Spin the globe. Inspiration and demonstration. To see/hear/smell and feel new places, see amazing natural wonders; learn about new cultures, a language, meet new people may be reasons why we travel. As travel bloggers we share experiences with our audience. We grow a following and may be hired by travel companies, destinations, cruise lines, airlines, hotels and national tourist boards to share our take through text, picture and perhaps (cell phone) video. Others may leverage their good looks and scores of followers to sell a dream. We are the tool to entice and with emotion give our reader/viewer the feeling of wanting to go there. Are we there yet?
VR will change much of that and empower the viewer. It is likely the fastest growing segment of travel marketing as bags of money are invested. Google may have started the ball rolling with Streetview years ago and now as their property Youtube and the competitor facebook have added 360 players to their platforms VR have reached the mainstream. Goggle has the new “Daydream” and the old “cardboard”. Facebook bought Oculus the VR headset manufacturer for 2 billion USD in 2014. Samsung have the Gear 360 for its own smartphones. As the headsets are getting smaller and lighter additional functionality is added including eye detection which can be expanded with AR (Augmented Reality) containing superimposed information. Established companies are adding VR to their portfolio. Brands like Mariott, Delta Airlines, Lufthansa to name but a few big name brands have already rolled it out. Best Western is making virtual tours of all their almost 2000 North American properties. Thomas Cook noted a 190 percent increase in bookings of excursions in New York promoted through VR-goggles.
There is money, lots of money invested and estimated 5.2 billion USD in 2018 alone. In 2020, experts project that VR could be making 30 billion dollars a year in revenue for companies (of which a significant portion will be in the games industry) willing to leverage the technology.
Why? Because the VR experience is compelling, enticing and tantalizing and yes still a bit cumbersome as it requires a headset (and headphones) to go along for the ride. But once in the zone you are there. Weather it is in the waves or standing on the edge of a cliff. We instinctly move as our balance organs are tested trough the VR experience. You can walk away from the cliff, you can hop into the blue waters it is ALMOST as if you were there. And therein lies the clincher. For some it may be enough but for the majority is just the beginning and the desire to actually get there gets even stronger. It is an empowering experience adding a new matrix the UEP or Unique Emotional Proposition to the travel proposal.
Any travel sector may benefit from VR and that means for you as a content provider that there are opportunities in this new era. For destinations, hotels or local tourist boards VR is a very cost effective way to get the message out. There is no need for spin (pun intended) as the viewer will get a richer experience than any picture or text alone can convey. There is no room for misinterpretations there is just “what you see is what you get” to use computer lingo. It will also level the playing field for smaller attractions which will better be able to sell the experience by putting a 360 video on youtube or facebook to play in the big league. The ceiling is no longer the limit of content marketing as niche experiences can get in on the act.
As a consumer you will know that what is listed as ocean view is just a sliver of the ocean seen between two high rise hotels. There is just no way hiding the reality leading to “truth in travel”. It is also the perfect way and perhaps the future of travelers reviews… ;-). As a producer you can both comment on a place and show it in one go using a selfie stick to make the content. However with a simple monopod with feet you can stay out of the image yourself. It is even the perfect tool for those who want to be an actor in their own videos.
From own experience a short VR movie made with simple means of a New Year’s celebration in my hometown received 4000 views within 24 hrs and have in 3 months reached 12000+ views. The engagement and duration of each view is also longer than other posts.
– With simple (and relatively cheap) means you can add a new dimension to your content portfolio
– With basic knowledge there are opportunities in a new multibillion dollar market.
– Destinations/attractions/hotels with VR 360 content receive more bookings than those without
– If you represent a destination (or content provider for a such) this is a cost effective way to increase reach and engagement