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Virtual Reality & The Enhanced Tourist Experience

How Virtual Reality Technologies Are Becoming A Key Component Of The Tourist Offering

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It is a consensus among VR creators that the greatest power of this medium is its ability to allow us to do things that otherwise might not be possible in real life. That could be teleporting us to a time past, to walk through a building or street in its former state and come face to face with characters from a different time. Similarly, it could allow someone petrified of heights reach the pinnacle of that unachievable mountain or building. In essence, VR can entertain us, educate us and inspire us; all aspirations of any tourist destination.

UEP rather than USP

The UNWTO is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. Unlike marketing agencies, they focus on a tourist destination’s Unique Emotional Proposition (UEP) rather than its USP (unique selling proposition). It defines a UEP as;

  • A single proposition as an emotional trigger
  • Not offered by the competitors
  • Something the destination has the credentials to deliver on and to exceed client expectations
  • Strong enough to convert “lookers” to “bookers”
  • The cornerstone of your competitive strategy and communications

(Ref: Virtual- Reality-in-tourism.com)

Many studies conducted over the last two decades (Morgan, Pritchard and Pride, Williams and Hobson 2006) have highlighted that the power of VR in the visitors experience is the ability to provide a sensory experience that triggers strong emotions. These emotions give the visitor a connection with the place they are visiting.

World Leaders - Dubai Mission 828 Experience

Dubai is undoubtedly the most innovative city in the world; always one step ahead when it comes to infrastructure and technology. It is also home to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. The iconic building characterises the Dubai skyline with its 189 floors stretching to 828 feet. And, being one of the top pioneers of global innovation in tourism, Dubai did not miss an opportunity here.

Tourists can pay a €30 entrance fee to visit the building, but for an additional €6 they can enter a VR pod and experience the most thrilling, otherwise unattainable, extravagant adventure. With the wind blowing in their hair, they can watch the captivating digitally-created skyline before grabbing a parachute and jumping from the top of the world’s tallest building before landing safely in a fountain. The visitor leaves the building with a plethora of unforgettable emotions; exhilaration, joy, a sense of achievement.

One might think that it was a good enough offering giving visitors access to the tallest building in the world, which includes a ride in an elevator from ground floor to level 124 in 60 seconds, from where spectacular views of downtown Dubai can be enjoyed! But no. Dubai is a destination that goes that one step further; to be the biggest, the most thrilling, the most memorable experience.

Converting Lookers to Bookers

The Manchester Metropolitan University carried out a study in 2018 to establish the potential of using VR in the tourist industry in order to “engage tourists and enhance their behaviour intentions to visit a destination”. They did this by getting concert goers at the Kendal Calling music festival to participate in a VR tour of the Lake District. The findings of the study revealed that, following the VR experience, visitors felt motivated and inspired to embark on the activities themselves and had a desire to repeat the same experience for another destination around the world. It also highlighted the joy experienced by those participants who had a real fear of heights, flying and water.

This is supported by the shift that is happening in some jurisdictions in how tourist destinations are being promoted. The Australia Tourism website offers travel agencies immersive 360 degree footage of the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge to allow customers “experience tasters” to entice them to book. Ireland’s tourist board, Failte Ireland, also offers similar footage of its most iconic landmarks.

Enhancing the Visitors Experience

The Marriott Hotel group recognised two things; the importance of the guest experience, and being different to its competitors. It used VR technology to achieve this and introduced a “Vroom Service” by placing VR headsets into their bedrooms. From their hotel room in New York City, guests could be teleported to Hawaii or find themselves exploring in Peru. So instead of simply staying in a hotel room, Marriott created a memorable event that stirred emotions. And significantly, they saw demand rise by 51%.

There is no avoiding the fact the Virtual Reality is here to stay. Tourism is probably one of the last sectors to engage fully in the new technology. The possibilities to create that emotional memorable experiences are limitless with VR technology. Hotels, travel agents, museums and heritage sites are beginning to get in on the act.

As new tourist destinations open, and old ones upgrade, highlighting their UEP, as outlined by the UNWTO, will be the focus.

Feel free to Contact us in Emagine and we will be delighted to talk you through the process.

Brian Hickey

Brian Hickey

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