Video Technology is Changing the Travel Experience

What’s it like? What is that? Now, technology can answer those two universal questions for travelers in ways that are far more satisfying and complete, and we have Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to thank. These new technologies are becoming commonplace and often never farther away than a computer or the ever-present smartphone.

What … Is It?

So that everyone is on the same page, here’s a quick definition of both terms. Either can be used throughout the traveler’s journey, from planning to booking to enhanced on-site experiences.

Virtual Reality (VR) is video technology that creates the effect of being at a different location through either 360-degree video or an artificial computer-generated environment. It may or may not involve special headsets and viewing apparatus.

Augmented Reality (AR) is technology that overlays graphics or text on images seen through a mobile device, most commonly a smartphone.

Firsthand Perspective, from a Hundred Miles Away

You can tell someone what it’s like to be somewhere. You can show them pictures. But nothing creates the same impact as being there, or at least feeling like they are there. VR can bring visual sensation to potential travelers no matter where they are. The videos create an immersive experience that is as close as possible as one can get to physically experiencing it. While today’s technology is sure to improve, it is already very realistic.

Visit St. Petersburg/Clearwater was an early adopter of VR technology, kicking off their first project in 2014. Now, they have close to 25 different 360-degree videos that can be viewed online by those that don’t have headsets, or full VR for those that do. It shows what visitors can expect when they arrive, from soaring with a jetpack to a simple trip down a water slide to various venues. In any application, capturing the experience is key. Movement is key, as is avoiding empty rooms—that’s not an exciting experience.

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The Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board is another using VR to bring the venues to meeting planners. Getting a firsthand look at what’s available without traveling saves time and money. “When they do make their visit to L.A., they already have a good idea of what to see and what will work,” says Darren K. Green, senior vice president of sales for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.

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The Onsite Experience

While VR can simulate what it’s like to be there, AR really shines when the visitors are on site. From providing general information to enhanced experiences to gamification to increased sharing, AR can provide a host of benefits for both the marketer and traveler.

General Information

Nothing says “tourist” like walking around somewhere with an open map or brochure while trying to navigate. Between alternately looking down then up to get bearings, visitors can miss half the experience, in addition to possibly calling unwanted attention. But, those days are coming to an end thanks to AR. Now visitors in Switzerland can simply look at their smartphone (as they are likely to be doing anyway) while the app provides directions and enhanced information about their location—all in their native language.

Enhanced Experience

Visiting places like museums and historical sites are far more interesting when you go with a knowledgeable friend. They can point out interesting details and facts that make the place come alive. AR can provide that information, as well additional visuals that tell an even more engaging story. Museums are starting as early adopters in this area.


People love to play games. And it’s been proven that games help us learn and remember facts – what better combination for your destination? While Pokémon GO™ set the world temporarily on fire, smaller and more localized AR applications will certainly become prevalent and welcomed at destinations everywhere. From simple badges earned by completing specific activities to quizzes and “choose your own adventure” itineraries, gamification is a winner.



People look for and trust travel recommendations from friends. And their friends love to share images and videos of them being there. Make it easy for them and make it specific to your location. One example is the HISTARS app that enables visitors to meet and engage with famous figures from history in Moscow, London and Paris, to name a few cities from a growing list. The app is triggered by proximity to famous events and locations. Imagine taking a selfie with Peter the Great to share with friends. Or better still, a famous icon from your area.

Looking Ahead

Technology in smartphones and the variety of VR-supported devices are still in the early stages—but they are not going away. Look for rapid enhancements and improvements in the near future, and think about how they can be applied to your destination to provide an enhanced experience for visitors from start to finish. As the younger generations increasingly make up larger segments of the travel audience, technology and the experience will play a deciding factor in their decisions.

Check out our eBook, Marketing Trends—Seven Things Marketers Need to Know for more detailed information.

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Want to learn more? Check out our ebook or see some of our work in AR and VR here.

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