Have you ever checked out a few pictures online or in a travel brochure, booked a ticket and arrived at a place that made you disappointed? The travel industry is taking notice of such issues – and it is also taking action.
Travel agent Thomas Cook has been among the first companies to offer virtual reality tours with the help of an ordinary VR headset. Selected travel agents in Europe will soon enough be equipped with the same abilities according to Augmented Reality Trends. These are all part of a trial which takes place in Germany, Belgium and the UK, which if successful will be rolled out to an array of countries.
So what does these virtual reality destination checks really provide? If we take New York as an example (out of the 12 destinations currently offered) you can take a helicopter tour over Manhattan, take a cab ride around Times Square, take a boat and circle the Statue of Liberty and watch the view from Top of the Rock observation deck.
Similarly, The Guardian recently reported about the fresh virtual reality offering from Marriot Hotels. The hotel chain offers customers 10 minutes in an octagonal box which should resemble some kind of teleporting device. Equipped with a pair of Oculus Rift spectacles, the customer can “travel” to other Marriot locations such as Hawaii, London and San Francisco. The newspaper further reports an increased interest in augmented reality in the form of mobile applications. Gamification of popular tourist sites or cities is on the rise, where you for instance can get current or historical information about objects by aiming your phone’s camera lens to what you’re watching.
The virtual reality tours can provide big business for travel agents at the same time as consumers get help. For instance, disabled persons can check out handicap facilities and explore step-less routes at a destination and inexperienced people who are afraid of travelling can see what really awaits them when they arrive. Guests can check out pools and bars as they will look upon arrival instead of trusting some shady picture. Actually, travel page Rough Guides recently reported that some of the few customers that have been offered a VR tour of an airplane upgraded to premium class afterwards.
The trend is expected to increase drastically, and as VR devices for the common consumer are expected to hit market in 2015 we expect to see an exponential increase in offerings and creativity within the industry. Stay tuned. Go virtual.