How do tech innovations impact on travel trends? What’s next for the travel industry? At the 2016 PURE Press Roundtable, we put these questions and more to some of our press members.
Click play to hear Founder of SUITCASE Magazine Serena Guen share her predictions; or read on to get the extended insights and download the full report.
TRAVEL TREND #6: VIRTUAL REALITY
“I think the next big trend in travel will be allowing people to experience travel at home to a much bigger and better degree through virtual reality.”
– Serena Guen, Founder and CEO of SUITCASE
With the overwhelming favour for authentic as opposed to simulated experiences we witnessed at the 2016 Press Roundtable, it may come as a surprise that our press influencers identified virtual reality as an emerging trend – ‘virtual’ being, by definition, unreal.
Yet from a marketing perspective, in the face of scepticism perhaps the best place for travel brands to hide is in plain sight. “The nice thing about 360 is that you can’t tweak it or retouch it or hide – you can see everything; it’s so real. That’s why it’s going to be the future”, says freelance travel writer Debbie Pappyn. Virtual reality is next best to the real thing for would-be travellers, affording an unfiltered, unedited perspective of a destination, property, or experience.
But if you can enjoy the experience without the associated jet lag (not to mention significantly reduced bank balance) of actually making the trip, why bother? Is there a danger that offering virtual reality experiences could actually satisfy travellers enough to deter rather then encourage them to travel?
Not so, argues CEO and co-founder of VR marketing company YouVisit, Abi Mandelbaum. “Virtual reality is the most realistic experience you can have of a place without being there. It’s powerful. It gets people excited and engaged and interested in having that experience in real life,” he explains. What’s more, according to YouVisit’s Virtual Reality Appetite Index one in five (19 per cent) American adults said they would use virtual reality to help pick a vacation destination.
In fact, from a business standpoint, says Mandelbaum, virtual reality is powerful marketing. A typical visitor to YouVisit spends more than 10 minutes engaged in the VR experience – “an eternity” in the digital world – and 13 per cent of them take some action afterwards, such as booking a hotel room or reserving a table at a restaurant.
Of course, as with all marketing tools, the implications of VR for the travel industry in the long run depend entirely on how it’s utilised. As Arnie Weissmann of Travel Weekly argues, “The more successful suppliers tell the story, not the thread count” – and Guen, for one, is convinced that VR’s ability to tell a story like no other is precisely where its strength lies. Savvy travel marketers will see these currently rather clunky headsets as an opportunity to capture not only the imagination of viewers, but also (rather novelly in our multi-screen age) their complete attention by virtue of the fact that they are quite literally unable to focus on anything else.
Katie Palmer is Senior Creative Executive for Beyond Luxury Media.