Virtual reality is finally going mainstream in 2017. Travel brands and event planners are leveraging that demand to engage their audiences in more impactful ways, which is proving to drive higher conversion rates.
“Virtual reality is changing the game for a variety of industries including health care, agriculture, manufacturing, and business,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, which produces CES, in a Reddit chat. “Doctors are using VR to enhance traditional therapies, architects use VR to design stronger buildings, and travel agencies are using it to simplify vacation planning.”
For example, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority (LVCVA) reports that its Vegas VR app, showing experiential videos ranging from helicopter rides over the Strip to bartenders mixing drinks, has been downloaded over 19,000 times since March 2016, and the videos have been viewed more than 17 million times.
“We were relying on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat to tell our story, but we felt that VR and 360 video really helped us improve our connection with consumers, and move them down the path toward conversion,” said Nick Mattera, senior director, digital engagement at LVCVA. “We’re also looking to partners to help us on the conversion side, and really begin to quantify how Vegas VR can not only get people excited about Las Vegas, but ultimately book.”
Virtual reality content developers such as XplorIt are working increasingly with tourism bureaus, which Skift profiled following the launch of Los Angeles Tourism’s new Meet L.A. VR platform for meeting planners. The portal provides a good example of how planners can engage attendees in more immersive ways using VR.
“Our Meet L.A. VR experience for meeting planners is basically Google Street View on steroids, and we’re averaging over 10 minutes per view, which is almost unheard of,” said Greg Murtha, president of XplorIt. “VR allows what we call ‘self-select discovery’ because it’s interactive, non-linear experiential media. Meaning, the user is empowered.”
Meanwhile, South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin announced yesterday that it’s creating a dedicated track for VR content at its annual Film Festival this year. There will be 38 projects showcasing how different industries are using VR storytelling.
“This year we have expanded our virtual reality programming, launching the Virtual Cinema and elevating the medium to its own category in the SXSW Film Festival,” said Blake Kammerdiener, VR programmer at SXSW. “We not only put an emphasis on storytelling and ingenuity, but also showcase how other industries are embracing VR with projects from the health, fashion, music industries, and more.”
The major event tech players are also increasingly promoting VR to their audiences. The latest at Event Manager Blog explains: How 360° Live Video is Paving the Way for Virtual Reality at Events.
“While we wait for full VR capability for live events, live 360-degree video is the perfect immersive experience 101 every event planner should evaluate for their event,” suggests Julius Solaris, founder of Event Manager Blog.
As expected, venue owners are launching permanent VR-themed event spaces. For example, the new mk2 VR facility opened inside one of Paris’ largest cinema complexes, located in the city’s burgeoning tech district. Bookable event venues for up to 200 people include the Le Perchoir mk2 terrace bar.
“We are bringing VR to a multiplex-like environment with the opening of the first-ever entertainment venue fully dedicated to upscale VR experiences,” said Elisha Karmitz, general director of mk2. “mk2 VR’s concept offers consumers a lively, culture-filled facility focused on VR and good times.”
Back at CES 2017, the Samsung Galaxy Studio virtual theme park was the highlight of VR experiences at the show. Thousands of people during the 4-day event lined to strap into several different installations with moveable seats. Participants were flipped upside down and jerked sideways while wearing VR headsets placing them inside virtual environments ranging from airplane stunts to luge racing.
“That’s really pushing the boundaries of experiential marketing today,” Shapiro said. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”