Staying on top of new developments is a must for companies that want to remain competitive in any industry. The travel industry in particular has embraced a variety of different technologies to reach out to new customers, perhaps the most important being virtual reality technology.
The growing popularity of VR technology has been fueled by the production of increasingly affordable VR headsets, like Oculus by Facebook and recent 360-degree image functions that are now standard for smartphones. With the power of virtual reality, travel companies can nurture existing relationships, develop new customers, increase interest in travel, and serve customers better in general.
In this article, we will talk about how VR is changing the travel industry by encouraging travel companies to implement the technology in their sales and marketing strategies.
What is virtual reality?
Virtual reality, in its true form, involves a VR headset that immerses the viewer in a digital environment. By utilizing high quality images and sounds (and in some cases even physical sensations), the user is transported to another world that is almost indistinguishable from the one they left seconds ago.
The power of perception is truly revealed when people use virtual reality technology, which can manipulate sight and sound to convincingly mimic different worlds and destinations. People riding on a virtual reality roller coaster, for example, never leave the same spot on the floor yet will scream and cheer as they virtually barrel down steep cliffs and twirl around virtual theme parks.
In simpler form, virtual reality can be utilized by 360-degree tours, which capitalizes on common smartphone technology to allow users to virtually “walk through” a space. When on a 360-degree tour, viewers can turn around, look at ceilings, look at floors, walk through hallways, and open doors similar to a real tour.
Marketers are increasingly using VR because it takes them beyond basic images and videos, allowing users to “experience” the product or service they are being sold.
Virtual reality is a step up from livestreamed videos, which are another popular tool for engaging audiences. With the increasing use of cloud-based technology, streaming videos are losing their novelty as more modern technology is developed.
For example, according to cloud computing expert Barbara Ericson from Cloud Defense, most people already use the cloud and streamed videos through common subscription-based services such as Netflix and Hulu. Virtual reality allows users to have a newer experience that truly leaves a lasting impression.
The travel industry and virtual reality technology
The year of 2020 was dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, which hit the travel industry especially hard. The silver lining of this difficult year is that it has underscored the importance of technology within the sector. To be competitive, companies must have an adequate budget for digital marketing and new technology to reach broader audiences.
Virtual reality is a great investment for travel companies because it allows them to connect with customers and nourish relationships with existing clients even during lockdowns.
Travel companies are all about customer service and providing clients with an experience to remember. Virtual reality can give potential clients a taste of that experience and can be a great way to build sales pipelines and shore up new business for when the pandemic lifts.
One of the most important skills travel companies must have is the ability to communicate thoroughly and clearly. However, a common challenge they face is that sometimes a client may not know how to adequately describe the experience or feeling they are looking for in a hotel, conference center, function space, or destination.
Virtual reality can provide information to potential clients and answer questions faster and more efficiently than phone calls or emails. In many cases, a client may not even know what they want until they see it, and virtual reality is a great way to convey that.
VR as a “try before you buy” sales technique allows travel companies to maintain relationships with clients, build connections with new customers, and enhance overall communications.
As we all know, photos of hotels and function spaces can be outdated or misleading. You should note, though, that flaws and exaggerations are much more difficult to hide when using VR technology.
But using new technology is not always easy for companies. A recent study reveals that 93% of companies report encountering problems with digital transformation. It’s important to work with vendors and professionals who are familiar with the type of technology you want to use before utilizing it as part of your marketing strategy.
The rise of virtual tours
Technology came to the rescue for many embattled travel companies and travel startups, which had to quickly devise methods to resume business in the face of travel restrictions and lockdowns. Nearly every industry was negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic, which disrupted supply chains, made business meetings close to impossible, and created obstacles as entire workforces were scattered while working remotely.
The rise of the hybrid meeting, which allows in-person attendees as well as virtual attendees, was fueled by the pandemic, but will likely remain a trend for years to come. Allowing clients and, especially, meeting planners to check out function space via virtual reality can help build confidence among your customers that your travel company is truly reliable and well-versed when it comes to new technology.
YOTEL, for example, has always incorporated modern technology and even robots in their brand image, who are tasked with zipping around the hotel delivering various amenities. Their virtual, 360-degree hotel tour is a great example of a virtual tour done right. This tour allows potential guests to walk through the hotel from the outside to the lobby and all the way inside individual guest rooms.
It’s important to make sure that any VR technology you use is compatible with mobile browsing, which is the most common way individuals access the internet.
Companies must invest in new technology in order to remain relevant and competitive. In today’s current climate, during which the future is incredibly difficult to predict, it’s even more important to incorporate technology as your travel company engages in outreach and marketing.
Virtual reality can be a great solution for travel companies that are looking to broaden their audience and increase interest in their services.
Kiara Taylor is a freelance writer who has worked as a financial analyst for more than a decade in a number of roles, including equity research analyst, emerging markets strategist, and risk management specialist. To read more from Taylor, visit kiarataylor.com.
Top photo ©Tierney/Adobe Stock