In answer to the above question, and in a word, 'yes'.
It seems pretty definitive that 2016 will be the year in which virtual reality (VR) becomes a mainstay of the travel industry; not only are numerous new pieces of technology and devices set to hit the shelves in the coming few months, but businesses and news sites are already reporting on and exploring the trend and contemplating what impact it will have on certain industries.
And the travel industry specifically has been very vocal on the possibilities afforded by VR technology. VR can be used to both market and sell travel experiences in a way that is unlike any marketing strategy before it – using the technology consumers will be able to experience a holiday for themselves before they even think about packing!
VR devices are able to replicate the exhilaration and euphoria people feel when on holiday or travelling, but in the comfort of their own homes. The travel industry is therefore guaranteed to benefit from being able to recreate the feeling of being somewhere and having a specific experience without actually leaving.
Consumers will soon be able to explore a cruise ship before booking their getaway, or wander around a hotel room before confirming a stay. With the use of an HTC Vive headset and Everest VR, adrenalin and fitness junkies are able to virtually climb the world's highest mountain thanks to the collection of 300,000 high resolution photographs used to recreate the stunning scenery. Users are able to use handheld controllers to pull themselves up ropes and experience real vertigo when looking down (this is VR not for the faint-hearted!)
But, of course, not all VR offered by travel companies will be as intense as Everest VR. As stated travellers looking to simply explore a resort or get a sense of a location will be able to use the devices to take a casual look around. The Marriott Hotel chain recently launched The Transporter, a makeshift booth allowing potential guests to take a 360-degree tour of the best rounds from various corners of the globe – no adrenalin necessary!
So how can industry experts be so sure that this is the year for VR to become mainstream? Well for one thing and as stated above, 2016 is the year a number of high-profile investments will finally come to fruition. Facebook's £1.32 billion acquisition of Oculus will see the company launch the Rift headset this spring and EasyJet is already training its staff to use VR; the HTC Vive headset will be launched soon and game specialists Sony and Playstation have made forays into the VR industry with investments into new games.
As Michael Dail, the vice president of global brand marketing for Marriott Hotels expertly concludes: "Nothing will ever really be able to replace the experience of actually traveling to a particular destination, but VR is an excellent way to give next-generation travellers a taste of a destination."
It seems that next-generation travellers certainly won't be disappointed in the months to come.