The economic devastation
unleashed by COVID-19 is accelerating trends that were already in place - like
We’re wise to embrace it.
Skeptics may consider today’s virtual
reality experiences to be more evolutionary than disruptive. But even before
this crisis, virtual reality device shipments were already doubling.
tours are no longer a nice to have - traffic and interest are on the rise now
as a way of providing “location interactivity,” according to Threshold 360 CEO
Virtual Travel Re-Defined
Wikipedia defines virtual tours as “a
simulation of an existing location, usually composed of a sequence of videos or
still images,” citing the CD-ROM-based 3D re-creation of England’s Dudley
Castle in 1994 as the first example.
Virtual tours are more sophisticated today
thanks to new technology. But costly tech isn’t an option for most right now. I
propose a broader, more customer-centric definition of virtual travel:
experiencing a place without physically being there.
The New Normal is Now
few weeks back, I shared how a growth mindset can help companies survive a
crisis. Now, the webinar space is filled with recovery strategies for the
COVID-19 era. But amid mass layoffs and travel restrictions, we mustn’t confuse
the physical capacity to travel with its affordability, as Phocuswright founder
Philip Wolf pointed out in a recent webinar.
We don’t know when demand will
bounce back, so it’s better to control what we can. Smart companies are
adapting now, thinking like a scrappy startup to figure out how to thrive when
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Fortunately, you don’t need a huge budget to invest in
virtual travel solutions. Constraints breed creativity.
If we can’t take people to new places, let’s bring the experience to
them. Here’s how savvy travel marketers are employing virtual travel techniques
to do so:
- Swelter-In-Place: VISIT FLORIDA’s Beach Finder by TripTuner brings
warm sunshine to home-bound travelers by helping them discover and explore
their ideal beach experience.
- Less Bookshelf, More Beach: virtual backgrounds
are the new business cards. Keep your brand in view by adding zest to Zooms
with alluring images like these from the Fairmont Mayakoba in Mexico.
- All I
Got Was This Cool T-Shirt: once thought of as a sub-optimal trip gift, sales of
Visit Indy’s logo T-shirts are flying off the virtual shelves as locals share
why they love Indianapolis, Indiana.
- Real-Time, Hyper-Local: travel’s
comeback will start locally, placing a premium on realtime info. Foursquare and
Google have added indicators for delivery/take-out restaurants, and Crowdriff’s
upcoming “LocalHood” program offers a visual way to showcase what’s on the
shelves at local businesses.
- Bahama-Rama: James Bond’s 1965 Thunderball still
beckons me back to that famous turquoise grotto. Today, the Bahamas exports
face masks adorned with indigenous androsia prints while enticing visitors with
an Island Finder and 360 aerial views.
- Actions Speak Louder Than Surveys: with
no new grist in the third-party data aggregation mill, now’s a great time to
find ways of capturing first-party preference data. Measuring interactions with
virtual travel initiatives are more reliable than surveys in detecting evolving
- Inspire Now, Book Later: at Phocuswright last year, I
explained why the funnel is more like a sphere. Virtual travel measures help
marketers move up-funnel as the customer journey further fragments in an
evolving situation that varies geographically.
Come Together, Right Now
industry is pulling together in creative ways to protect stakeholders and stay
relevant to travelers. Pondering-in-place has revealed what really matters,
shaping the way forward.
Executive road warriors are reconnecting with family,
Heartening stories of wildlife sightings and images of a
smog-free Delhi, tourist-free Yosemite and clear Venice canal waters remind us
of travel’s environmental impact.
Traveling virtually now stokes wanderlust in
a next-best-thing way, like a video call with a friend we can’t wait to see
Exploring a place virtually helps travelers decide on experiences that
are best suited to their tastes. In this way, it can spawn a more intentional,
considered form of travel that makes up in quality what it lacks in quantity,
with better returns for travelers, marketers and our world.
About the author...
Tedd Evers is the founder and CEO of TripTuner