A little over a year ago when the Oculus Rift, the first mainstream virtual reality machine, was released to the public, some tourism marketing brands feared the technology could make travel obsolete. As this technology continues to improve, we beg to differ. By 2020, Tnooz projects that virtual reality will be a $20 billion business primed for the hospitality and tourism industry. The reality – virtual or not – is that machines can’t fully replace the experience of travel (yet) … but they can augment it. As digital marketers, we need to harness this incredible potential to capture travelers’ imaginations and send them to places … both figuratively and literally … that they have only dreamed about.
Use virtual reality to promote a destination or experience:
One of the most obvious ways to use virtual reality to support tourism marketing is at the top of the marketing funnel. In other words, your brand can use virtual reality the same way the film industry uses previews to entice and attract potential movie-goers. Instead of a replacement, consider virtual reality a “teaser” or “trailer” for your property or destination. And if photos and videos are the most engaging content digital marketers have available, then live-action, 3D, interactive experience is probably one level up. More than 75% of Facebook content is image-based; and videos garner triple-digit click ratios compared to text and copy-based emails. This is especially true for the tourism and hospitality industry because you’re selling an experience, rather than an object.
Many brands are already creating virtual reality-friendly YouTube videos and blogs where people who have a virtual machine can simply press play, plug in their phone, and experience another dimension. Virtual lovers can swim with sharks, explore haunted houses, and take in the sights and sounds of world-class kitchens. Each virtual video projects the viewer into their desired atmosphere, creating a truly sensory experience that decidedly leaves them wanting more. The 360-degree visual stimulation makes the viewer feel like they are so close to the action … yet they can’t truly interact with, touch, smell, or feel the environment. Talk about one effective preview.
Use virtual reality to…augment reality:
The precursor and complement to virtual reality is augmented reality. Augmented reality apps allow a user to overlay maps, interest points, photos, trivia, or social opportunities on top of the world around them. When combined with a virtual reality experience, the results transform museum exhibits into interactive experiences, make tourist destinations that are off limits due to dangerous conditions or construction accessible, or allow the average visitor to experience something they couldn’t normally. Think: feeding pandas in a zoo, participating in a rocket launch at a science museum, or climbing ancient, crumbling ruins in the tropics.
In this way, virtual reality can become an add-on marketing opportunity to enrich the vacation experience and create a deeper emotional bond for your visitors. Virtual reality can’t replace the feeling of a massage, or the taste of a Michelin star restaurant; but it can work alongside those experiences to either purposefully contrast them or add extra value to those experiences themselves.
Virtual reality also unlocks non-traditional tourism options:
Perhaps less obviously, virtual reality also allows individuals who otherwise could not travel for physical, mental, or even monetary reasons, to experience something incredible. While an able-bodied athlete might not choose a virtual reality experience over hitting the slopes, someone suffering from an injury or disability may be energized and invigorated by this singular opportunity. Virtual reality gives tourism and travel companies the chance to infuse inclusivity and sensitivity into their brand voice — which is something that provides a benefit to our shared communities and appeals strongly to the millennial purchaser.
For ideas about how your brand could use virtual reality to extend your travel experience, reach out to our creative team today. Together, you can be on the cutting edge of this emerging trend and lead the change in this exciting industry.