Best Practices for Making VR Tourism & Travel Apps
Businesses in the tourism and travel industry can easily leverage virtual reality to boost sales. Creating and distributing VR apps is simple using our InstaVR platform. In this article, we’ll share the success stories of two of our clients — Hello Kitty & TUI Group — and offer up three main considerations when building out your tourism/travel app.
- Intro to VR Travel & Tourism Apps for Marketing Purposes
- Hello Kitty – How Their Puroland VR App Helps Increase Travel Bookings
- TUI Group – How Their Property-specific VR Apps Assist Their Destination Services Team
- Best Practice #1: Begin App Creation With a Goal in Mind
- Best Practice #2: Include Calls-to-Action
- Best Practice #3: Think About Distribution Channels
1. Intro to VR Tourism & Travel Apps for Marketing Purposes
Virtual Reality (VR) and travel/tourism are a natural fit. VR’s goal is to transport you mentally to a different location, immersing you all but physically in that world. VR is a nice preview of potential trips, and a great marketing tool for businesses in the travel and tourism space.
Some travel/tourism businesses remain wary of virtual reality though. They see it as hype with no tangible benefit. Or too costly or time-consuming for them to invest in. The truth is that companies are starting to share anecdotal evidence of the success of their VR initiatives, and the actual time and money spent is significantly less than many might expect.
If you’re interested in learning more, we offer a Live group training every Thursday at 10am EST — https://join.me/instavrandrew. And of course, we encourage you to sign up for a free InstaVR account and create a Proof of Concept app for your tourism business.
2. Hello Kitty – How Their Puroland VR App Helps Increase Travel Bookings
The Hello Kitty brand, Sanrio Entertainment Co’s largest and most popular, has achieved worldwide acclaim. But if you want to be fully enveloped in all things Hello Kitty, you have to visit their Puroland indoor theme park in Tokyo, Japan. More than 1.5 million visitors do so annually.
Hello Kitty is a worldwide phenomenon, with visitors travelling to the theme park from all over the globe. One of the main events annually to generate interest in Hello Kitty is Sanrio Expo. For 2017’s expo, the Sanrio marketing team wanted to put together an immersive tour of Puroland, to showcase to travel agents.
Their resulting Samsung Gear VR app, with Hello Kitty herself taking viewers on a guided 360 video tour of the park, garnered very positive feedback from overseas travel agents who viewed the VR experience. It was a memorable experience, more so than any brochure or piece of travel swag. It also broke down language barriers – the 360 video and audio of the park conveyed everything you needed to see to understand why tourists would like the park.
This particular VR experience took only 3 weeks to make from initial filming to app display. And the cost was half of Sanrio’s initial estimate. All told, VR was the perfect delivery vehicle to get overseas tour operators excited to pitch Puroland to their clients. And now they’ve gone wide with the application, with downloads possible on iTunes, Google Play, and WebVR.
(Image courtesy of Hello Kitty)
3. TUI Group – How Their Property-specific VR Apps Assist Their Destination Services Team
TUI Group is one of the largest tourism businesses in the world. Beyond providing accommodations, they also have a Destination Services division that books excursions for their guests. Virtual Reality has rapidly become one of the main tools used by their Destination Services teams to generate interest in excursions, by showing an unparalleled immersive, multi-sensory experience to guests.
The benefits to their Gear VR apps, shown on location to guests, is many. Just having the headsets on the excursion reps’ desks starts conversations, which is always a good thing. But VR also allows them to show trips which may not be easy to explain verbally, but whose benefits can be easily viewed and listened to in first person via the VR headsets. Finally, VR headsets allow guests to make ticketing decisions, such as which seat is the best one to choose for a dinner show.
The investment, both monetarily and time-wise, has yielded significant ROI for TUI Group. They’ve created just over 90 apps to date using InstaVR, with each app taking less than an hour to author after they receive back their 360 cameras with images/videos. Considering these VR applications can be shown repeatedly, for years, the path to a positive ROI is not hard to see.
(Image courtesy of TUI Group)
4. Advice for Travel/Tourism Businesses Considering Using VR
If you’re considering adding VR to your marketing mix, here are three suggestions gleaned from our two years of working with travel companies creating VR apps:
A.) Begin With a Goal in Mind
Before you take your 360 camera out to film, first determine what the goal of your end application is. Is it to generate a new booking from an overseas visitor? Is it to upsell an additional service to an existing customer? Is it to impress travel agents or guests themselves? Once you have your goal in mind, you can better determine what content to include in your VR experience.
Your answer to the above type of questions will help inform other answers, such as:
- Should I do the app from a 1st person view? Or have a person in front of the camera as a guide? (one creates more excitement, the other is more informational)
- Do I need to include voiceover? (travel agents might like additional info via voiceover, versus existing guests who just want to see what the potential excursion is like)
- How long should the VR experience be? (if it’s for use at say a travel expo or tradeshow, you may want to keep it shorter to allow more users to experience the VR)
B.) Include Calls-To-Action
You want people to have any easy way to act upon the excitement to travel you just instilled in them. If you’re in-person handing them Gear VRs, your reps can talk with them afterwards. But if distributing globally for something like Google Cardboard, you can add a “Call” button so users of the VR experience can have your phone number auto-load to book travel. Or if for WebVR, include a link to an outside web site to allow visitors to book immediately. Take advantage of the momentum VR provides.
You can also turn your passive VR into active VR by adding Navigation Links and Hotspots. This makes for a more memorable VR experience than something like a passive YouTube 360 video. InstaVR makes it easy to add these interactions through a drag-and-drop platform.
C.) Think About Your Distribution Channels
Just creating a great VR experience isn’t enough. You also have to get it into potential visitors or travel agents’ hands. So beyond just creating a great VR experience, think about ways to get more eyeballs on your work. For instance, with WebVR, you can embed a Facebook preview that users can be taken to see the full-screen 360 experience. Or if it’s on a Gear VR headset, have those headsets visible so passing guests can inquire about them.
With InstaVR, you’re not charged per app you create. So there’s no reason to not cross-publish, particularly since publishing is all one-click. But you do want to strongly consider what venue you’re presenting your VR in when publishing for display. At a tradeshow, where there might be a lot of traffic, a mobile VR headset like Gear VR or Google Daydream may be easier to hand out versus strapping people into an HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. And if you publish a QR code, Android users can download and keep your app on their phone too.
Creating travel and tourism VR experiences is getting simpler and more affordable each day. VR really is the perfect fit for tourism marketing, as it gives potential visitors a nice preview of what actually booking a trip would be like. The question shouldn’t be “Is VR right for my travel/tourism company?” It should be how can I best leverage the technology to best achieve my goals?
InstaVR makes things simple. All you need is a 360 camera, a laptop, and an InstaVR account. You don’t have to worry about excessive costs or long lead times for app creation. What Hello Kitty and TUI Group have shown are that tourism/travel businesses can see real ROI with VR, all while building the experiences in-house.
Sign up for a free InstaVR account today and start transporting your potential visitors virtually, increasing real bookings today!