Virtual Reality In Travel – Why Now Is The Best Time To Embrace It

When the Lumière brothers pioneered a little concept called cinematography back in 1896, the moving image of a train arriving in a station was incredibly mind-blowing for people everywhere. In fact, it was so unbelievable that it is said the first audience ran away screaming from the theater because they felt like the train was coming right at them and they perceived it as a real danger.

Fast-forward more than a century and we are now running towards such concepts instead of away from them. We are constantly looking for the new and exciting and there are very few things that seem to impress us nowadays. Virtual reality, however, is one of them. 

Given how many of our vacation plans have been put on hold this year due to the COVID crisis, travelers, as well as hoteliers, are inevitably missing out. Travel restrictions or simply the fear of leaving the safe space we have at home are making us look at vacation plans with caution; but the wanderlust, however, is still there – maybe even more than before. Although not quite comparable to the real, live experience, virtual reality tours might be the answer to the question that the majority of us have this summer: “How can I get that vacation feel without actually traveling?”

Well, let’s get into it. Although it’s not a brand new concept anymore, VR has been raved about in these last few years and travel got its fair share of the hype. Starting with the basics, virtual reality is defined as “a way of replicating an environment that simulated the physical presence in a certain place, whether that place belongs in the real world or a fictional one”. It’s a highly visual way of experiencing settings and situations that in real life, could be harder to get to – normally due to time or budget restrictions and right now, mostly because of the crisis and the lockdown.

Many say that hospitality is the perfect environment for the use of virtual reality and truth be told, most people are extremely responsive to visuals, especially when it comes to travel destinations and accommodations. Getting a sneak-peak into your dream vacation, without the actual commitment or current risk, is a great chance for travelers everywhere and an even greater marketing strategy for hoteliers. 

VR is in no way mandatory for hotels and it doesn’t seem like it will be, at least not in the near future, but it is one of those features that can spice up a guest’s journey and drive a higher level of popularity for a hotel, which can result in more bookings. Especially during these slow months, when travelers are not as eager to travel as before, providing them with VR tours is a quick trick that can pay off in the long run – even if it doesn’t immediately lead to a booking decision, viewers will remember such an innovative experience and your hotel’s charm and consider it when traveling is an option once more. This is why it is recommended to take advantage of this fairly innovative and creative branch of technology and adjust it to your hotel’s specific traits and possibilities. 

Both millennials and generation Z’ers can be considered a target-audience when it comes to the use of virtual reality in travel. Being born in the technological era, they naturally expect travel companies and their preferred hotels to keep up with technology and everything new and exciting that it has to offer. Making use of such a creative concept such as VR comes as a big plus in the eyes of these two generations and it a properly executed VR feature can drive them to book your hotel instead of any other one. Why? Because, first of all, you are taking a chance and you go the extra mile for your guests and potential guests. It shows that you care about making their experience amazing and you also give them the chance of testing the water before actually staying at the hotel. This only shows that you, as a hotelier, are confident that your hotel has a lot to offer and you are willing to invest a bit more into a business that you constantly improve and adjust to newer generations.

Also, virtual reality is almost a dream within a dream. For the average person, planning a vacation is already a dream come true. It might be that one time a year when Joe, the ambitious student, takes a break. It can be the perfect occasion for Ana, the busy lawyer, to spend time away with her family. Or Mike’s perfect excuse for getting away from his, during the stressful holidays. You get the point. When someone sets their mind on a vacation, this is the first step into making a dream come true. Between this and the actual vacation though, there can sometimes be a pretty big leap of insecurities, to which wee are adding now a bunch of concerns regarding safety and cleanliness. Am I making a good call? Is this hotel a safe and clean environment? Will this vacation fulfill all of my expectations? Do I risk getting sick? These are questions that everyone has on their minds. And this is exactly where virtual reality can take the spotlight and work its magic. The dream within a dream.

Virtual reality can take your marketing strategy to a whole new level by using more than the traditional means, such as advertising and campaigning. There has never been a better and more effective way of awaking that wanderlust in travelers such as virtual reality. Giving tourists a taste of what they can experience if they book a stay at your hotel will feel more real than ever in the nearby future. Hotels will be able to provide a teaser of the accommodation, the rooms, the location, the beautiful beaches or pool areas, the breathtaking views, anything that can be visually striking for potential guests and could drive them to book the hotel. 

Not only that but since cleanliness is a top priority for the post-COVID traveler, virtual reality can also be an ally in this sense. Why not use it to showcase the new hygiene and safety measures that you enable in your hotel? Let travelers see the effort that you put in and the care that you have for their safety and wellbeing. 

Whether you have your mindset on VR or you are just testing the waters to see what it can do to your hotel’s success rate and popularity among travelers, this is definitely a topic worth the while. Creativity is the only limit and technology is coming out every day with new and exciting ways of enhancing countless experiences, so why not make the most out of it?