If virtual reality cheerleaders are correct, VR tech will infiltrate many aspects of our lives very soon. But with the technology not exactly at sophisticated levels yet, and many consumers saying they don’t see the point of it, it could be a while before the VR promise manifests.
However, there is one industry where VR investment and uptake is on the upswing, and that’s travel. With VR content being developed for travel marketing and travel experiences, this might be the first exposure to VR for many consumers. They’re into it,too – of the same group who said they don’t see a practical purpose for VR, 56% said they’d use it for travel experiences. As one industry expert told Travel Weekly, VR could be an extension of review sites like TripAdvisor, offering consumers a walk-through of a hotel they’re interested in staying at, as one example.
Which is why the travel industry is throwing money at VR. Hotel chain Marriott piloted a project with Samsung for two weeks at one location in London and one in New York that offered guests VRoom Service – guests could order a VR headset and go on a VR trip to Chile, for example.
Companies like YouVisit are providing VR for tourist boards in cities like Houston. The city’s Visit Houston bureau wanted to offer potential visitors a VR view of some of the area’s attractions in an effort to improve tourist numbers.
YouVisit’s founder told Mashable that the idea behind the company was, in part, to offer immersive travel experiences that many people wouldn’t like have IRL. Case in point: Samsung is offering a VR experience of this year’s Olympics in Brazil.
Other companies, like Matterport, create “walk through” experiences so that, for instance, a potential cruise passenger can tour a ship before booking a stateroom. Luxury cruise company Cunard is doing that by providing travel agents with VR sets so that customers can experience the newly renovated Queen Mary 2. Also UK travel agencies Thomson and First Choice are saying bon voyage to paper destination brochures – they’ll be gone by 2020, replaced with technology including screens at their agencies. They’re looking at the potential of offering VR headsets at their brick-and-mortar locations as a way to lure travelers in and get them to book.
Another concept being talked about is the idea of “clanning,” which uses VR to create a shareable, real-time travel experience for a group of people located in different places. Why plan a shared trip with a mess of flights, hotels, and itineraries when you can do the same with a VR headset?
Some airlines are already trying out VR content as part of their in-flight entertainment. Qantas tried it out last year with some of their first-class passengers. In fact, passengers on an aircraft might be the easiest application for VR travel; the technology is easier to incorporate and the passengers are physically present, so getting them to put on a headset isn’t as much of a challenge as needing to get bodies in a travel agent’s shop – and it gives people something to do during their flight.
But will VR travel replace actual, physical travel? Probably not – not for everyone, anyway, and not soon. The technology just isn’t there yet and the content isn’t either, plus VR can’t replicate one of the best parts of travel – all the spontaneous, unexpected experiences that make the best travel stories.
For more insight on ways digital transformation is changing how we live, work, and play, see Live Business: The Digitization of Everything.