Imagine adding Virtual Reality (popularly known as VR) to the mix. You have got yourself a world of unexplored opportunities. A PDF brochure or a PowerPoint presentation are becoming monotonous in today’s fast paced world of immersive media. Customers can instead experience a 360° video with audio of their desired venue/location.
Virtual Reality offers a grand platform wherein the customer can experience and visualize said location/venue. If the event/ exhibition/ conference are being held at an outdoor location, VR can be used in demonstrating the design, wherein the customer can take in the ‘look and feel’ of the setup. This makes it easier for the customer to make up their mind about the MICE venue they would like to choose and book in advance.
Mr. Milton Rivera, Vice President, Global Business Development for American Express Meetings & Events predicts, “We are at a pivotal point for technology and meetings. It may be that someone automates the dining set up or another aspect of a meeting but the next big thing is about to happen”.
Tourism industry is the fastest growing economic sector worldwide and when one hears travel and tourism industry conventionally they tend to imagine leisure travel takes the lead. However, MICE business is the key driver inside travel and tourism business and has seen a remarkable rise in the past decade. MICE sector is spreading like wild fire generating millions in revenues globally.
A study by Deloitte and an editorial by BBC have predicted that, 75% of the workforce globally will be made up of ‘Millennial’ by the year 2025.
Millennial are individuals born between early 1980s to the early 2000s. This is the generation who has grown up using the internet and new age media. With them occupying a considerable portion of the workforce, it is crucial not only to be abreast with upcoming trends for MICE events, but also with the rapidly emerging era of technology and media. Use of technology in MICE events has not remained an option one can choose from but an opportunity one must utilise upon. The brighter side of this revolution is that technology is your friend and it is here to make your life easier as a MICE planner/ organiser.
Virtual Reality as a technology is still in its fledging years. However, marketers and advertisers should look forward to utilising this innovative technology at this stage. It is new concept to MICE Tourism and the one who leads the pact making use of innovation makes news for the century. It is only wise for India to market their venues through VR to real in international business. VR can be the extra step and play a pivotal role becoming the oomph factor for the promotions and marketing of MICE destination in the country.
MICE Tourism; the future of business travel is the next big step for global travel and tourism market as it is the fastest growing engine. The vast potential of MICE Tourism industry has been observed by professionals worldwide. The permanent effect it has on the financial state; directly or indirectly in additionally to the diverse stakeholders; event organisers, amenities or infrastructure, suppliers and contractor and so on, who play a vital role in the community.
This distinctive idea brings a multitude of technological and hardware solutions mixed with support services to help industry segments; a firm new product launch or promoting a new service basket, a spiritual foundation wanting to implant seeds of harmony, the government office making policy change announcement, an academic institution communicating its success stories, or any organisation hosting an event or a meeting for their internal or external stakeholders or it could be somebody wanting to get together with prospective clientele.
MICE business as a sector has grown enormously worldwide. Since its modest inception nearly a century back this segment has bloomed from substance to more substance and is today considered as a structured industry. World Tourism Organization UNWTO identifies the innate power of the industry and beneficial in recognising and publicizing MICE destinations from around the world. According to ICCA – International Congress and Convention Association, the pinnacle organisation, much over 11000 meetings are conducted around the world. The most favoured and prominent destinations are European continent’s Barcelona, Vienna, Paris and Madrid. Asia Pacific, although falls short in terms of total meetings held is the rapidly growing market.
Internationally, the MICE business sector, having a marketing share of 54%, has surpassed the conventional traditional business travel sector. Meetings/ Seminars/ Conference with 41% and Exhibitions/ Trade Fairs with 29% are amongst the two biggest MICE sub-sectors (Source: ITB World Travel Trends Report 2014/2015).
