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AR and VR Offer New Marketing Tactics within the Tourism Industry

By Laurie Haynes 11/07/2018

Advancements in immersive technologies have made virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) increasingly accessible, allowing consumers to connect and interact with brand stories in ways like never before. While VR and AR staked their claim in the tourism industry years ago, their potential remains vastly untapped with considerable momentum to gain.

Understanding the differences between VR and AR can be challenging at first. Clay Bavor, VP Virtual and Augmented Reality of Google, wrote in a Google blog post, “VR can put you anywhere and AR can bring anything to you.”   VR immerses a user inside of a simulated and interactive environment while AR delivers content to the user allowing them to interact with it in real reality.  “VR and AR are more like two points on a spectrum — a spectrum of how much computer-generated imagery gets woven into natural environments,” said Bavor.

California’s travel and tourism industry has led the way in delivering high impact consumer content across a multitude of channels, and immersive technology can bring industry partners to new heights.  AR and VR connects audiences with breathtaking imagery, video and audio in ways that are fresh, entertaining and highly impressionable. DMOs and tourism businesses can deliver truly unforgettable experiences to potential visitors before they book a stay or board a flight.

In commemoration of the 50 year anniversary of Bogle Vineyards in October, the winery launched its new Phantom Wine collection along with an unforgettable AR experience to share its story with consumers in a completely new way.  Fixed within the wine labels of the Phantom Chardonnay and Phantom Red Blend is an experience that not only awakens the senses with imagery and sound, but also nudges at the emotions - all from atop the kitchen counter. 

The story can be unlocked with the Augmented Reality Wine Labels app in the App Store and Google Play. When the user launches the mobile app and points their camera at both the front and back labels, an alluring tale about the phantom plays through the speakers of the device, while vines twist and unravel around the edges of the bottle. At one point, the user even catches a “fleeting glimpse” of the phantom.

“We just want to tell a story in a different way. We want to get the consumer involved and really get them hooked on the mystery and the intrigue of the phantom story,” said Jody Bogle, Director of PR at Bogle Vineyards.

The mobile app can be updated as often as needed allowing for even more stories and special experiences to be shared with target audiences in the future.

“We don’t want it to be a stagnant experience for people. Once they’ve downloaded….we want them to keep looking to learn more stories. The beauty of the augmented reality is being able to update it and keep it fresh, and really keep the consumer engaged,” said Bogle.   

At Visit Ventura, the DMO introduces visitors to stunning attractions and activities throughout the county with 360 videos. With a VR viewer and a mobile device, consumers can experience art and culture, food and beverage, and outdoor adventure -- including a boat ride to the Channel Islands alongside a pod of dolphins -- all in 360 degrees.

According to Visit Ventura, creating a 360 video six minutes in length with a single shot can take around six hours from beginning to end and the processing power involved in stitching it together can often take 2-3 hours for a single video. But by creating a highly immersive and sensory experience for the target audience, Visit Ventura delivers memorable experiences in ways traditional media cannot.

Challenges associated with VR and AR include educating audiences and brand partners in how to appropriately use the technology for the desired experience. Audiences also need equipment such as a smartphone or tablet camera, a mobile app, a VR headset or controllers to experience AR and VR.

Leaders of the tech industry such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, and HTC are working towards bringing AR and VR capability to the masses, and options for VR headsets have expanded in recent years, allowing price points to range from basic to high-end viewers.

This increased accessibility and intrigue of immersive technology has created a blank canvas of opportunity for diversified brand storytelling. AR and VR can be leveraged by DMOs and businesses across the travel and tourism industry, intertwining Golden State experiences and entertainment with an audience’s reality.

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