Virtual reality hasn’t exactly hit the mainstream despite the number of companies now offering software enabling travel companies to create their own content.
Consumers may have been wowed by it in its early days but grew to expect the jaw-dropping inspirational experience that it had promised.
Perhaps all is not lost, as VR could still be carried along by the huge predictions for the consumption of video content via mobile devices in the next few years.
In addition, companies such as Facebook and Google are making it ever easier for the industry to bring travel to life through 360-degree video.
Concept3D, a specialist in interactive maps, has just unveiled Tour Builder, a platform for creating virtual tours.
The platform is self-service technology that enables tour operators, hotels and other travel companies to create immersive tours and plot them on a map.
The virtual tour content can then be embedded in a website or shared via link.
Chris Munz, vice president of business development at Concept3D, says that while smartphones can now be used to take 360-degree imagery, Tour Builder enables companies to create “immersive experiences that connect multiple tour stops and build a cohesive tour that’s also tied to a geographic location.”
Munz says that VR is still being viewed as a “nice to have” rather than an integral part of the marketing strategy. He adds that the medium is still viewed as expensive with “perhaps a questionable day-to-day purpose.”
“But VR continues to grow in terms of both content viewed and hardware sales. We developed Tour Builder so tours are VR-ready, meaning that anyone with the necessary hardware can toggle in and out of VR mode. At the same time anyone with a desktop or mobile device can have an immersive experience that doesn’t require googles.”
The Tour Builder platform is one of a number of systems enabling virtual tours to be created, and Munz says that aside from the use for consumers to check out locations from hotels to cruise ships to resorts, it can also be used for business operations, such as design and layout of rooms.
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Not everyone is convinced it will take off, however. Alex Bainbridge of tours and activities insight blog DestinationCTO says that in the hotel space, virtual tours really work in terms of helping to build a mental picture and eliminating the element of surprise.
“Tours and activities are about helping people explore the unknown. If the guest has seen everything beforehand, there are no surprises and the enjoyment of the real world experience is diminished.”
Bainbridge acknowledges that some customers, such as the elderly, children or someone in a wheelchair, do need that “additional layer of reassurance” to help with planning.
Last year, the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies put VR as taking two to five years to reach a plateau, so the medium is clearly still on a slow burn.