India stands at the 35th place by hosting nearly 116 conventions. The capital; New Delhi hosted the maximum number of conferences in terms of cities. In spite of having 10 prime destinations across the country, with fair MICE infrastructure, India still stands behind in terms of meetings hosted. With the right contribution, there is remarkable scope for business travel services like conventions and meetings in India’s rapidly booming tourism market that has produced 5.1 million tourists yearly.
MICE business and luxury tourism is the key drive in the national economy, which has seen a speedy expansion in the past few years owing to the improved connectivity and a growing working class in India, as per a review released at the 5th Annual MICE India and Luxury Travel Congress (MILT). In between years 2005 and 2010, domestic travel figures have doubled in India and in 2016, a double digit rise of 15.5% was documented after 1.65 billion tours were taken in the country.
Sharjah Tourism, Country Representative, India Market, Komal Seth, quoted saying that, in the Indian market, MICE customers are looking for value propositions, definite deliverables and swift transactions, both functionally and monetarily. She also added that every customer has location understanding and approach to the merchants and agents; however the way to break into this sector is with commitment, novelty and competence, which motivates the value for services.
Technological advancement plays an important role in MICE business.
Events and conferences have been transformed by the newest technology. We have come a long way, gone are the days when customer’s requirement were restricted to only an overhead projector.
Today, a wireless connection at the host location is vital. Live Stream Video Broadcaster, Portable Scanner/ Printer, Video Conferencing and Multi Screen LED Projectors have become customary. Nevertheless, it is not just about the contemporary, modern technology, but about resourceful technology that is adaptable and handy. MICE planners/organisers have to keep up with state of the art technology and regularly upgrade.
It is expected that technology is going to transform conventions and events. In 2018, it is expected that technology will keep on making an impression on the end-to-end implementation of conventions, exhibitions and meetings and makes an impact on the experience of the attendee. The current evolution of smartphone apps and the cross meeting put together with prospective applications for latest technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality have exhilarating propositions for organising bo
dies, attendees and marketers alike.
Virtual Reality matters to Travel and Tourism marketing. It started as a clunky way to play video games couple of decades ago, and today it is a sophisticated medium with significant promise for the future. It is only rational to get a head start on your competitors by preparing for the future of VR marketing.
Virtual Reality is a fully immersive computer ‘stimulated environment’ that gives a user the feeling of being in that environment instead of the one they’re physically in. A plausible, deeply engaging three-dimensional computer developed universe one can discover. One can sense being there both in mental and physical capacity.
Key Elements of Virtual Reality:
This is how VR is different from traditional media. Watching a video on screen is a passive form of display, one cannot walk around, change directions, reach out and explore. VR makes you believe you are in reality present at the virtual location. A location in which one is partially or entirely engrossed (using an industry jargon; ‘immersed’). It is a two way street; you react to your surroundings and your surroundings respond to you. You hold the steering and can change directions, unlike a recorded video which is not in your hands. VR adapts to match the person’s perspective.
Classifying all Virtual Reality systems would be difficult, majority configurations can be categorised into 3 main types. These 3 categories can be rated by the immersion of our sensory systems (e.g. hearing, vision, scent, touch).
• Non-Immersive (Desktop) Systems: Affects only 1 of 4 sensory systems, using the conventional computer monitor, portal or window to display three dimensional virtual worlds.
• Semi-Immersive Projection Systems: This indulges the user in a partially immersive ambience while still being conscious of his surroundings. It affects 2 or 3 sensory systems, e.g. a flight stimulator.
• Fully Immersive Head-Mounted Display Systems: The user has no physical contact with the physical world. All sensory systems are fully immersed.
• 1895: Auguste and Louis Lumiere release the very first movie theatre in France. It is said that one of the scene from ‘Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat’ is so believable and depicts realism so convincingly that the audience ran to the back of the room in alarm.
• 1950: A book published by US Air Force psychologist James J. Gibson; ‘The Perception of the Visual World’ describes theories of perception as an ‘optic flow’ people move through in real life. Ideas described by him have helped in laying the foundations of visual perception which have fed into studies of computer vision and virtual reality.
