Tourism counts as a substantial moneymaker, when it comes to countries’ overall GDP. In fact, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, this industry directly accounts for 3.2% of the global economy as a whole.
Some countries, including Mexico, Jamaica, Greece and Croatia, are heavily reliant on the travel industry, as it is one of the most valuable chunk of their GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The Maldives, for instance, tourism is a whopping 39.6% of their total GDP. The British Virgin Islands are not that far, with 35.4% and Malta is the leading European country of the bunch, with 14.2% of GDP relying on tourism.
According to Statista, the tourism industry is predicted to contribute more than 2.6 trillion dollars by 2027 in the United States alone. The Department of Commerce has stated that international travel to the US should grow by 2.7%, per year, through 2022.
With these numbers are clearly painting a picture of a industry with a high, global impact, Virtual and Augmented Reality are stepping in to help create even more growth. Let’s examine the possibilities.
Virtual and Augmented Reality used for Planning a Dream Vacation
In a true “try before you buy” fashion, Virtual Reality offers potential travelers a guided tour of a destination of interest, via immersive, 360 degree views. They feel like they’re “already there” and can make a decision on flight and hotel booking much faster, thus increasing sales in a shorter time frame. This is very good news for the travel industry, propelling VR as a cost effective marketing tool. Property Week stated that places with VR tours are ten times more likely to be clicked on those that do not provide them. They create more interest and traction to the users. In addition, an astounding statistic from Aardvark says that 92% of internet users say the ability to see a 360 degree panorama while searching the internet is essential when browsing online.
Consumers enjoy being able to see what they are buying, making it essential for travel agencies and hotels to provide this to their future clientele. This is backed by a Pew Internet Life Study that concluded “a site with a 360 virtual tour and interactive media will receive 40% more views than a competitor’s site that is lacking media.” This type of technology can also help bring traffic to less known travel destinations or bring in new travelers to some of the most beloved travel spots in the world. Some countries and cities who are already adopting this technology are London, Prague, Japan, New York, Paris and Singapore, to name a few.
It’s safe to say that the applications within the travel industry are endless with VR. And the payoff is considerable.
VR tours used by Travel Agencies
Proficient travel agents are utilizing VR as a way to build trust and simultaneously guarantee the best experience for their client. A good example of a travel agency doing this successfully is a partnership between Thomas Cook with Visualise, to bring VR experiences to ten of its stores, giving travelers a chance to win a trip to destinations like Greece and New York City. Using a Samsung Gear VR headset, users could tour various destinations from Thomas Cook stores.
This endeavor brought in £12 million in revenue with flight and hotel bookings. That garnered a 40% return on their investment.
On top of that bewildering return, they gained a 180% uptick on conversions from their New York visualization experience. Expedia has also revealed VR tours of their own after they found millennials are more risk averse than older generations and less likely to travel alone. They wanted to market to a younger generation while easing the minds of young travelers by offering VR tours of potential destinations.
Using VR for hotel bookings
Booking hotels is another aspect of the tourism industry where VR is used commonly. Hotels can offer immersive tours of their hotel rooms and amenities to allow potential clients an easier alternative of choosing a hotel rather than reading descriptions and scrolling through pictures, which can often be misleading.
A few examples of this are Dubai’s Atlantis Hotel, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and Nobu Hotel in Las Vegas. These VR tours can be viewed via their web sites or through videos posted on social media outlets such as Instagram or Facebook. By posting on multiple social media outlets, they strive to increase their traffic and become viral. Within a competitive space such as the hotel industry, offering consumers VR or 360 degree tours can differentiate them from their competitors and lead to a better consumer experience. It is no surprise hotels are adopting VR technology into their marketing and sales strategies with undeniable statistics associated with using VR tours for their web site, marketing and sales efforts.
VR creates trust between customers and tour operators
Another trend that is gaining traction is using VR for sightseeing tours. When traveling, people are interested in seeing popular sights. Today, consumers want to get the best out of their travel experience by booking the right tours. VR can help by showing the consumer exactly what they are buying. Examples such as VR videos of diving in the Red Sea, snorkeling through the Great Barrier Reef and walking the historic Great Wall of China are just a few examples of how you can “try before you buy.” With customers going into the tour with expectations already in place, it will create a sense of trust when booking their tour with a specific company or person.
The use of VR is the realm of tourism is vast and varied. From travel agencies, to hotels and sightseeing tour operators, this revolutionary technology offers the ability to communicate with consumers in ways that words and pictures simply cannot. A number of experts within the travel industry say that VR will reach the status of a norm when it comes to booking and travelling across the globe. Research has shown that many companies are already adopting this technology to entice and excite potential clients and become more competitive.
With the statistics to back up the usefulness of this technology, VR may just become fully integrated in the business of travel and propel the industry to a more exciting and effective tomorrow.