July 21, 2016

Virtual Reality Will Be Big for Tourism Marketing

  • Subline: Virtual teleporting, virtual tours, and even (super creepy) virtual showers
Virtual reality technology is young and a bit bulky - but it's evolving rapidly. Virtual reality technology is young and a bit bulky - but it's evolving rapidly. Wikimedia

One of the most important new technologies that will affect the tourism industry over the next few years is virtual reality. That may seem optimistic, given that one of the most popular pieces of current VR technology is quite literally made from cardboard, but things are going to advance - fast.

Headsets like the Oculus Rift, Samsung’s Gear VR, and even the low-tech Google Cardboard are making virtual reality more accessible. And it’s going to be big. Industry researchers estimate that VR will be a $150 billion dollar industry by 2020.

That means opportunity for CVBs, DMOs, lodging properties, attractions, and other tourism businesses. Some hospitality organizations are already playing with the technology’s potential.

Marriott, for example, created Teleporter Stations outfitted with VR headsets that let potential guests experience the sandy beaches and poolside bars at their Hawaiian properties - before they make a booking. They even added a small fan to simulate breeze and a chemical scent release to take the place of salty sea spray.

And first-class passengers on some Qantas Airlines flights can use a VR headset to experience a taste of the Sydney Harbor Bay bridge or boat rides in some of Australia’s national parks before they land.

Holiday Inn went a completely different direction and created a virtual shower experience with comedian Rob Riggle. We can't embed it here, but you can see it up on Youtube - if you feel like cringing. Yes, it’s ridiculous, and the dialogue (especially the bit about “washing the special parts”) is super creepy, but given that most VR content uses sweeping cinematic views, Holiday Inn deserves a little credit for thinking outside the box.

The point of all this? To turn buzz into bookings. Give potential customers a taste of a destination, attraction, or experience before they commit. It’s the ultimate try-before-you-buy experience. And it’s getting easier than ever to create virtual reality content. Costs are going down, which means it’s going to be more accessible for everyone in the hospitality industry.

And here’s where the shameless self-promotion comes in: if you’re in the hospitality industry and want to talk about how virtual reality might fit into your marketing strategy, drop us a line.