• 1956: Morton Heilig, Cinematographer developed a revolutionary three dimensional head top display. He patented the machine in 1962 and named it Sensorama, which can transform its user in virtual vision, vibration, audio and smell. Heilig was regarded as the real father of Virtual Reality for laying the foundation for the now fully advanced technology.
• 1961: Headsight by C. Comeau and J Bryan develop head mount display, the very first of the time.
• 1962: Sketchpad was launched by Ivan Sutherland; one could draw on the screen of the computer. This made way for the graphics later on used for Virtual Reality.
• 1968: HMD (Head-mount display) was invented by Sutherland in three dimensional hi-fi visions.
• 1970: A Virtual Reality laboratory; Vidoeplace is launched by Myron Krueger – computer scientist.
• 1980: Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) movies, Virtual Reality, Visual computer modelling development are sped up by the development of fastest three dimensional graphical computer systems.
• 1983: the term “artificial reality” is coined by Myron Krueger- computer scientist.
• 1989: The now used term “Virtual Reality” is coined by Jaron Lainer, computer scientist and musician. Lainer’s company VOPL Research, gains vast media awareness. They develop Virtual Reality peripherals which involved dataglove and head-mounted display. Lainer popularly known as the ‘father of virtual reality’ ever since.
• 1993: Non-immersive virtual reality, a very booming computer graphic game, in which one can discover an island is created by brothers Robyn and Rand Miller called Myst.
• 1994: The term Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) is coined by Dave Raggett, a famous computer scientist, who has made vital contribution in the development of World Wide Web.
• 1999: Extremely famous movie, The Matrix comes out, which is based on virtual reality. It earns more than $450 million at the box office.
• 2011: Oculus Rift, a low-cost self made head-mount display is developed in the garage of his parent’s house by Palmer Luckey.
• 2014: Oculus is acquired for $2 billion worth of deal by Facebook.
• 2016: Google announces the shipping of more than 5 million cardboard HMD for smartphones. Also, major smartphone making brands like Samsung and HTC create competitor Virtual Reality system, PlayStation also incorporates VR. Oculus starts releasing Rift headsets to customers with commonly optimistic feedback.
• 2017: In the initial four months on being on the market, a million PlayStation VR headsets are sold, as revealed by Sony.
Virtual Reality as we have come to understand so far is an imitation of our real world surroundings or it could also be a simulation of a fantasy world.
In the travel and tourism perspective, the reproduced real world is of vital importance. The sense of sight is the most imperative in tourism, as a many experiences rely upon the visual simulation. This being the reason, Virtual Reality is a right fit for the Travel and Tourism industry, a business which can advertise optically inspiring and spectacular venues and destinations.
The enormous potential on Virtual Reality in destination promotion has been recognised by professionals and researches around the world. As Williams and Hobson (1995, p.425) put it: “From a marketing perspective, VR has the potential to revolutionize the promotion and selling of tourism”.
Most innovations are originally planned for the purposes of a specific industry. Only later in time, is it realised that the technology holds versatile qualities and further alterations and development can make it adaptable for use in various industries. In travel and tourism industry, quite a few businesses by now have taken advantage of this newer age technology, by coming up with virtual tours.
Williams and Hobson, over couple of decades ago disclosed in the course of their research that travel and tourism Virtual Reality surroundings improved with interactive prospects and architectured in an immersive manner have a major impact on the tourist’s planning decisions and can, hence, influence the tourism sector in years to come.
Virtual Reality combined with interactive media can help destination promoters in developing captivating experiences involving many contrasting factors including brand loyalty and awareness thereof.
