experience where users could explore the island’s beaches, swim with stingrays or take a helicopter flight through a VR headset. The headsets launched at the International Travel and Tourism Show in Montreal, giving travel agents and potential visitors a taste of what the destination has to offer. The response was huge, according to Edouard Limon, Winged Whale’s Creative Director, who said: “It was quite something. To have not just digital content, but to give users an immersive experience and entice, educate and inspire them to feel like they were in Antigua and Barbuda.”
The private sector has also made moves towards VR, with cruise giant Royal Caribbean among the first to utilise the technology in its advertising and marketing strategy. In 2017 the group used HoliDeck VR software to give potential guests a look at the facilities and activities onboard their vessels and, this year, the company unveiled the Spectrum of the Seas, set to sail in
2019, which includes the Sky Pad, a VR bungee trampoline. Spectrum’s predecessor, Quantum of the Seas, boasts virtual balcony staterooms so accommodations in the interior of the ship can still have an ocean view.
The VR headset market alone is worth around US$7bn annually and 70% of marketers say using 360 video increases the level of engagement among their client base. “The technology is being embraced and the results are there. Times are changing and we are forced to change with them,” said Limon.
People are at the heart of tourism, which has long been considered a business built on relationships. Travellers want to connect with locals, locals enjoy meeting and welcoming visitors. In this kind of environment, it’s difficult to see how machines can replace human interaction. Davy suggested that technology can complement rather than compete with the human side of the business, and added: “Let the technology do the heavy lifting and humans can get back to interacting with guests and providing that service. Experiment [with the technology], try something new and be open.”
Ultimately, tourism doesn’t have a choice. It must engage with the next wave of technology or risk being left behind. The CTO marked World Tourism Day last month and CTO General Secretary Hugh Riley had a message for the industry:
“It is our duty to explore and introduce new tools and capabilities. In the coming months the CTO will continue to develop an agenda which encourages and assists member states’ efforts to create digitally-enhanced tourism services via entrepreneurship and innovation.
“Tourism must bring benefits to all members of society. Emerging digital technologies provide a range of new tools that can tackle challenges faced throughout our member states, increase profitability and bring about positive change for stakeholders that will improve the quality of life for all Caribbean people.”
A 2018 national study funded by Expedia and the Center for Generational Kinetics found that 57% of Americans are currently saving money specifically for travel. But this is even higher for millennials, 65% of whom say they are currently saving for travel