Giving meeting planners a visual experience during the decision-making phase of the venue search process is vital. Research tells us that videos are found to be 58% more trustworthy than still imagery or words alone. The advent of Virtual Reality (VR) in the hands of your DMO opens the door to the most immersive video to date and a chance to take your Familiarization Tour experience to the next level. Read time: 5 minutes
Listed as one of Design Week’s Top 10 most exciting Trends for 2016, the prediction “Virtual Reality becomes Globally Accessible” has us thinking. What does this forecast from a graphic design news organization have to do with DMO group sales and meeting planners? Well, we think it will be a game-changer. There are numerous reasons a well-produced video can be a powerful tool for a DMO.
Giving meeting planners a visual experience during the decision-making phase of the venue search process is vital. Plus the use of video imagery is on the rise in social media—the average person will spend 100 minutes each day watching online videos in 2021 (Zenith Media). Where are people watching most of these videos? On their mobile devices! Video consumption through mobile devices rises by 100% every year. You no longer have to rely on meeting planners and travel writers only looking on your website to find a FAM Tour (Familiarization Tour—a free or reduced-rate trip offered to travel professionals to acquaint them with a destination or attraction).
Smart SEO and social media strategy can place your DMO offerings front and center before a planner has even considered researching your community. Video engagements via social channels use the word “billion” to describe the number of users engaging with video streams on YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat. Short, targeted videos can successfully deliver information about hotels, meeting spaces and attractions in a conversational and authentic way.
The City of Montgomery, Alabama, known as The Capital of Dreams, was selected to host ESPN’s 2016 Raycom Camellia Bowl. Our creative team compiled a short video using clips from ESPN’s 2015 Camellia Bowl and clips from other long-form videos we had previously created for the City of Montgomery to highlight the great things the city has to offer. By creating a video that featured the excitement of the Camellia Bowl while also promoting local dining, entertainment and attractions, we gave viewers a real sense of what a game weekend experience in Montgomery would be. Appalachian State University and Ohio University, the teams selected to play in the bowl game, both used the FAM Tour Video on their social media feeds to hype up fans while promoting ticket sales and travel to Montgomery. An estimated 21,000 people attended the game the Saturday before Christmas.
The most powerful pieces of communication that you can send to a meeting planner or travel writer should be authentic, personalized and experiential. The addition of virtual reality (VR) in the hands of your DMO opens the door to the most immersive video to date. Just like how GoPro Cameras brought experiential video to the mainstream and drone photography made it much easier to achieve spectacular flyover points of view, we expect 360 technology to allow VR FAM Tours in your marketing mix and take the proven video format to a whole new level. Until now, creating a virtual reality video was only possible by using expensive professional-grade cameras with complicated rigs. DPocket-Lint recently reviewed the Best 360 Cameras 2021: The best VR and 360 cameras, no matter your budget. At these prices, shooting VR now has a comfortable entry point for this brand new, game-changing technology. Importantly, some of these cameras can produce video that downloads directly to your mobile device and that's supported by YouTube. So, recording a walk through your convention center, your entertainment district in full swing or a tour around any attraction of interest could be turned into a series of short virtual tours. Suddenly you have a sales tool far more compelling than a floor plan and list of amenities!
The most exciting thing about 360 VR is that you will have the ability to allow potential meeting planners to have a look around your most impressive venues from the comfort of their own office. This truly immersive experience is magnified by the use of a viewer or headset with stereoscopic technology—for those of us over forty, think Viewmaster, remember the red handheld viewer with the little round paper wheel of slides? Hi-tech 3D headsets became mainstream in 2016 with gear like the long-awaited Occulus Rift. Samsung’s $129.00 Gear VR utilizes its Galaxy Smartphone to deliver high-quality 360 Virtual Reality viewing.
Skift Magazine’s Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016 reported Shangri-La Hotels was the first international hospitality brand to roll out Samsung Gear VR headsets for each of its 17 global sales offices and 94 individual hotel sales teams. And when Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater wanted to promote the destination’s meeting and convention venues as well as its array of offerings for leisure travelers they started using VR. And VR isn’t limited to the ground—Qantas, an airline based in Australia, was one of the first carriers to dabble in VR when it introduced its Samsung Gear VR headsets for in-flight entertainment. The headsets feature popular entertainment content and tours which “showcase the delights” of the airline’s network destinations.
A recent article in Time Magazine says, “The first obvious use case for virtual reality is gaming. But the reason that consumer VR will likely take off sooner rather than later is that a wide variety of industries, from travel to real estate, are all beginning to experiment with it. Cruise operators will soon be taking 360-degree photos and videos of their ships, allowing would-be customers to take VR tours before booking.”
A VR headset that is already available and widely used is Google Cardboard, a simple cardboard case that holds your smartphone in front of your eyes to let anyone on any budget experience virtual reality. Using an App or a link to a website, planners or travel writers could experience whitewater rafting through uptown Columbus, Georgia or walk the steps of Rosa Parks in current-day downtown Montgomery, Alabama without traveling a mile. Suddenly you can deliver custom personalized FAM Tours in the form of a Cardboard viewer and a link! Think of all the possibilities to showcase your hotels, meeting venues, attractions, and even your airport!