Among the major advantage of implementing VR systems is that the customers can ‘specimen’ a location or destination beforehand. Locations or venues can offer a sneak peek to the clients to pique their interest at domestic and international conventions, exhibitions and meetings, their offices and boardrooms, or conferences. Getting to experience these simulating brief films of locations and venues helps
the clients in reaching a well informed decision. In cases where the client has not yet landed on a decision, the exposure to the VR film viewed stays with them and perhaps persuades a want in visiting the destination in real life. This goes with the writing of The European Travel Commission’s (ETC) report of 2006, about global trends in tourism industry: “Marketing messages based on experiences and feelings will have a greater importance in travel decisions – what can you do at the destination and what will the personal benefits be?”
The UNWTO as well recognised Virtual Reality as a biggest influence on the creation of destination management.
With the reference of the 4 P’s of marketing mix, we can closely study how the marking mix can impact the client’s journey – one of the P’s: Promotion contains all the effort embarked upon by the Destination Management Organisation to ignite or publicize and create desire in customer’s mind. This is likely an attempt that will robustly impact the initial stage of the client’s choice, the selection phase. It was identified by Kaplanidou and Vogt that the ICT’s have the capacity to provide substantial travel knowledge regarding a location to the client. They have argued that this can be used to give location information to clients prior to them beginning to planning their tour, in the selection phase.
In preparation or eagerness of visiting said location, clients often build up a picture of the location or destination which is inspired by previous experiences, referrals, online reviews, various promotional channels and common beliefs. By initiating Virtual Reality into their marketing action plan, DMO’s could perhaps impact clients tremendously in their travel location choice.
As established thus far, the technology of Virtual Reality can trigger our senses to gain the client’s experience or initial impression furthermore. This would enhance the customer’s experience further by involving the sensory elements into the marketing mix. Many likely advantages of Virtual Reality applications have been recognised so far.
It was stated by Morgan, Pritchard and Pride, that emotional responses and triggers are extremely impactful on customer judgment. They state that, what influences likely travellers to visit and come back to one location or destination over another is whether they have developed affinity with the location and its spirit.
This has altered the idea of unique selling point popularly known as USP, rather Destination Management Organisation now have to utilize unique emotional proposition (UEP) to distinguish between from the adversaries. Not only is that essential as several destinations are in attempt to establish their brand in the market, however also because this host of offer makes way towards locations not being able to distinguish themselves with the tangible feature and determinant, such as, weather, from other adversaries.
To give an example, claims to be “a tropical wonderland” relating to the climate or “the mountain city” relating to the geography. These are both characteristics that can be observed in locations and destinations all worldwide. Customer impression and understanding distinction by the desire can make them advantage greatly and develop a direct connection with the product. Morgan, Prichard and Pride, have previously stated that immersive media can also help in reputation building, a reputation to the customer so firm it can be revived and maintained post tour.
The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), described what UEP means lucidly:
• A sole proposition as sentimental trigger;
• Not proposed or offered by the adversaries;
• Something unique the location has the magnitude to deliver on and to surpass client expectations;
• Powerful enough to influence lookers to bookers
• The key element of your competitive plan of action and communications.
While looking at the aforementioned description of UEP by the UNWTO, it is apparent how Virtual Reality can come into work. Virtual Reality can spark sentiments through the ability to stimulate several of our sensory elements.
Virtual Reality is without doubt a trend that is futuristic, there are very few specimens of locations and venues, like the few stated below, offering an exclusive approach to the advertising that adversaries are not likely to have. It is trusted that this “novelty prize” could be cause enough for few customers to plan a tour to the destination (if VR applications are offered on site and not created for home use. Each and every medium is distinctive in its own manner of featuring information to prospective clientele.
If businesses were to comprehend the variety of elements that every instrument possesses, they could benefit from their learning and instruct prospective customers on how to rightly use it. This is directly describes to the meaning of UEP, in a way that suitable knowledge can help in surpassing the client’s expectation. It can be as easy as helping the customers in the usability of VR head-mounted display’s given by travel representatives, for customers to correctly immerse into the VR. A encouragement of the human sensory element can have immense impact on the observed experiences and posses a vital role in the VR systems. Giordimaina, Pawaskar and Goel, called to attention the significance of brands to opt a multisensory means when promoting their services baskets and products portfolios.
