Guest Post: VR in travel – eye-opening or eye-sore?

Guest Post: VR in travel – eye-opening or eye-sore?

Holidays Please marketing director Charles Duncombe examines whether the tech is ever likely to live up to the high expectations previously set

Holidays Please marketing director Charles Duncombe examines whether the tech is ever likely to live up to the high expectations previously set

For a number of years Virtual Reality has been hailed as the “next big thing” in the tech world. However, things seem to have gone a little quiet recently with relatively few new VR products and applications coming to the market.

Are people busy beavering away creating a plethora of new innovations that are about to cascade on to the market and ignite people’s imagination? Or have people realised that waving your hands about in the air with a black box on your face won’t really catch on?

The [virtual] reality vs the hype …

In 2015, the VR market was valued at less than $1 billion but it was predicted to reach $4 billion by 2018 (Source:- CCS Insight). Many commentators believed that this target was ambitious.

Despite a “disappointing” year in 2018, the industry entered 2019 with a gross value of $3.6 billion. So only 10% shy of the predictions made 4 years ago. The market it seems is actually growing broadly in line with expectations. Albeit these expectations were relatively modest as analysts always recognised it was always going to take time for people to develop the VR applications that businesses and consumers will actually use.

2019 could be an important year for VR though as a number of platforms are launching which could enable a lot more VR content to be delivered to the general public…

For example, Facebook will be launching its own VR system, Oculus Quest in 2019. This will provide gamers with the ability to play VR games on the web with just the headset and controller.

Also, Mozilla will launch Firefox Reality which will be the first mainstream internet browser to enable surfers to surf in 3D with a VR headset.

So the platforms to view VR may start to roll out in 2019 but the multi-billion dollar question is whether the content that follows will be sufficiently engaging to attract the masses to these platforms? Analysts think so as some are suggesting the market could reach just shy of $50bn by 2023.

How can travel take advantage of VR?

One challenge for the travel industry has always been bringing to life the experience that you are trying to sell. But we have muddled through somehow. Who remembers having to sell a holiday with brightly coloured, lego-looking blocks of text on teletext??  God knows how, but we did it!

We have moved on since then and now have glossy brochures, high resolution web images and online videos. But that could just be the start of things, if the VR platforms start to get used by consumers.

Just imagine how easy selling could be if all doubt was removed? Imagine upselling an excursion to an orangutan sanctuary if the customer could first see a baby orangutan in their arms before even stepping out of the shop?

And this is starting to happen already. Thomas Cook has had VR in some of their shops for some time now and Samsung have recently partnered with Carnival cruises to show the public how a holiday at sea would look. The Atlantis in Dubai has also recently released a 3D promotional video, including a hotel tour complete with a shot inside a bubble bath, facing an aquarium!

The potential of VR is there but it’s down to the content creators, games makers, retailers and yes, even people in the travel industry, to make a success of it. We have to create the content that is so compelling that the ridiculousness of standing with that box on your face is price worth paying.