Wish You Were Here? Why VR will be great for tourism

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This week I was lucky enough to have been invited to demo some of the VR content I’ve been helping a Belfast studio create.

As with any time I demo any VR work I helped to make, I’m curious to see people’s reactions. The reactions are always positive so far, and they range from a pleasant smile to friendly accusations of witchcraft.

While it was great to hear positive feedback, I was interested in hearing how a VR experience felt to many of the people who tried it that day as they were all involved with the tourism industry. As people, they very much enjoyed the experience – for many, it was their first time (bless), so there was a definite “novelty” factor. For others, they really believed that they were in a real space as opposed to a virtual one. But as professionals involved in tourism, there was some suspicion. One of the biggest concerns was that “if someone decides to look at a hotel or location through a VR headset, why would they bother to visit?

I kind of understand why someone in the tourism industry would ask this, initially. But if we think about it, there’s actually nothing to fear. VR brings places to people. It creates spaces and inserts people within those places and attempts to inspire a sense of presence. Imagine that you’re choosing a hotel for your big family trip. It comes down to two hotels. The prices are similar, the locations and facilities are both ideal. But one hotel offers you the chance to actually experience what it’s like to be there. You can soak up the atmosphere of the opulent lobby, get a sense of space that the rooms allow, you can see how beautiful the dining room is. And you don’t have to get out of your seat to do it. How? This hotel has a VR app which allows people from all over the world to sample their product. It could be the deciding factor.

With Youtube giving their support to 360° video and Google Cardboard becoming more and more ubiquitous, it’s going to be so easy for potential customers to do this. It’s next level “whet the appetite” stuff and could really be the next major sales tool to boost the tourism industry…


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