Several years ago I strapped on a clumsy, uncomfortable cardboard VR headset and attempted to understand the virtual world that was so exciting to several of the “early adopters” on our staff. I ended up nauseous and unconvinced. Our understanding of the technology, and of the human eye, was incomplete at best.
Within the last year, I stood inside a virtual rendering of a visitor center design for a DMO client. I looked around and literally pointed to areas I had questions about and fully expected answers. Thankfully everyone else in our conference room could see what I was pointing at on a laptop screen to be able to answer my questions. But the undeniable fact was that the experience was so convincing I immediately had the sensation I was physically in that space. After taking in several more destination related examples of virtual reality experiences since, I am more convinced than ever that VR technology is progressing from the bleeding to the leading edge. And I believe now more than ever it is possible to convince travelers to visit a destination by using virtual reality.
Imagine visiting a destination’s website and being able to walk the streets and experience the ambiance instead of just reading about it. How much more convinced would you be to travel there? While virtual reality is currently limited to headsets, 360 content can be applied almost anywhere.
Increasingly, travelers are craving authentic, memory-making experiences. They want to visit local eateries, landmarks and retail shops and document their experiences on social media. By pushing out 360 content that features the attractions and experiences that make your destination great, you are able to give your target audience a front row seat to what they can expect to experience in your destination. Through 360 video content, your potential visitors can see how the cute eatery is just steps away from the museum, rather than simply read about their proximity to each other. If your main attraction is the beach, show waves splashing in front of you while children play in the sand. Or if your destination is known for its nightlife, your 360 content could feature a performer playing the saxophone as you meander down the street, showing how eventful an evening walk in your city can be. Clearly, the opportunities to appeal to all interests are endless. The key is that 360 content is a kind of immersive experience that can draw people in to visit your city.
If you are considering sharing your destination’s story on this “next level”, there are a couple ways to begin to experiment with 360 experiences in your marketing efforts:
- Include 360 video on your website. When you’re out in your destination taking photos and videos, make plans to include 360 video in the shot list for a few of the more unique attractions in your area.
- Your DMO could purchase a virtual reality headset or two to bring to trade shows. This means when you’re at the Toronto Golf Show, you can offer attendees who walk by your booth an immersive opportunity to take in the view from 18th hole of one of your most popular golf courses.
- Coupling the 360 content on your website with specially-designed ads to be aired with VR capabilities is an incredibly unique and effective way of marketing your destination. Even just a 30-second glimpse into what your destination has to offer can be enough to entice viewers to visit your website for more information and eventually book a trip.
As 360 content continues to settle into its place in the technology world, its adoption by DMOs will continue to evolve. But one thing is certain: by exploiting this technology to create unique, immersive experiences for travelers in the process of researching their next trip, DMOs who stay ahead of this burgeoning trend will be able to entice target markets in a way few competitors have yet to offer.