Virtual Reality (VR) is receiving increasing interest from tourism marketers globally. Combined with 360-degree video capture, VR can virtually transport you to travel destinations around the world and provide you with experiences beyond your wildest dreams, all without leaving your sofa. This technology has already begun to make an impact on the travel industry and this is just the beginning. Here, we have listed just three ways VR is transforming the travel industry and its potential future impact.
1. Virtual Tours
Virtual tours have become a popular marketing method, where tourism marketers can offer potential visitors an immersive insight into the destination. This novel method of marketing has been found to entice people to explore new destinations that they might not have previously, and influence them to actually visit the destinations in real life.
Putting on the VR headset could transport you to a luxury hotel in Tokyo and within seconds, you could be enjoying a Bird’s Eye View of the Grand Canyon. Virtual tours are particularly useful for travel agents as they can allow customers to have a 360-degree view of different locations, which increases their trust and manages their expectations compared with browsing through traditional 2D media. Travel operators might choose to offer VR in-store or as a mobile application that users can access from home.
Similar methods have been used by hotels with the likes of Marriott providing virtual tours of their international hotels with an aim to provide potential visitors with a realistic insight into their offerings and encourage people to visit. Putting on the VR headset allows hotel guests to experience a collection of travel destinations from Beijing to Chile, while experiencing the accommodation Marriott can provide in these destinations should they decide to visit.
This “try-before-you-buy” type of experience empowers potential visitors with the ability to take a virtual walkthrough of the hotels facilities and room types, which can avoid any confusion and disappointment upon arrival.
VR also makes certain trips and experiences accessible for all including those individuals who may have limitations with their travel ability or experience anxiety or fear due to heights or flying. In VR, you could find yourself skydiving off the empire state building or swimming with great white sharks, perhaps such experiences are ones you would never dream of having in real life.
Also, VR can allow people to access sites that might be inaccessible due to safety or over tourism, hence, VR could also contribute to cultural preservation. For example, if the influx of tourism at a historic site is becoming too much for the grounds to take, then it is possible for tourists to view the site in VR. Not only will this contribute to preservation of historical sites, it will also allow for the history and culture to live on through time.
3. In-flight entertainment
Although not widespread yet, VR could really take off as a form of in-flight entertainment, especially for long-haul trips. Imagine taking a 14-hour flight from the UK to Hong Kong, popping on a VR headset and being immersed into a completely new world of your choice for hours on end rather than being present in the same plane.
You could potentially play games in VR with friends from back home or others on the flight – that’s one way to keep the young ones occupied, that’s for sure! If gaming isn’t your thing, you could watch short movies, documentaries or TV shows in 360-degree, or even immerse into a deep meditation. If you have fear of flying, this could be one way to overcome this fear.
In fact, earlier this year, British Airways announced they will be offering first class passengers on select international flights the opportunity to experience in-flight VR entertainment and also therapeutic programmes such as meditation and sound therapy.
Although there remains barriers before it becomes widespread on planes, that won’t stop companies such as Inflight VR from achieving their goal of enabling passengers to immerse in VR while up in the clouds. We are excited to see what the future holds for this innovative business venture!
What are your thoughts on the impact VR will have on the travel industry? Is this a technology you will use now and/or in the future?