Owing to the fact that promoters are being submerged with a massive amount of newer products and services, conventional approaches like mass-promotion are not adequate anymore in order to attain a suitably sized target market with one’s promotional attempts. They keep us informed that since long the sense of sight has ruled the marketing practices while rest of the four senses; hearing, touch, smell, taste have been chiefly overlooked by experts.
That is apart from the fact that clients make use of every sensory available prior to reaching a conclusion regarding purchasing a product or service. Many locations or destinations are currently experimenting in attempting to develop a UEP for their clientele.
9.4 Current use of VR in Destinations:
During the research of this paper, the insights regarding the objective of several Destination Management Organisations have been acquired. While there are many destinations and hotels worldwide that are considering the utilisation of VR as a marketing and promotional tool, there are only handfuls that have in reality tested the plan of action embracing actual VR content. Viewed as the forefront of the Destination Management Organisation’s using VR is definitely Canada’s, Destination BC (Destination British Columbia). Among few other major DMO utilising on VR concept is Australia Tourism. Their media campaign will be featured in further detail below. South Africa’s tourism board has also put into action number of VR applications into their marketing plans
9.5 “The Wild Within – VR Experience” by Destination British Colombia
As per the data released by the DMO, Destination British Colombia, their “The Wild Within – VR Experience” media campaign making use of VR as a marketing tool is the only one of its category in the entire North American continent. At end of 2014, in December Destination British Colombia made live their VR experience campaign. Although it was originally intended to be broadcasted at trade shows, conventions and for associates at exhibitions and fairs, it has been ever since uploaded online to the public. It features some striking 360 degree video with the Great Bear Rainforest, a heterogeneous and guarde
d area situated alongside the central Pacific shoreline of British Columbia.
The shooting of the video footage is done in dual views; first person and third person. It guides through a widespread tourists experience from the eyes of the tourist. Tourists are exploring alongside the shore in a monetary whale watching vessel and later on having the choice to explore a sea lion colony or to take a hiking trip in the mountains, adding a feature of activity.
As experimenters in the area of VR destination marketing, Destination British Colombia made use of three dimensional printers to develop an altered rig for several GoPro cameras which they were able to place over a backpack or a drone which was used for shooting. Although the Virtual Reality experience was originally created to play for the Oculus Rift, Destination Management Organisation considered the imminent release of the budget friendly headsets of other brands on the market, assuring that the contents of its filming can be personalised on various other platforms.
Costing near an amount of $500 (CAD) in the production and filming process, Destination British Columbia firmly believes that the Virtual Reality pursuit is the right path to follow in travel and tourism marketing for brands wrestling for time in customer’s brief attention span. They thought on the application of immersive technology as an important element of their 2014 business strategy upgrade. As quoted by Walden, Destination British Colombia, Virtual Reality enables its users, “to experience destination in a new and unique way that has not been possible before”.
In late January 2016, Tourism Australia, came out with the next phase of their “There is nothing like Australia” promotional campaign. Contributing to the initial campaign launched in 2010, the present phase highlights on the aquatic and nautical region. The campaign was supported by a study conducted by DMO, with survey charts resulting that customers’ appreciate the spotless beaches and shore surroundings as a extremely competitive element. The contents of the campaign showcase 360 degree film footage covering 17 locations countrywide, featuring Australia’s one of its kind assets in video recording both below and above sea level. Even though, there is not much information regarding the filming gear, it was assumed that as well were using a type of GoPro rig, considering the fact that not many camera’s as befitting for undersea shooting. Mentioning that one of the objective is establish Australia as an exceptional destination, they are also represent their aquatic and nautical regions as apex. The cost of production and filming has not yet been disclosed by Tourism Australia board for this VR content.
