VR Vacations Let You Try Before You Fly

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VR Vacations Let You Try Before You Fly
September 20, 2016
From everyday to holiday in just a matter of seconds.

If virtual reality is about transporting us from the comfort of our living rooms to new and interesting locations, then it seems travel is cut out for the medium.
 
At the touch of a button, it’s now possible to visit even the most far-flung corners of the globe. And while the process of booking vacations was once restricted to conversations with travel agents, or hours spent surfing the web, customers can now try before they fly simply by donning a VR headset.
 
With all the planning and risk involved, purchasing a vacation can sometimes be a hit-or-miss experience. That wonderful seaside resort might look lovely in the brochure, but how do you know it’ll look the same when you get there? Ultimately, you don’t, which is why travel companies are now turning to VR to offer customers a sneak peak ahead of time.
 
Take VR specialist agency Visualise, who recently partnered with vacation operator Thomas Cook. Last year, they installed Samsung Gear headsets across ten of the travel agent’s British stores, giving customers the chance to visit places like New York, Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, and Singapore. By virtually transporting customers from the high streets of England to the top of the Rockefeller Center, Thomas Cook reported a 190% increase in revenue from holiday packages to the Big Apple, and saw flight and hotel bookings rise by over $17,000 following VR trials. This would suggest virtual reality is already providing a pretty viable alternative to the real thing.
 
Hotel chains are also cashing in on the rising popularity of VR. At the 2015 World Travel Market trade show, Shangri La Hotels invited convention goers to take digital worldwide tours of their five star accommodations via virtual reality headsets. Their downloadable videos feature on their website, which means prospective customers can even visit the resorts from home, so long as they have compatible hardware.
 
Hospitality juggernaut Marriott has taken VR-driven promotions a step further still. As part of the chain’s recent "Travel Brilliantly" campaign, it joined forces with experimental marketing firm Relevent to create special 4D Teleporter stations designed to simulate the vacation experience. Used in conjunction with the Oculus Rift headset and housed within a telephone booth-like structure, users can not only visit the beach with their eyes and ears, but can also bask in the sun’s heat, or smell the salty sea air via synced scent releases.
 
VR’s reach isn’t limited to planet Earth either. All These Worlds is a US-based company that has partnered with NASA to provide VR vacations for astronauts in space. With their physical and psychological wellbeing in mind, the holodeck-esque ANSIBLE program creates a number of alternate experiences — from long walks in the countryside, to deep dives in coral reefs — all designed to break up long space voyages and offer reprieve from their otherwise restrictive environments.
 
Which begs the question: can virtual reality actually replace real life vacations?
 
After all, this form of escapism is a lot less expensive, it’s better for the environment, and completely removes the stress of physical travel. Whether or not us Earth-dwellers will be trading in our headrests and folding trays for headsets and motion controllers in the coming years remains to be seen, but one thing’s for sure: try before you fly is a concept that’s sure to take off with the advent of VR.

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