Virtual reality: buzzy novelty or travel marketing must-have?
Since the early days of travel marketing, brands have tried to offer a glimpse of their escape to inspire travelers to visit. Whether through “Wish You Were Here” postcards, timeshare presentations or, even more recently, influencer marketing. The hope with each is to showcase what your destination, hotel, etc. has to offer. What if you could immerse someone in the experience before they even arrived? What if you could do more than just give a glimpse of inspiration, but a full “feet in the sand” tour without ever leaving the comfort of your home? It’s been on the horizon for some time, but the early adopters are here and brands are braving the new space. As the technology evolves and consumers become savvier, marketers will need to find smart ways of integrating it into their plans, if at all.
What about providing results?
Suzanne Sanders, Marketing Director at VR production company YouVisit.com, says visitors spend an average of 10.4 minutes interacting with virtual reality experiences, and average 22% more in-person visits after the experience. The tourism board for the Canadian province of British Columbia, Destination BC, earned 65 million media impressions since it launched its VR experience, assisting in building higher levels of engagement. Even nonprofit organizations, like Amnesty International, reported a 16% increase in direct-debit donations brought on by its VR campaign. With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that 75% of Forbes’ World’s Most Valuable Brands have already created some form of VR or augmented reality experience.
This is because alternate realities not only offer a visual medium to showcase travel brands, but also provide more vivid experiences that connect with consumers’ emotions. Compared to flat, two-dimensional media, consumers can be transported to locations and experiences that strike awe and yearning. If a friend’s vacation photo can create an intense feeling of FOMO, imagine what emotions can be elicited by an immersive experience. You’re on a cruise ship for the first time, walking the deck overlooking the coast of St. Lucia while live music plays to your left and birds fly overhead to your right. Now all we need is Willy Wonka’s Smell-O-Vision…
It isn’t a “build it and they will come” environment, however. These endeavors require capital to get off the ground and a commitment to consumer enrichment. In order for the tech to connect with your audience, it needs to explore a unique attribute that overcomes the initial barrier of entry and have a wow-factor that keeps them engaged. Most of all, they need to be compelled to act. Beyond just marveling at your place or product, they need to desire more and act on it. Follow you on Facebook. Tell a friend. Visit your site. Sign up to your newsletter. This should be built into the experience itself.