The virtual reality technology interests the big players in world tourism should not surprise anyone and the confirmation that virtual tourism can have an interesting growht comes from the fact that both Marriott and Starwood, two of the largest hotel chains in the world a few days ago announced a merger with 12.1 billion dollars that will create a giant with 5,500 hotels around the world with 1.1 million rooms with a combined turnover of more than 2.7 billion dollars, have in recent years experienced such technology albeit in different ways and times.
The first to have an interest in virtual tourism was just Starwood, that in 2006 tried to open a hotel in the virtual world of Second Life in order to test new layout and design, try to sell merchandising and raise awareness about its brand and its services.
In these experiments it was not alone, since even Westin and Sheraton started similar experiments, then all finished because it was realized that the effort required to maintain a stable and vital in an online platform such as that developed by Linden Lab was especially significant in terms of resources for and activities to be developed, because, after the initial curiosity, in a virtual world will be few or no members to visit your hotel if you do not give a reason for doing so. Since September 2014 Marriott has instead started to test the ability to prove to their customers examples of virtual locations, thanks to the use of 3D visors like Oculus Rift with the initiative #GetTeleported.
The idea is to attract potential new customers with services of virtual tourism that go beyond the virtual tour that already today many hotel facilities offer thanks to Google Street View. In an interview Karen Olivares, Head of Marketing at Marriott, has declared: “virtual tourism will not replace the real tourism, but the travel industry hopes that the people “will taste” a virtual fragment of an interesting destination, for example, by rafting down the Grand Canyon or hike the Great Wall of China, are even more convinced to really undertake” the journey to be guests of the hotels of the chain worldwide.
The problem is, of course, develop programs and content suitable to exploit this opportunity and improve the same 3D viewers, whose first models for the retail market are expected in stores next year, although no release date has yet been fixed (which says a lot about care that still dominates the industry after all the investments made in the past two years). More generally will need competences, because this type of service requires a job certainly not negligible, as evidenced by this video of behind the scenes of the preview offered by Marriott.
But it would be very interesting that startupper, developers and creative could offer this type of service to other smaller tour operators. Think about what it means to be able to offer your facility, maybe just outside the most famous Italian locations, to a worldwide audience without having to spend hundreds of thousands of euros, if not millions, in advertising? If the topic you are curious and want to find out how it will end, continue to follow Mondivirtuali.it, even through our account on Twitter and our fanpage on Facebook (but remember: Mondivirtuali is also on Flickr, on Pinterest, on Scoop.it, on Paper.li and also on Youtube).