Virtual reality has come a long way – but does a virtual vacation even come close to physically visiting a property or destination?
“I want to figure out what comes after cinema as the gold standard for storytelling.” — Chris Milk, founder and CEO of Within, a VR company
Let’s think back, way back to the time when as kids we used those little red, rotating picture goggles that could display images of far-off lands, cartoonish scenes, dinosaurs, or outer space images. This was a rather crude, early example of virtual reality – one that could never fool the user into thinking that he or she was actually climbing the pyramids of Giza or trekking over the Canadian Rockies.
Fast forward to today, and our contemporary VR systems are incredible, to say the least. They can take you to virtually any destination in the world from wherever you may be, as long as someone has created the VR program for you to enjoy. A virtual vacation – who could have even imagined this, even just a few decades ago?
Now we have VR improving by the minute, helping travel companies, hospitality businesses, and even government agencies to more easily jump on the VR bandwagon and improve their chances of attracting excited guests. With VR infiltrating the travel sector at a fast pace, you’ll have to ask yourself – do virtual vacations rival the real thing?
How does a VR vacation work?
First, you’ll work with a virtual travel company to set up the “vacation.” This is generally done through a variety of apps that are available on the market today, all designed to seamlessly interface with leading-edge VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift.
YouVisit, Discovery VR, Google Street View, Ascape Virtual Travel and Tours, Jaunt VR, and Samsung Milk VR are some of the more popular options today for VR travel apps. Once you’re “plugged in,” simply sit back and enjoy the vacation. The reality factor is immense, as many Oculus Rift users report that they can barely tell that there is anything artificial in front of their eyes – it feels that real.
But does it rival the real thing?
The simple answer is “no.” There is no way, especially considering the prevailing technology available today at a consumer level, that a virtual vacation would rival the real thing.
Here’s why: vacations aren’t just about watching the waves roll onto the beach – they’re about sinking your toes into the sand.
A trip to the mountains isn’t solely represented by realistic video of stunning vistas. It’s about working up a sweat as you scale a challenging trail. Virtual reality, in a travel-related marketing context at least, is quite effective at piquing the interest of a potential traveler, but it isn’t designed to replace the actual art of travel.
How can VR support the hospitality and travel industries?
Hospitality-focused organizations, from Marriott to Holiday Inn to the City of Las Vegas, have adopted VR as a means to ignite interest in various travel destinations around the globe – and customers are responding. Marriott offers a VR program called the “teleporter,” which enables users to experience destinations as diverse as the Hawaiian Islands or bustling London.
United Airlines delivers a VR experience that allows potential flyers to experience the features and amenities of United’s sophisticated business-class sections. The program is already generating excitement among guests and is helping designers to adjust the cabins to more easily suit guest needs.
The City of Las Vegas, on its own app that is designed to support visitors to the area, offers a VR experience that takes the user from Fremont Street to the Canals of the Venetian – all designed to spur interest in Las Vegas.
VR isn’t being posed as a replacement for visiting actual destinations. Obviously, that would significantly erode business for hospitality or travel-related companies, but it is being used to spark excitement for real travel. The next time you can engage with a potential travel destination through a virtual portal, do so… just keep in mind the words of the immortal Mark Twain – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”