Thomas Cook's nineteenth-century passion for the theatre of selling travel has not only survived but been updated for the twenty-first century.
The British tour operator founded by Thomas Cook has opened a concept store that is offering virtual reality holidays.
It's free for shop customers to try on Oculus Rift headsets that have been programmed to present a 3D, 360-degree vision of tropical paradise.
The paperless brochure uses imagery and sounds that were recorded at the tour operator's Sentido resorts and from its own airline.
It also comes with a custom audio track and a fragrance -- (smell-o-vision!) -- though of course only of the more pleasant sounds and sights of travel.
Oculus is making the virtual reality holidays appear more persuasive with its newly developed application that translates head and motion movements as customers explore the resort.
Later this year, the company plans to add virtual reality holiday tours of New York City and of America's national parks.
If virtual reality brings in cold cash at this concept shop in the Bluewater shopping mall (just southeast of London, which opened July 31), the Oculus devices will be introduced to the other Thomas Cook concept shops, which are in Leeds, Stockton on Tees, Bristol, Edinburgh, and Essex.
The idea for the virtual reality shop was cooked up, so to speak, by a Digital Advisory Board created by Thomas Cook in March 2013. The board, with nine internal members and a half-dozen external members, said in a statement:
“We have a roadmap to move forwards into more testing which looks at how we integrate innovative content into a virtual experience for our customers across Europe.”
Thomas Cook is two years into its turnaround plan. CEO Harriet Green is attempting to restructure its costs but also to adapt the company to the digital world.
In its recent earnings call the company said winter reservations are 7% higher than they were last summer and average selling prices are 3% higher. Virtual reality holidays might, in future years, help goose those figures higher.
Stunts aside, travel shopping should be theatrical fun, not a chore of agonised homework. Thomas Cook might win applause from customers for reintroducing joie de vivre into vacation planning.
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