Virtual reality has been lauded as one of the next big trends to dominate the travel industry. After all, the whole concept surrounding VR is that it can transport the user into an entirely different place and allow them to interact in an artificial world - what other industry could be quite as well suited to this kind of immersive technology than travel?
The launch of Facebook's 360-degree travel video feature demonstrates this move towards VR in the travel industry. For the first time, the hundreds of millions of users signed up to Facebook were able to enjoy 360-degree perspectives spanning five continents, allowing them to travel the world via the medium of video, all from the comfort of their own mobile devices.
Major travel brands flocked to take advantage of this innovative new feature, keen to showcase vibrant cities and stunning landscapes on this brand new platform. Big names such as National Geographic and GoPro also rolled out their own videos for their Facebook pages, garnering millions of views. Tourism Australia, one of the pioneers of Facebook 360-degree video in the destination marketing sphere, has now built up a series of videos, designed to take travellers on a VR tour of the different territories that make Australia so special.
Facebook revealed its commitment to moving in the direction of VR when it purchased Oculus in 2014 for $2 billion. Now, these videos are available on both Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear virtual headsets, offering a truly immersive experience designed to market destinations consumers might never have considered before.
On the downside, load times for 360-degree video are pretty slow - and we know how customers feel about slow loading times on websites (spoiler: they don't like it). The videos are also pricey to produce, thanks to the technology involved. But with the ability of 360-degree video to capture the imagination of consumers like never before, this sort of content could offer a significant pay-off for travel agencies who use VR to engage and entice customers. A Skift report detailed how Tourism Australia had measured a soaring 64% increase in onsite engagement due to the use of these videos, though it was not reported how many clicked through to the company's website.
We have often accentuated the need for travel brands to concentrate their content marketing efforts on the stunning visuals afforded by the industry. And not only does Facebook 360-degree video provide the opportunity to do that, it also flings the door wide for a rich variety of user-generated content - just the sort of thing that can help boost engagement, provide further insight into your audience and foster excellent customer relationships.
How do you feel about Facebook's 360-degree video feature and what it could mean for the way the industry is headed? Have you had a chance to put it into practice?