Virtual Reality Gives Tourists a Pre-Tour Before Booking Travel

October 21, 2017 – Imagine experiencing the Hagia Sophia, Eastern Orthodoxy’s premier church, located in Istanbul, before you put down your vacation dollars on a future trip. Or experience the Galapagos Islands up close, or Machu Pichu, just by donning a virtual reality (VR) headset. For those in the tourism business, virtual reality may prove to be the industry saviour drawing people back to booking agents rather than Expedia and other online travel sites.

At a conference held in New York last week, the tourism industry described how VR was helping sell vacation packages as well as timeshares. Richard Cumming, founder of Two Goats, an experiential agency that teamed up with Thomas Cook, and Samsung Electronics, are creating VR experiences giving prospective customers the chance to put on a Gear headset and do a “try before you fly.” The results, a 190% increase in bookings. Thomas Cook is so taken by this early VR success that they are rolling out Gear headsets to agencies and different resorts.

 

 Two Goats working with Thomas Cook created a VR helicopter tour over Manhattan.

 

Wyndham Worldwide has also started using VR to help sell timeshares giving potential purchasers the opportunity to experience what they are considering as well as a virtual tour of an area’s amenities, and attractions. Wyndham plans to produce more VR content and is separating its hotel business from its timeshare destination network.

Even Disney is using VR to help sell its many world resorts and theme park destinations. And China is getting into the act by partnering with leading cinematic technology providers such as IMAX.

Two Goats hopes to capture much of this nascent market by offering virtual reality scriptwriting and creative, end-to-end production, the design of VR displays at resort sites and in agencies, and other services. Their work isn’t limited to just Samsung’s Gear VR technology. They have put together VR tourism packages using Oculus Rift to create a full 360-degree pre-tour of South African destinations including a virtual tour of Table Mountain, virtual kite surfing, experiencing feeding elephants at a sanctuary, strolling through a Johannesburg market, and diving using a shark-cage off Cape Town. States Tolene van der Merwe, South Africa Tourism Country Manager in the United Kingdom, “As far as we know, this is the first time a tourism board has used Oculus Rift to showcase their destination in such a varied and immersive way using this state-of-the-art technology.”

Thomas Cook VR pre-tour experiences include an immersive tour of Manhattan, visiting the pyramids in Egypt, or a walking tour of the Sentido resort, an exclusive adult-only resort on the island of Rhodes. The in-agency store experience in its first three months is credited with generating 12,000 flights and hotel bookings, and a 190% increase in New York City excursion tours.

 

Thomas Cook has put Gear VR headsets into select agencies and destinations to provide pre-tour experiences that the travel agent credits with increasing bookings dramatically.


Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery.
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