The VR travel industry may be in its infancy, but if you expect to see baby steps leading to market adoption, think again. Digital travel sales are expected to reach $198 billion this year, with virtual reality travel apps and VR tours capturing a good share of market revenue.
Of course, this should come as no surprise. Consumers increasingly turn to digital media when planning aspects of their lives, from recreational activities to retirement. Because VR has the power to engage travelers like no other technology can do, it is a natural step in the evolution of the travel industry. It is also likely to disrupt travel planning as we know it.
In this article, we will explore VR travel technology, and what it means for business in 2018.
Business Potential of VR Tourism
The VR travel experience offers business the power to engage and entice potential customers like no glossy travel brochure ever could. VR immerses the prospective travel customer into a 3D interactive experience, where they can explore their travel destination before ever buying a ticket. It’s one thing to show an undecided traveler a photo or video of Rome; letting them walk through a cobblestone village and explore the outdoor cafes is another thing entirely.
VR is, quite simply, the most effective promotional or advertising tool an agent can have at their disposal. Allowing customers to not only experience the beaches of Maui, but to have a 360-degree video tour of their hotel can convert prospects into bookings quicker than anything.
The ROI for VR technology in the travel industry is as no-brainer as you can get. Any business plan for a travel or tourism business that does not include VR is out of step with where the travel industry is headed.
VR Travel Apps and Videos
The inherent power of virtual reality technology to spark the imagination is capturing the attention of hotels, airlines, travel agencies, and even Third World governments. Let’s look at few and see how they are using VR to boost their travel and tourism industries.
1. Best Western Virtual Reality Experience (BWVRE)
The Best Western hotel chain believes that customers are more likely to book a hotel if they can visit it first. Using 360 virtual tours, hosted on the company’s YouTube channel, bestwesternTV, the hospitality chain invites customers to an interactive 3D tour of select hotels across the United States. Users can view guest rooms, the lobby, and amenities as if they were actually there. The BWVRE experience is rendered in high-definition 8K resolution, and videos can be distributed on any HTML5-compatible platform.
Best Western partnered with Google Street View to gather 17 million images of the company’s nearly 2,000 U.S. hotels.
2. The Sky’s the Limit with Qantas Airline VR
Qantas Airways partnered with Samsung to allow customers to explore hotspot destinations, and to even watch in-flight movies using the Gear VR headset. On the heels of the successful trial program, Qantas now offers the Qantas Virtual Reality app, designed to let users experience the beauty of Australia in VR. The app is available for iPhone, Android, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive devices, and offers an interactive 360° cinematic view of Australia’s most picturesque destinations.
In a sense, the Qantas approach is brilliant. What better way to sell future airline tickets than to introduce a captive audience (inflight passengers) to future destinations they might want to explore? As new destinations are added, passenger interest will likely soar.
Even locales that may not be vacation hotspots are using VR to lure visitors. The American state of Delaware has launched a 360-degree VR video that allows viewers to canoe through Trap Pond State Park, to take a leisurely stroll along the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, and to explore other attractions. The video, created by the state tourism office, is not the best example of what VR can offer the travel industry, but it is a great example of a local destination embracing VR to grow its own tourism industry.
4. Dulwich Picture Gallery
Built in 1811, England’s Dulwich Picture Gallery demonstrates how to use VR in both app form and online for giving virtual tours. The gallery uses the Google Arts & Culture platform for delivering the tour. Thanks to VR, potential customers can view a portion of the gallery’s huge collection before arriving, which increases ticket sales and customer satisfaction.
LlittlStar provides a distribution platforms for interactive content, and is used by Discovery VR, National Geographic, news outlets, and a large number of independent content creators.
The platform hosts interactive, high-quality 360-degree videos of Yellowstone National Park, Maui (Hawaii), picturesque Thailand, and offers a virtual guided tour of Paris and Eiffel Tower, to name a few.
LittlStar is an example of how VR tours can be distributed, and is an excellent platform for posting your VR travel videos.
