Looking back, the travel industry has been transformed by a number of developments: Aviation, the Internet and online hospitality. The web has had a strong impact on researching vacation destinations, booking rating and sharing the experience. Virtual Reality in Tourism is the next inevitable revolution.
Hoteliers are already demonstrating intense interest in VR, and there are some great examples of hotels that offer compelling 360 virtual tours, including Hotel de Paris Monte Carlo and The Oberoi Amarvilas Agra in India. Museums, national parks, and many other tourist entities are taking up the virtual glove, shaping a whole new world of VR traveling experiences.
VR Will Shape Travel
Imagine a new world of travel: Before travelling, people surf the web for a spectrum of VR experiences displaying boutique hotels, and stroll through the rooms, pool, lobby and rooftop until they’re satisfied that this is the place they want to stay and is well worth the money. On the flight, they watch cool VR videos about their destination and the best places to go. During their stay, they enter a museum, which recreates ancient civilizations who used to reside in the area, as well as the 18th century studio of a famous painter who lived in the city. Wondering where to eat? A variety of VR experiences will show them the interior of any restaurant in town and its courses, so they can make a wise choice. Also, a convenient VR map will show them how to get anywhere in the city. During their holiday, they might even take 3D photos and videos of everything they see using their smartphones, enhanced with fisheye lenses. After they’re back home, they waste no time sharing their great holiday with their friends on social media using VR experiences, setting the marketing wheel on a never-ending cycle.
Will People Still Travel in Real Life?
This new travel vision is fast becoming a reality. But new realities always bring new fears: If people can have such amazing experiences from the comfort of their couch, will they ever get up to physically travel? That remains to be seen. True, VR is bewitching enough to magnetize people to their headsets, especially the younger generation who was born into a digital world and whose susceptible awareness is being shaped by multiple dimensions. Perhaps people will always travel, but they will also have the option to alternate between real travel and 360 virtual tours. They might only travel to places that really entice them, not just anywhere. Maybe they’ll use VR for the most expensive destinations. Maybe 360 degrees virtual tour will be the first bite, and real travel will be the full course. Only time will tell, but in any case, the future of VR will definitely be exciting.
Opening up Access
VR often is perceived as a tool that allows us to experience extraordinary things we cannot have in real life, such as taking a journey in a spaceship. However, 3D tours can also be used to open up access to restricted sites, such as archaeological sites or natural or cultural treasures. These sites may be restricted due to a remote location, fragility, private grounds, danger zones, or may have been demolished by a storm, an earthquake or the passages of time. VR, in this case, can serve to connect people to ancient traditions, dwellings or objects. Moreover, it can even allow people to view tiny or intricate details that cannot be seen otherwise.
The 3D experience is still being researched and shaped. We need to research what people grasp when watching the content in VR experiences, changes in their level of awareness relating to the object displayed, their behavioral intentions, interest in visiting a place, learning curve, and what they remember over time. To make VR truly effective in the travel industry, content creators need to better understand how to convey messages using format and best practices. Just like in any newly emerging technology, trial and error are our road to deeper knowledge, and practice makes perfect.
So what are you waiting for?