Experience The Journey Before THE JOURNEY
12th March 2021
‘Putting the virtual sand between the customer’s toes’
Are you still set in your old ways, how would you like to keep up with the times and have that competitive edge over other travel agents?
Well, mixed reality could be your answer!
Virtual Reality (VR) + Augmented Reality (AR) = Mixed Reality
As they say, two is better than one!
“The UK is currently Europe’s largest market for virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR), tapping into what is predicted to become a US$160 billion immersive technologies market.”Fiona Kilkelly, Immerse UK
‘TRY BEFORE YOU BUY’
Mixed reality is a new generation of experiential technology which can be used by travel agents. The visual aspects take customers/potential clients to a world of their own.
The time has gone when customers would come into the agency, sit down at a computer, look at websites, collect some brochures, then leave. Where is the sense of excitement in that?
Holidays are an investment and something to look forward to after months/years of savings. Brits on average spend around £855 each on a holiday, so if this was a family of four, you are looking at £3,420.
Research conducted by ABTA showed that 76% of holidays in 2019 were booked online, which then increased by 7% compared to the previous year. This shows that online bookings via apps and mobile phones are increasingly popular.
Therefore, to keep up with this trend, in-store travel agents are able to use mixed reality to focus on the quality of service, combining knowledge and new technology to advise the consumers with a new experience.
Augmented Reality (AR)
‘Adding new value and opportunities to consumers and Travel Agents’
AR Apps and the Uses
- In-store: Interior designs of the agency can collaborate with the use of AR apps by pointing devices towards interactive wall maps. This will provide the consumers with information. Similar concepts have been used by Hub Hotels by Premier Inn.
- AR apps provide the consumer with more information once they are at the destination. This can be more convenient for consumers with information such as public transport, sightseeing, bars, and restaurants.
Customers appreciate companies taking the time to engage with them, making the whole process fun and enjoyable.
Virtual Reality (VR)
‘Showcasing destinations in 360 degrees’
“From our experience, VR does significantly support the sales process and as an emotional medium can really drive purchase decisions.”Carlos Ayala Jiménez, Head of Sales at edataconsulting
VR and the Uses
- In-store: Headsets would be used to explore the surrounding areas by a head tracking feature within the device. This in turn would create more of a realistic approach compared to watching a screen.
- Online: VR photography can be used to show the consumers certain areas such as hotel rooms, excursion hotspots, and many more. This is similar to having a headset on, but it is a still photo that has been captured in 360 degrees. This can be used on any online platform, as well as in-store.
AR and VR can show the step-by-step process of the consumers’ holiday, from start to finish before even leaving the comfort of their home or the travel agents. This would give you, as a travel agency with the opportunity to enrich the customers with a pre-holiday experience.
Tourism Australia researched that almost 20% of consumers had used a type of VR to select their holiday destination and 25% plan on using this tool in the future.
AR and VR are becoming a MUST within the travel agencies. These technologies enable tourists to visit the actual location, see inside the hotel as if they were physically present, and receive a preview of various excursions while on holiday.
AR and VR present a foretaste of the holiday to come. Having AR and VR just shows how far the industry has embraced these technologies, permitting the consumer to experience the experience, before the experience.
Are you going to embrace the virtual sand between your customers’ toes?
Thats an interesting way to move forward but would this require extra effort from the hotels etc to produce the required footage for use with MR? or can it already be used on pre existing videos/photos?
Thank you for your comment. Photos and videos are an investment so we understand that it may not be suitable to reshoot all areas of the hotel again unless any refurbishments have taken place and the hoteliers would like to use that area within MR. So therefore in regards to the use of pre-existing footage, these can be reused indeed.
As a tour manager who leads incentive tours (corporate tours) is this mainly applicable to FIT travelers? As it will be interesting to see how this technology can influence the decision making process of corporate destination choices.
Hi Grace, thank you for your comment. Yes, that would be interesting to see how this technology can cater to the needs of different groups. While businesses might not have the time to visit the agency, there are ways an agency can work with such as sending the company an interactive brochure in which they can use their own device to view further information by AR or potentially sending a more affordable VR device such as Google cardboard.
I agree! I believe AR and VR will become more crucial as consumers conduct more research on their own on the internet before booking a trip. AR and VR technologies can also be very helpful in COVID times when it is difficult to go to the travel agency. If I could see what my next holiday could be, I would be even more excited to book a trip as soon as travel restrictions are lifted!
Thank you so much for your comment. That is great to know that you would be open to using mixed reality. With the use of mixed reality, would you consider booking more trips/holidays than usual?
The VR is an amazing tool to have as a an agent to show the prospect client your vision. Hopefully they’ll become more affordable so it would be a great investment as sometimes no matter the knowledge you have from the area and your client has a vision it can be hard to Portrait your vision together. Often the guests buy the product based on the faith they have towards the agent’s understanding. So I think this is a wonderful idea, thanks for sharing.
Thank you so much for your comment. You are exactly right! With agent understanding, it can influence a massive impact on a consumers purchase decision. By using VR it will be much easier for clients and agencies to portray their visions clearly. As you mentioned above, the pricing can be a little bit too high in order to integrate this concept within a business. However, I strongly believe this will change over time as technology is rapidly advancing and the prices are considerably decreasing.
Hi, I work for a sports tour travel operator. This would definitely enhance our customer experience and help promote our products. As a small family owned business however and due to our large destination portfolio, hopefully as the technology develops it will become a more affordable and efficient for a company with limited resources. Do you think this will be the case, so it is more available for smaller businesses?