9.7 A distinguish between Destination BC and Tourism Australia
A comparison of both destinations’ VR campaigns is mentioned below in tabular format. Comparison will be between the separate measures taken by DMO’s. Although, the reader should consider that geographically, Destination British Colombia is a regional DMO functioning on state level on the other hand, Tourism Australia is a National Tourism Organisation, a DMO functioning on national level. Hence, diverse features play a vital part, such as economics or campaign objective.
Destination BC Tourism Australia
Launched In 2014, December 2016, January
Campaign Objective / Aim A versatile region, highlighting a alpine surrounding and shore area 17 different spots in nautical and seashore region, filmed over and under the sea level.
Release Media Platforms Trade shows, conventions and online Travel agencies provided with Head-Mounted Display’s, Trade shows and Online
Target Audience Clientele at trade shows and conventions and for associates at exhibitions and fairs Customers visiting travel companies, trade shows and ones at home
Level of Participation Minimal, as viewers only have two storylines to select from Nil, films are released independently, no committed narration features, just the overall campaign
Campaign Expenditure $ 500,000 CAD
(In Euro: € 330,000) $ 40,000,000 AUD
(In Euro: € 25,820,000)
Press release from both DMO’s CEO of Destination BC, Marsha Walden, quoted: “It lets our travel trade and media partners experience our destination in a new and unique way that has not been possible before.” “Virtual Reality and 360 videos are important because rather than just showing how beautiful Australia is, it will get to the ultimate customer benefit which is how you feel when you come to Australia,” cited, Tourism Australia CMO, Ronson.
Designed for Devices Oculus Rift Google Cardboard and Gear VR
Source: Own representation, with data provided by Destination British Colombia and Tourism Australia.
10. Virtual Reality as a Marketing Tool:
Virtual Reality is amongst one of those emerging media which holds ability to alter customer behaviour. VR can be utilised for multiple purposes in travel and tourism industry, namely; marketing and promotional reasons, for leisure and amusement, user-friendliness, for knowledge, culture and art conservation. Additionally, Virtual Reality as a promotional tool is extremely influential for advertising destinations and locations. Several researches have validated that Virtual Realities positive impact on the selection and decision making action, also on the online searching method.
At the time of this study, various use of Virtual Reality has been recognised in different areas of Travel and Tourism Industry. In this section we will see some of these uses mentioned as deemed fit.
A VR Roller Coaster has been opened in 2015 by the Europark Theme park in Germany. Visitors can experience a perfectly synchronized 4-D ride through the virtual worlds in sync with the roller coasters movements. This ride has been named The Alpenexpress VR Ride. In Jan 2016 their existing ride ‘Air’ was re-themed to the new roller coaster ‘Galactica’ where the visitors can experience flying through space. Samsung VR Gears are being put to full use to put aside any problems of portability with the fast moving roller coasters.
A still in testing theme park named VOID is all about offering VR experiences. Producing their exclusive hardware gears is allowing them to provide unlimited multiplayer experiences in diverse circumstances. Their selling point is full mobility in physical space while being immersed in VR and yet being able to interact with physical objects.
A Swiss company Artanim is working on a similar project involving interaction with objects in VR world. They are utilising new age media which enables customers to “live, tangibly intermingle and work together in a Virtual three dimensional world” in Escape Room surroundings. An escape room scenario demands the players to find the ‘exit’ by collating the data from the VR world.
Not the one to be missed out; Disney, in its DisneyQuest, Indoor Interactive Theme Park region at Disney Wolrd in Orlando has went ahead and started Virtual Reality applications. Customer’s embark on a motorcycle wearing the HMD to enjoy the Carpet Ride of the ‘Alladin’s Magic Carpet’. Users can show their creative side when they get the chance to design their own roller coaster for ‘Cyberspace Mountain’. After designing their roller coaster users get a chance to experience it in all its glory.
