, says it will target a range of subscribers, including parents wanting to become more aware of what their children are doing online. He adds that it would also be a way to demonstrate to corporate brands the value of investing in virtual worlds.

It is the latest in a series of attempts to commercialise the new online communities. Last week, Reuters set up a news agency in Second Life to report on the site, and companies such as Adidas and Reebok have launched online shops. It is reported that some companies on the site make more than $100,000 (£53,750) a year by trading virtual goods and services.

But the sites can be difficult for new users to navigate and require many hours of game play to master tedious tasks. The Synthravels’ tours are developed by its staff, which includes computer programmers and experienced gamers, and will visit 24 virtual worlds. The company is based in Milan and was set up by Gerosa, a journalist at Condé Nast Traveller Italy, and Matteo Esposito, of game design company Imille.

Users register on the site and choose a destination, with the day and hour they prefer. Visitors need to install the game or virtual world on their PC before joining the tour.

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