Virtual reality involves the use of VR glasses (an acronym for Virtual Reality). With the use of realistic images, sounds, and other physical sensations, it is able to essentially insert the user into a digital environment, in which they can move around and, in some cases, interact with their surroundings in different ways.
Contrary to what many may think, the concept of VR is not new. As told here, in 1838 Charles Wheatstone created stereoscopic glasses that used mirrors in front of the eyes with a small angle in the lens.
Despite having created in the 19th century, the technology didn’t become popular until the last few years thanks to the high-powered glasses produced by companies like Samsung and Sony, in addition to low-cost options from companies like Google. Some of its most popular uses include games, interactive videos, 360-degree images and more.
But, beyond entertainment, VR is also being used by marketing and sales professionals as a tool to improve consumer experience and showcase products. The technology, therefore, has already invaded several industries, including that of virtual tourism.
What is Virtual Tourism
According to an article published on Forbes; “Virtual reality and tourism were made for each other”. As explained at the beginning of this post, virtual reality involves placing people in highly managed artificial (but as realistic as possible) environments. “As such, it comes as no surprise to learn that the travel industry and various tech companies are increasingly experimenting with ways to use VR to give people the same basic experience of tourism. ” writes the author, Simon Chandler.
If some industry segments are slower to implement VR, the same cannot be said of companies operating in the tourism sector, which were especially quick to adopt virtual reality technology. And that happened for reasons that are easy to understand.
In essence, VR is all about the experience. Following this reasoning, what does tourism sell? That’s right: the experience. In other words, tourists are not after products but are looking for a way to make dreams come true and create stories.
Virtual reality applied to tourism (ie virtual tourism), offers an effective way for marketers to give these tourists a taste of what they can expect. It can even help in decision making.
Most travelers research a lot of information before booking a hotel room and booking a trip. As a tourism company (or website), you can describe places and show pictures and videos. The customer, in turn, will read comments from other customers or even seek opinions on social media
However, with the intelligent use of VR, this process can be significantly less time consuming and much more pleasant.
Virtual Tourism Types
The article published on Forbes’ website talks about two categories of virtual tourism: ” those which simulate tourist experiences anyone with enough money could experience for real, and those which simulate experiences that aren’t possible. “
In the first type, we already have many hotels and tourism companies providing elements of virtual reality on their websites or applications. This allows users to experience a digital version of a hotel room or even take a look at one of the nearby attractions, city sights, events, etc. In other words, virtual tourism allows companies to provide a type of “try before you buy” option.
In the second case – simulation of impossible experiences – virtual tourism can go further. For example, Chandler says in his article that in 2018 the French startup FlyView launched a virtual reality attraction that tourists could see and feel what it would be like to fly over Paris in a jetpack.
Another example of “impossible virtual tourism” comes from the Four Seasons Resort Oahu, in Ko Olina. The introduced a “virtual reality wellness experience”, in which participants can take a relaxing trip through the ocean, caves and outer space.
Along the lines of the two categories of virtual reality applied to tourism, the article in Forbes also mentions the marketing company Travel World VR, from New Jersey.
The company launched an app in December 2019 in which users can view 360-degree VR videos of tourist destinations, cruise lines, hotels, resorts, and more. ” This is all aimed at encouraging potential customers to book real holidays,” writes the author, commenting that this strategy will also help travel companies to reach specific users directly with advertising.
Benefits of Virtual Tourism
As you can see, virtual tourism has several benefits including:
- Virtual hotel tours: one of the best examples of the strategy when it comes to virtual tourism, virtual hotel tours give customers more transparency, allowing them to have a “taste” of what they can expect.
- Virtual travel experiences: with virtual reality, hotels, travel companies, and tourism operators are able to offer potential customers virtual travel experiences. This means allowing users to experience some of the main attractions that can bring them to a location.
For example, a hotel in Paris can offer a virtual experience of what it feels like to be inside the Louvre or on top of the Eiffel Tower, while a hotel near a theme park can offer a virtual experience of riding a roller coaster. The main benefit of this is the ability to sell rooms, flights, and travel products based on the experiences they can provide (and with VR this experience can be used in a way that images and videos cannot do).
Do you see how virtual tourism can benefit an entire sector chain? Best of all is that it is a memorable experience that your potential customer will never forget. Even if the sale doesn’t close at that moment, your company will certainly be remembered when your consumers are planning their next trip!
Now just imagine what a virtual reality experience can do for other sectors…