Hi, thank you for engaging! We are so pleased you feel this way and research is showing that these technologies are getting cheaper. I definitely think mixed reality will become available to smaller businesses, even now there are affordable options online such as creating 360-degree images (as seen on sites such as Facebook) and other affordable interactive factors which you can have access too as a small business. With the constant development of mixed reality, there will definitely be a time in the future in which these resources will become efficient and affordable to small businesses such as yours!
That’s an interesting read. This can also be quite eco friendly as companies can spend less on printing, however cost of the technology can be an issue for smaller travel agencies”
Thank you so much for your comment. You are right this may be an issue for smaller travel agencies. However, it would be a brilliant investment in the long term. Suppliers of AR and VR in the near future could potentially offer instalment plans to travel agencies. This would benefit smaller agencies as the cost could be spread over a certain period of time, but would still be able to use this fantastic technology.
There are some very positive ideas here, my concern would still be that there is a high % of retired travellers many who still do not trust technology and I feel they would be resistant however also missing out, therefore it would need to be offered in such away that this market can also engage. As previously mentioned the cost implications could be massive especially at this current time, when businesses are strapped for cash.
Hi Karen, thank you for engaging with us! That is true, and I agree that some retired travellers may still be hesitant in trusting new technologies. In this case, travel agents can start by using the AR aspect of the technology through interactive brochures, for example, to ease retired travellers in using and trusting these new technologies before using the VR technology. It is also undeniably true that due to the current climate, businesses are struggling financially, however, this could be discussed with the technology providers to allow for instalment plans which would help companies to afford the technology.
Interesting article, thanks for sharing also the images are nice.
I do like this new way of travelling. I think there are tons of (audio)books on different cultures so we should read & listen more, which could indeed lead to real life trip becoming ‘less special’ but at least you learn more because you invest your time in genuinely learning about a culture instead of walking around, taking pictures and adding them to social media. We spend loads on food on holiday but recipes can also bring us closer to other cultures by trying a different one every week orso. The price for this trip might also not be as expensive and you won’t be purchasing unnecessary souveniers which become dustcollecters over time. Those aspect I think show that VR is the new best thing since REAL REALITY.
Hi Shanie, Thank you for your comment. We are glad you see the value of VR in tourism. Our idea is for travel agents to use technologies such as VR as a means to provide real experience to their customers in an exciting and innovative way. The observation you made on dust-collecting souvenir was good and in a way true but also does bring fond memories. Again, thank you for engaging with us!
That’s a really interesting point! I totally agree about the educational value of virtual tours as it is much easier to focus on learning about the place you are visiting. It is, however, limited in that one does not get the added impressions gained from interacting with the local community, experiencing the climate etc.
Hi Nadine, thank you for highlighting the cultural aspect of virtual travel. It is true that in some aspect customers won’t be able to experience the senses, however, with the use of AR and VR, it will help customers with some information regarding the destination they are visiting and gain more knowledge once they’re at the destination and experience the realism of the senses once they’re at the destination itself.
Being an independent travel from this could really help to increase my revenue. As an online travel agent this could help me to upselI add ons to customers, enabling them to get a feel for the experience before purchasing
Hello Megan, that’s great to hear, we are wanting to help not just the bigger corporations with this technology but also independent agents like yourself!
Such great article! Wondering how this method can help the offline travel agent to promote their travel packages and compete with the online travel agent specifically in developing tourism area because the people are not considered as tech savvy and practically this kind of innovation needs a proper product development.
Hi Hedhi, thank you for engaging with our blog. Yes, technology may be a little tricky in developing tourism area. However, similar to the purchase of any other technology, operational skills can be taught through training/ manuals.
Received by email:
This is an excellent article, you have raised some incredible points and it’s great to see such an understanding on where the market is going.
We’re currently looking to implement some of these areas that you have highlighted, we’re in the process of launching a new website and brand alongside an app. With your article firmly in our minds, we will certainly be trying to find the best way to sell our chalets, hotels and apartments in the Alpes.
(Responded via email)
Thank you for your comment, that is great news to hear an independent company like yourselves are already in the process of using apps to drive sales.
We are glad to know that our blog has informed you of where the market is going and exploring the uses of different technology.
We as a group wish you all the best with the new website and app.
A really interesting article on how AR/VR and Mixed Reality can help enhance the tourism sector and consumer experience.
Some interesting comments regarding the affordability and accessibility of these technologies. Up until recently the capital required to embrace these developments was quite prohibitive whereas most consumers are now in position of the devices required already (their personal mobile phones). The financial commitment remains with the business to create the material which has also reduced significantly.
I believe there is scope to build tailored experiences based on off the shelf materials and/or custom content. I would certainly welcome anyone who wishes to discuss the possibilities to get in touch with me via email@example.com.
A question for the authoring group of this post:
Given your research, what do you understand the impact of technology to be on tourist engagement whilst on holiday/excursion? Do you feel that this could be used to enhance the relationship between tour operator and customer through continued engagement?
Hi Tom, thank you for your comment. We are pleased that you find our article interesting! We are hoping more travel agencies will be open to adopting this technology especially as you said, the cost has reduced significantly.
AR applications on mobiles can make the holiday/excursions more interesting and engaging. Applications as such can be promoted by travel agents allow them to personalise and create new experiences for their customers. As such, these technologies can be used to build and enhance the relationship between travel agents and customer through either continued engagement, and also potentially co-creation – in a time where customers tell agents what they want to see and what footages/ features could be added.
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