NEWS & VIEWS

Action Asia - - CONTENTS -

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.

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