Similar to LittlStar, YouVisit is an enormously popular platform for creation and distribution of 360-degree videos. The company targets high-end clients, and sells both 360 video production and hosting services. YouVisit is utilized by hotspots around the world to provide interactive videos to lure tourists to their location. Among the locations you can explore include Hollywood, Yosemite Falls National Park, Houston, and a tour of the Carnival Breeze cruise ship.
7. Thomas Cook
Thomas Cook has provided travel and tourism services for more than 170 years. The company has adopted VR technology and Samsung Gear VR to allow customers to “Try Before Your Fly” when visiting the agency’s stores.
And the result? The company has experienced a 190% increase in New York bookings since launching the program.
Ascape is an online platform that offers apps for viewing hundreds of locations in 360 video. A partial list of available destinations includes a trip to the Grand Canyon, an African Safari, Christmas in New York City, and Snowboarding at Chamrousse, France. Users make in-app purchases of destinations at $0.99 each.
Ascape allows users to share their destination on FaceBook, and offers maps, history, and other information that may be useful to you on your trip.
9. India VR
The Indian Ministry of Tourism has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to produce a 360-degree video showing India’s most iconic landmarks. The video allows viewers to enjoy an interactive tour of the temples of Hamphi, Delhi, the Qutub Minar tower, built in 1193, along with a cross-section of India.
The project represents an excellent example of a not-so-hot destination that is using VR to heat up its tourism industry.
10. Thailand Too
In a similar vein, Thailand’s Tourism Authority has just recently launched a VR video of its own to attract tourists to the Asian country. The video puts viewers ringside at a Thai boxing ring, lets you view the making of silk textiles, and lets you explore a Thai rice farm.
With countries like India and Thailand creating their own virtual reality travel industry, the time has come for more developed nations to do the same.
These examples show the advertising potential of travel VR. Although VR is not yet — nor ever will be — as good as the real thing, it offers hotels, airlines, resorts, and travel companies a marketing tool no other medium can match.
Applications for VR Use in the Travel Industry
We have seen a few of the tools VR provides for the travel agent and the traveler, now let us look at a few more sectors that stand to benefit from VR travel technology.
Airlines & Rail Companies
Giving customers the opportunity to take a virtual tour of an aircraft cabin or railcar is a good way to secure fast bookings. Giving a guided tour of the terminal or station can also help customers become oriented with the check-in and booking process before they arrive. Familiarization with shops, lounges, information desks, and security procedures can also help reduce customer anxiety for those who have not traveled before.
VR tours are an excellent way to lure travelers to your destination, where yours is a popular hotspot, or a hidden gem. Whether you choose to have a customized VR app developed, or to add a 360 video player to your website, the long term ROI can be substantial.
Car Rental Companies
The car rental business is an integral part of the travel industry, but customers are not always happy with the vehicle they are provided. Using VR to display the agency’s fleet can help customers make a confident selection before they arrive.
Conference Centers & Exhibition Centers
Not all travel is for pleasure. Business travel comprises a huge part of the travel market. VR tours are an excellent way to help visitors become familiar with where they need to go within a conference or exhibition center complex. Adding guided virtual tours on the facility website can save visitors time and frustration getting to their conference or exhibit.
Nearly every travel plan includes seeking out the local cuisine. Including tours of restaurants in VR travel guides can increase sales and help travelers have a more enjoyable experience while visiting your location.
Theaters, Sports Arenas, & Concert Halls
Any venu can benefit from providing customers with a virtual tour before arrival. Many customers travel great distances to see a performance or game, and exploring your facility before their trip can help them be better oriented when they arrive.
How AppReal-VR Can Help?
The VR tourism industry is a success story waiting to happen. The technology is here, the market is ready, all that is needed are the products that will bring the world to the traveler before the traveler sees the world. If providing the apps and platforms that will redefine the travel industry is your plan, we’d like you to meet your solution.
AppReal-VR is a leading provider of VR development services for customers across the globe. Our team of world-class developers, engineers, and content creators are experts in virtual reality technology.
Whether you’re looking to integrate VR into an existing advertising campaign, or you wish to create an application for promoting your travel destination, AppReal-VR has the experience to help you tap the lucrative VR travel market.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us, today, for a no-cost consultation.