Cruise liners have been offering virtual tours of their ships using 360 degree views on their website for quite some time now but Azamara Cruises has been the pioneer in this field. They also offer 360 degree views of the excursions off their ships. Other cruise companies are catching up and have started the
ir own VR experience of shore excursions and tours.
In 2014, Marriot Hotels grabbed media headlines by presenting the ‘newlyweds’ an experience of their honeymoon using “Teleporter”. Teleporter are machines which ports the users virtually using the combination of HMD’s, wind machines and aromatic sensations. Clips of Hawaii and London along with virtual tours of the Marriot properties at the locations were on offer. In Sep 2015 Marriot International combined VR Room Service and VR Postcards to deliver an unparalleled experience in which users could order Samsung VR HMD Gear and experience traveller portraits filmed by Marriot in different destinations.
The title of the first VR hotel in Germany goes to the Radisson Blu Business hotel in Hannover. To entice possible customers and partners they have captured their hotel premises in VR to present them during product presentations. The hotel managements hopes to attract new target group and make use of the numerous opportunities of the technology by emphasizing that the entire production was done in a single day without exorbitant costs.
12. Other applications of VR Technology
Many Travel companies are taking full advantage of VR Technology and some start ups concentrate exclusively on VR based tourism offerings. Georama is one such service which connects a real tour guide with a real audience that watches the tour over the internet. Viewers are open to ask specific questions while watching the feed which is being captured by the guide’s mobile phones, wearable cameras or 360 degree set ups.
XplorIT, another successful start up offers virtual tours for attractions and destinations from the US. The tours are based on 360-degree photography with animated sequences in between pictures. A high degree of interactivity is on offer by allowing the viewers to click on certain places for more information to crop up.
Thomas Cook is also using VR Technology around Europe to give a glimpse of their properties and airline amenities. They realise the massive potential of VR Tech in showcasing experience based products to its clients. Their future plan is to make use of the technology in more locations with diverse contents.
TVG Franchisor, a subsidiary of FTI Touristik is increasingly making use of VR to boost their sales activities. Although they don’t produce their own content they present content provided to them by management system operators like DiginetMedia in a brilliant manner.
Ascape is another start up which uses the VR Tech to capture destination based touristic content. They procure high quality VR content from their community and pay them a certain fee for using the content. Only the best content which passes an exhaustive screening is featured.
13. Comparison to traditional Methods, Benefits and Risks
VR has many advantages over the traditional methods of marketing. Let’s first establish what the traditional method of marketing is. The author considers methods such as TV, Newspapers, Brochures, etc. as the traditional method of marketing. Their major disadvantage is that these offer only a limited perspective and feel of the destination and what to expect from the destination. Clients and travel agents have trouble making decisions when the material supplied by DMO to Travel agents is poor and lacking in vital information. Even Sussmann and Vanhegan state that traditional marketing means like brochures can only put across a shallow glimpse of what is on offer. All efforts should be made to ensure that a Client doesn’t go to a destination with lack of knowledge and what to expect so that the client is not left disappointed and results in a negative outcome.
In the 2007 published ‘Practical Guide to Tourism Destination Management’ the UNWTO advised DMOs about the use of traditional marketing means. It advises that DMOs must always plan how much and what to print. Too much printing would lead to unnecessary storage expenses and too less printing would cause disadvantage at events like trade fairs. The quality, size and thickness of the paper should also be kept in mind. The advice is not against printed media but electronic materials should be used wherever relevant and possible. The production costs and distribution is usually less than that of printed media.
Electronic materials can be constantly updated with minimal effort. DMOs should put in an effort to ensure that they are fully equipped in terms of the technology and expertise needed so that the customers don’t face any restrictions. VR applications can be used to ensure there is never a lack of information for the customers. They allow the clients to get a much deeper feel of the destination and even offers the possibility of interacting with the product. Traditional methods can only provide an one way medium that doesn’t allow the clients to interact with the product. In the VR applications the DMOs can also provide additional information for attractions the customer is looking at or interested in. This will result in the client being equipped with more data and realistic expectations of the destination which in turn will give him a more satisfactory experience.
