Virtual reality is expected to grow into a $60 billion industry in the next 10 years, if destination marketers want to take advantage of this game-changing technology, and set themselves apart as trendsetters and innovators, they should take notice now.
To help destination marketers understand the many ways virtual reality is being used in the travel industry, YouVisit has compiled everything you need to know about four of the most forward-thinking, and successful, VR marketing campaigns.
Destination British Columbia
One of the best-known examples of a company utilizing VR comes from Destination BC. Last year, the Canadian tour operator created “The Wild Within VR Experience” to promote travel to British Columbia. The VR experience lets guests explore segments of The Great Bear Rainforest through something akin to a choose-your-own-adventure story. When viewing the four-minute video, users can go sea-lion spotting, hike alpine trails, and visit a rainforest.
“We think virtual reality is a great fit for tourism marketing,” said Marsha Walden, Destination BC’s CEO. “It lets our travel trade and media partners experience our destination in a new and unique way that has not been possible before.”
At this year’s Destination Marketing Association International’s conference, Destination BC’s Maya Lange said the experience generated 65 million media impressions.
Thomas Cook was an early virtual reality adopter. The United Kingdom-based tour operator is utilizing VR headsets in some of its brick-and-mortar locations, as well as sending out headsets to select customers.
Last year, as part of a trial, Thomas Cook placed Samsung Gear VR headsets in 10 of its physicals stores in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium. While wearing the headset, customers can experience standing on a balcony of a Santorini hotel and a helicopter ride above Manhattan.
The trial proved successful and the company devised a new campaign aimed at reaching more customers. In July, Thomas Cook reported that it was planning a campaign centered on Google Cardboards, an inexpensive cardboard VR headset. The company is expect to mail 5,000 brochures and cardboard headsets to potential customers, a tactic that is growing increasingly popular.
Peter Frankhauser, the company’s CEO, said at a recent shareholders meeting that he believes the technology will eventually take off on a mass scale.
“We believe that as (virtual reality) becomes more widespread, we will be well positioned to deliver 3D hotel and destination experiences via our website to customers in their homes,” Frankhauser said.
Last summer, Marriott rolled out its own virtual reality experiences as part of its “Travel Brilliantly” campaign. For one aspect of the campaign, Marriott built large booths, dubbed “Teleporters,” that transported viewers into virtual reality versions of London and Hawaii. In addition to virtually experiencing a location, the company enhanced the experience by adding heat and mist.
More recently, the company announced that it placed VR headsets in two of its locations (New York Marriott Marquis and the London Marriot Park Lane) as part of an ongoing test. The program, called “VRoom Service” allows guests to order a VR headset to their rooms for 24 hours. The device comes loaded with three pieces on content: a woman visiting Chile, a woman exploring Rwanda, and a man traveling Beijing.
Michael Dail, vice president of Marriott Hotels brand marketing, told Wired his company hopes people will become inspired by the experience and decide to book a trip. He added that another goal of the campaign was to help the hotel group build credibility with younger, often more tech-savvy, travelers.
Ultimate Jet Vacations
While Marriott International is using virtual reality to showcase destinations, Ultimate Jet Vacations (UJV)—a boutique tour operate in Miami, Florida—is using the technology to grow its business and help hotels market their properties.
Steven Kadoch, a managing partner at UJV, told YouVisit he immediately saw virtual reality’s potential as a sales tool and “innovative way to present hotels to clients.”
“We’re constantly looking for tools and ideas that can help our travel partners sell themselves better,” Kadoch said. “By using this technology, we have improved our relationship with several of our hotel partners by providing them with virtual reality tours of their properties.”
Using virtual reality, hotels can allow potential guests to step inside and experience their properties before they commit to booking.
The Future of Destination Marketing
As VR becomes more prevalent, especially in the next year, the technology will move from a nice-to-have addition to a must-have tool. Those marketers in the travel industry who already understand VR will be the ones who are best positioned to capitalize off this game-changing technology.
To learn more about how virtual reality can help your business, contact YouVisit.
About the Author
Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and CEO of YouVisit, the only fully integrated platform for creating, distributing, and monetizing virtual reality and other immersive experiences across all devices, including headsets, mobile, and desktop. YouVisit has worked with thousands of businesses and institutions such as Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Carnival, Yale, Zumba, and New York’s Central Park.