NEWS & VIEWS
VR’S use in travel marketing, the rise of underwater drones and global efforts to protect our coral reefs.
IMAGINE TRAVELLING to the shores of the River Gang es for the annual Ganga Dussehra Festival. The scene is bustling with pilgrims but without the ‘interesting’ odours that come after long, hot treks. Imagine going without the need for vaccines, luggage or even passports. In fact, imagine going without even taking off. Aside from helping gamers fight zombies and save princesses, virtual reality is also permeating the adventure travel retail space. Canada’s G Adventures, for instance, has introduced virtual encounters at consumer events and trade shows. Currently, they have virtual trips to Peru and India and are in the process of producing footage for Cuba. “We’ve definitely noticed an increased appetite for VR content in our space. Adventure travel tends to be quite experiential, which makes it a perfect fit for VR,” said Louise Laing, the company’s Director of Marketing. “Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” “Videos recreate an actual trip experience and viewers are led by one of our Chief Experience Officers. In India, you sail along the Ganges and immerse yourself in local life. In Peru, we take you through the Sacred Valley, visiting our Women’s Weaving Co-op and Machu Picchu.” Virtual reality is no stranger in other spheres of tourism. In late 2014, UK booking agent Thomas Cook rolled out a “Try Before You Fly” campaign, offering pre-tour experiences in its flagship stores. The campaign generated about US$15,500 in flights and hotel bookings in the first three months, with a 40% return on investment, according to VR production studio Visualise who worked with Thomas Cook. As of last year, Japan even has a virtual aviation facility, First Airlines, who whisk passengers off to Paris. At US$62 a pop, guests enjoy a four-course French meal then embark on a two-hour ‘trip’ that’s done through video and projection mapping. The company’s VR tours – which also include other destinations like Rome, Hawaii and New York – have been fully booked since their launch in 2016. Though a seemingly win-win situation, Public Relations Manager of World Expedition Michele Eckersley said not every travel retailer can afford the gear. “Currently, using virtual reality technology to market a destination has been prohibitively expensive and consequently confined to tourism boards that have had the budget to invest in it. There’s no doubt that it’s been an effective tool at trade events, where the technology works best when the glasses are readily available. “The availability of the technology is what limiting the uptake at present. We don’t have the budget to use the technology online, as the glasses are not widely available as yet. Until the technology becomes mainstream, it is unlikely companies like ours will invest in VR.” For now, virtual reality’s use in promoting adventure tourism is still relatively untapped. It remains to be seen how this changes as prices fall and the technology becomes more accessible.