Through their research Wan Et Al showed that correct selection of marketing strategy has a massive influence on the advertising effect. Each destination’s unique characteristics should be taken into account to get the maximum out of the advertising. Rather than randomly applying new media marketing managers should give careful thought to the budget, media type, destination characteristics and the target groups. Only then will the marketing campaign be successful. With an in depth analysis marketers might even find that traditional means can also suffice their requirements.
Sampling and showcasing:
The ability of VR to provide sensory experiences to the customers is what gives it great potential in the field of tourism promotion. Destinations are making use of the fact that under normal circumstances it is not possible to sample the product and selling the VR experiences as so called ‘confidence goods’. Tourism is an industry where services are produced entirely dependent on the demand and consumption. A customer’s decision before the advent of VR was based only on the information the traditional means could provide. VR experience on the other hand lets the client experience a snippet of the products, be better informed and make better decisions. Inadvertently if the clients are better informed about the products and what to expect it leads to more satisfying experiences.
One significant use of VR for DMOs which is often sidelined is its ability of effectively communicate plans to the local community. It is a very possible scenario in which local community might be hostile towards tourism development if they are not able to effectively portray the advantages of tourism development. If such a project is demonstrated in VR rather than just drawings or 3-D blue prints then it would be much easier for the local community to grasp the idea of the planner and be more open towards it. By showcasing a project in VR the planners can get feedback from the local community and incorporate the same. This haves been proven very beneficial for DMOs in the past because participation of local community in tourism projects make them massive successes.
Even though integration of local community has no obvious relation to tourism promotion a clear connection becomes apparent on further consideration. If the planners can go ahead with some project with the backing of the local populace then they are able to promote the project using VR to new target groups which were initially reluctant to visit. There are numerous and varied reasons why pe
ople decide to travel but when it comes to virtual travel the opinions are mixed.
Virtual Travel Acceptance
Sussman and Vanhegan show that most of the travelers are open to the idea of conducting virtual tourism. This is demonstrated by the eagerness of the populace to visit theme parks which are basically simulated environments. The consumers find it appealing because its relatively cheaper and there are no unpleasant surprises and guarantee fun for the entire family. VR also has the added advantage that experiences can be entirely shaped according to the tastes of individual customers which hasn’t been possible before.
There might be various reasons as to why potential tourists are unable to go on a vacation.
Some of those reasons are listed by Guttentagas “Possible tourism constraints are quite varied, but common examples include a lack of money, a lack of time, poor health, safety fears, concerns about managing in a foreign environment, perceived lack of skills for an activity, and an absence of desired travel partners”. It is interesting to note that VR Tourism is not bound by any of the above restrictions. Most of the respondents agreed that a virtual travel can never replace actual travelling.
The constraints mentioned above, inconveniences and dangers in ‘real’ destinations did not sway the opinion of the travellers. In another survey conducted at an Australian university the students brought attention to the lack of spontaneity, absence of possibilities for relaxation and the non possibility of purchasing any souvenirs. VR travel was not whole heartedly supported by the students despite the advantages like lower costs, hassle free, safety, no language barrier, no weather issues and no currency issues. Looking back at those results we can conclude that despite VR’s many obvious advantages tourists still prefer the traditional way of travel as of this moment. Even though there has been technological advancements since the studies the basic concerns against VR tourism still remains.
Customer’s acceptance of VR Tourism is very important for the journey that lies ahead of it. There is a risk of customers accepting inaccuracies in VR as a fact which could lead to misconceptions about a particular destination. This scenario is already prevalent in traditional methods of marketing like brochures where customers are presented with photoshopped images. Tourism is generally perceived as actual physical movement which throws up the question whether VR tourism can ever be considered actual travel.
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