3 Ways Virtual Reality is Transforming the Travel Industry

Virtual Reality (VR) is receiving increasing interest from tourism marketers globally. Combined with 360-degree video capture, VR can virtually transport you to travel destinations around the world and provide you with experiences beyond your wildest dreams, all without leaving your sofa. This technology has already begun to make an impact on the travel industry and this is just the beginning. Here, we have listed just three ways VR is transforming the travel industry and its potential future impact.    

1. Virtual Tours  

Virtual tours have become a popular marketing method, where tourism marketers can offer potential visitors an immersive insight into the destination. This novel method of marketing has been found to entice people to explore new destinations that they might not have previously, and influence them to actually visit the destinations in real life. 

Putting on the VR headset could transport you to a luxury hotel in Tokyo and within seconds, you could be enjoying a Bird’s Eye View of the Grand Canyon. Virtual tours are particularly useful for travel agents as they can allow customers to have a 360-degree view of different locations, which increases their trust and manages their expectations compared with browsing through traditional 2D media. Travel operators might choose to offer VR in-store or as a mobile application that users can access from home.  

Similar methods have been used by hotels with the likes of Marriott providing virtual tours of their international hotels with an aim to provide potential visitors with a realistic insight into their offerings and encourage people to visit. Putting on the VR headset allows hotel guests to experience a collection of travel destinations from Beijing to Chile, while experiencing the accommodation Marriott can provide in these destinations should they decide to visit. 

This “try-before-you-buy” type of experience empowers potential visitors with the ability to take a virtual walkthrough of the hotels facilities and room types, which can avoid any confusion and disappointment upon arrival. 

2. Accessibility

VR also makes certain trips and experiences accessible for all including those individuals who may have limitations with their travel ability or experience anxiety or fear due to heights or flying. In VR, you could find yourself skydiving off the empire state building or swimming with great white sharks, perhaps such experiences are ones you would never dream of having in real life. 

Also, VR can allow people to access sites that might be inaccessible due to safety or over tourism, hence, VR could also contribute to cultural preservation. For example, if the influx of tourism at a historic site is becoming too much for the grounds to take, then it is possible for tourists to view the site in VR. Not only will this contribute to preservation of historical sites, it will also allow for the history and culture to live on through time. 

3. In-flight entertainment 

Although not widespread yet, VR could really take off as a form of in-flight entertainment, especially for long-haul trips. Imagine taking a 14-hour flight from the UK to Hong Kong, popping on a VR headset and being immersed into a completely new world of your choice for hours on end rather than being present in the same plane. 

You could potentially play games in VR with friends from back home or others on the flight – that’s one way to keep the young ones occupied, that’s for sure! If gaming isn’t your thing, you could watch short movies, documentaries or TV shows in 360-degree, or even immerse into a deep meditation. If you have fear of flying, this could be one way to overcome this fear. 

In fact, earlier this year, British Airways announced they will be offering first class passengers on select international flights the opportunity to experience in-flight  VR entertainment and also therapeutic programmes such as meditation and sound therapy. 

Although there remains barriers before it becomes widespread on planes, that won’t stop companies such as Inflight VR from achieving their goal of enabling passengers to immerse in VR while up in the clouds. We are excited to see what the future holds for this innovative business venture! 

What are your thoughts on the impact VR will have on the travel industry? Is this a technology you will use now and/or in the future?

5 Technological Innovations that will Transform your Future Travel Experience

As technological advancements continue to progress, they are impacting the travel experience at all stages of the traveller journey. From viewing destinations in Virtual Reality (VR) before you leave to gaining enhanced information at top attractions using mobile-enabled Augmented Reality (AR) applications, the following five technologies are bound to influence the way you travel now and in the future.

1. Virtual Reality

VR offers a new and novel way to experience various destinations in a 360-degree immersive environment before you travel. You simply put on the VR headset and are immersed into the virtual world. This technology provides you with a feeling of being virtually present at the destination without having to leave your sofa.

You can explore various locations and activities within a specific destination, which can help you decide whether you want to visit and also allows you to better compare destinations. You can even take “virtual tours” of hotels so you can pick your favourite room and decide whether you like the hotel facilities.

There are many 360-degree virtual tours of destinations and travel experiences available on YouTube. Plus, you can pick up cheap VR headsets for as little as £5. With these headsets, you simply load up the 360-degree immersive VR video on your phone, pop your phone in the headset and become immersed into the virtual world. These type of headsets and content make VR and immersive travel experiences accessible to many.

Overall, VR has the potential to make the travel search phase much more exciting and informative because you can take a virtual walk-through of areas of interest and make more informed decisions on whether you would like to visit or not.

You can also re-live travel experiences back home by developing your own VR experience using your own video footage, or simply experiencing the destination in 360-degree immersive VR, just like you did before you left.

2. Augmented Reality

AR is mobile-enabled and often accessed through mobile applications on a smartphone. It blends (augments) virtual content on top of real world objects.

Therefore, when exploring a museum or destination for example, you simply load the AR application on your mobile device, point your device at the point of interest (e.g. Statue of Liberty), and virtual content such as images, text, video or audio will be overlaid on top of the real world.

By using AR applications, you can access more information and therefore become more educated on the destination, museum, art gallery etc. while having fun using an interactive and engaging application at the same time.

3. Artificial Intelligence

Travel-related companies such as hoteliers and tour operators are already using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide more personalised recommendations to travellers based on the huge amounts of data they have collected.

Hence, AI can benefit you as a traveller by providing more efficient, tailored and faster service through the traveller journey, which will likely enhance your overall trip. By having AI chatbots (e.g. direct messaging on hotel websites), you are guaranteed the ability to reach customer service around the clock too and often without being placed in a queue.

For companies, AI can save them money and time by conducting tasks traditionally undertaken by humans, which also eliminates human error and allows for tasks to be conducted at any time of the day or night.

4. Robots

Robots are mostly impacting the hotel sector and it is likely you will see more of them in the near future.  For example, there may be robot-staff ready to assist you with checking in or robot concierge, and you might even experience robots in travel agencies and airports.

Robots benefit companies in the travel industry because they are more cost effective over time as they don’t require a salary, breaks or holidays, and overall provide greater consistency and accuracy than humans.

However, they do require maintenance costs and there is the limitation of human encounter, which many people enjoy when travelling. For you as a traveller, robots can make the experience more exciting and unique, therefore making it more memorable. Yotel in Singapore is an example of a hotel integrating smart technologies such as robots.

5. Smart Rooms    

Smart rooms are the future of hotels. They are AI-enabled, which means you can potentially control the entire room with just your voice. The rooms listen and when you provide commands such as changing the lighting, music, blinds and temperature, the AI-enabled room can act accordingly. In China, smart rooms have already been implemented (e.g. InterContinental Hotels Groups (IHG)).

New technologies are constantly emerging and will continue to impact the travel industry including both travel companies and us as travellers. It’s exciting to think about the future travel experience and how we will be experiencing destinations in the future, don’t you think? Have you experienced any cool technologies while travelling recently?