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Virtual reality devices and 360-degree videos are quickly becoming widely popular, prompting a variety of players in a wide range of industries to move forward in adopting related technologies as a part of their marketing efforts. A particularly prominent example of an industry that has aggressively pursued uses of such technology is the travel industry.

In virtual “test drives” of resorts, events, and destinations, tourism brands have sought to help generate travelers’ interest and boost tourism to the area. From Thailand to Las Vegas, national and local tourism authority organizations realize the value of developing immersive videos that can highlight the beauty of the location and the fun that can be had.

For example, the Tourism Authority of Thailand has capitalized on the country’s popular elephant sanctuaries by developing four 360-degree videos that allow users to tour the facilities virtually and see the massive animals as they move about their enclosures. Tourism of Australia also has developed multiple 360-degree films, highlighting various aquatic and coastal travel experiences, allowing virtual visitors to enjoy stunning views of the Great Barrier Reef—without ever coming anywhere close to a crocodile! The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority focuses on a different kind of animal: the human sights and sounds captured in 30 different 360-degree videos that simulate drives down the famous Las Vegas Boulevard.

Beyond the tourism agencies, independent airlines and hotels are adopting the technology too. United Airlines has created virtual reality demonstrations, showcasing its upscale Polaris business class service. Travelers can virtually tour the space while sitting is special booths, set up in the carrier’s domestic hubs around the nation.

Marriott Hotels’ special “teleporter” booths can be used by guests to view virtual reality destinations accessible from other Marriott Hotels across the globe. Even budget-friendly Best Western has gotten in on the action. The company uses Google Street View technology to create 360-degree videos that allow users to tour each of the firm’s 2,000 locations.

Although not quite as fun as being there in person, the ability to “test drive” a property, experience, or location allows consumers to gather more information before deciding where to book their next vacation. These new forays into the virtual reality space also allow companies in the travel industry to expand their reach and entice prospective clients.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What other industries might benefit from using such virtual reality tours in their marketing efforts?
  2. Technological advances obviously enable such virtual tours. What other macroenvironmental factors are at play in these developments?

Source: Jane L. Levere, “Before You Take the Trip: How About a Virtual ‘Test Drive’?” The New York Times, February 12, 2017

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