Virtual Reality may have its origins in the worlds of medical training, cinema, journalism, and gaming, but that doesn’t mean it can’t lend itself to other industries too. In fact, VR is well on its way to becoming the travel industry’s natural friend.
Travellers today want to know exactly what they’re getting when booking a holiday and VR delivers exactly that, offering an engaging preview that moves far and beyond anything traditional high street agents could offer previously.
Some of the latest VR headsets to hit shelves are now even offering full 360-degree video for a fully immersive experience. Recently, for example, Val D’Isere in France was the setting for a short Mark Warner promotional video filmed on a 360-degree rig.
The film, created with help from technology company Mesmerise, shot Warner’s Chalet Hotel Le Val D’Isere and its surroundings. The aim was to allow viewers to turn their head in any direction, helping them to explore every corner of the environment.
When displaying what they had created at Travel Technology Europe, the team explained that “As the technology advances, we can see much videos becoming integrated into the booking process, enabling consumers to select room types, add-ons and other ancillaries…”.
Online reviews, brochures or videos simply cannot compete with these new 360 degree experiences. Virtual reality is an extremely powerful tool, making it easier than ever before to decide where to go, what hotel to stay at and what sightseeing activities to pre-plan.
One of the largest tour operators in Europe, Thomas Cook, understood this concept, recently using Samsung Gear VR headsets in their plan to entice customers back to their stores with immersive 360 films.
The campaign, appropriately named “Try before you fly”, was commissioned by Visualise and offered customers a full 360-degree in-flight experience of one of their cabins.
To build upon the campaign, Visualise also went to film popular tourist hotspots such as New York, Egypt and Singapore, to give customers a taste of actual travel destinations. This also included an underwater snorkelling excursion filmed in Sharm-el-Sheikh.
The results were astounding. In its first 3 months, the in-store virtual reality experience generated flight and hotel bookings totalling £12K in both the UK and Germany and has seen a 40% return on investment. There was even an 180% uplift in New York excursions revenue.
Henry Stuart, Founder and Chief Executive of Visualise said: “This campaign highlights that travel companies are realising the potential that VR has when connecting with customers.”
Agents may well already know how to bring the holiday experience to life for a customer, but the new narrative provided by VR brings a whole new dimension to the sales process. VR may be in its infancy, but don’t be fooled, the opportunities it offers are what will make it the travel industry’s new best friend.
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