You can read about new places on travel blogs, see popular destinations in photos and videos, and hear about cool things to do from friends, but the next level is to experience it for yourself – without even leaving the room. Virtual reality is taking the travel and tourism industry by storm and allows you to do just this. With just a headset and 360-degree video technology, people can be surrounded by a completely new world.
According to the stats, it’s nothing but up for virtual reality. It’s forecasted to generate $6.7 billion in 2016 and as much as $70 billion in 2020. On top of that, Facebook bought Oculus Rift, one of the technologies powering VR, for $2 billion. Experts are also leaning in favour of the trending technology. Shaun Collins, CEO of research group CCS Insight, told CNBC, “Virtual reality, which I think is going to change the way both many of the things that we do today are and some new and important areas are transformed, like tourism.” Tourism market research firm, Phocuswright, believes the big opportunity for VR will be helping consumers make decision about where to travel.
Here are some of the top travel and tourism organizations already using virtual reality in their marketing strategy:
Destination BC was a pioneer of virtual reality in the industry. As the first DMO (Destination Marketing Organization) in North America to use virtual reality to promote their destination, ‘The Wild Within VR Experience’ using Oculus Rift technology, launched at the end of 2014. The interactive, 3D video allows viewers to experience the Canadian province of British Columbia as if they were actually there. Primarily used for global travel trade and media events, the videos are also available on their website for people with their own compatible headsets.
The videos were shot using seven HD GoPro cameras to capture different angles over five days. Although the videos set Destination BC back $500,000, the destination generated 65 million media impressions and saw an increase of 5% in the number of visitors. “We think virtual reality is a great fit for tourism marketing,” says, Marsha Walden, CEO, “It lets our travel trade and media partners experience our destination in a new and unique way that has not been possible before.”
Watch the video here.
Marriott Hotels embraced virtual reality by bringing it into their establishments. In September 2015, the hotel chain launched ‘Vroom Service’ allowing guests to order the virtual experience directly to their rooms. Marriott also offers ‘VR Postcards’, which are immersive travel stories allowing viewers to follow a real travel journey to a unique destination. The first three postcards were shot in the Andes Mountains, Rwanda, and Beijing. “Travel expands our minds and helps push our imagination,” said Matthew Carroll, Vice President of Marriott Hotels, in a press release. “VRoom combines storytelling with technology, two things that are important to next generation travellers.”
Tourism Australia partnered with Air New Zealand to integrate a contest component into their VR strategy. Setting up a pop-up gallery in Vancouver, they encouraged people to view 17 virtual reality experiences on seven headsets offering a chance of winning a trip to Australia. They didn’t stop there. An impressive $40 million government-funded, tourism campaign titled, ‘Explore Australia in 360’ offered travellers the chance to journey through the country’s most extraordinary landmarks and coastlines. Matt McInnes, Marketing Manager for Tourism Australia, is confident in the investment, stating that traffic and engagement on the destination’s website has spiked since the virtual reality initiatives were put in motion.
St. Pete Clearwater’s ‘Warmup Wednesdays’ promotion was launched in Chicago using VR technology. Partnering with Uber, they offered free rides on Wednesdays, adding up to $50,000. Three of the cars were equipped with VR headsets allowing riders an escape from the chilly weather of Chicago and to immerse themselves into the sunny skies of Florida. Leroy Bridges, Media and Interactive Director at Visit St. Pete Clearwater considers virtual reality a must for any travel marketers.
Matoke Tours, a niche African travel operator, took a unique approach to VR by creating a virtual travel brochure. The app features 360 degree videos of six experiences in Uganda. From coming face-to-face with a gorilla to going up in a hot air balloon, the videos are designed to help travellers better decide which excursions they want to book. “This app enables us to convey the intensity and emotion of the travel experience before the journey has even started,” said Wim Kok, director of Matoke Tours Uganda, in a press release.