How virtual reality could be key to the return of tourism

GlobalData’s Johanna Bonhill-Smith says digital interaction could grow in demand post-COVID-19

Travel operators will play a vital role in the recovery of the travel industry
Travel operators will play a vital role in the recovery of the travel industry

A total 45% of global travellers remain extremely concerned about the outbreak of COVID-19, according to GlobalData’s latest consumer survey. This accentuates that consumer uncertainty remains one of the greatest barriers facing operators. Making virtual reality (VR) a key component in the booking process may act as an additional tool to ease consumer uncertainty, creating an advantage for travel companies that incorporate it.

Some operators were already using VR pre-Covid-19 to offer travellers an insight into their holiday destination, but the ‘try before you buy’ concept may become increasingly important within the booking process due to the impacts created by the coronavirus.

Even once the spread of Covid-19 has slowed, timely airport procedures, an increase in pricing and more concerns regarding safety will likely affect future travel decisions. A virtual experience beforehand may generate wanderlust, thus raising the appeal of international travel. Immersive, memorable and enticing experiences that VR can offer will help to ease consumer doubt – acting as another factor that can increase future travel demand.

Interaction with online platforms has also rapidly increased for both consumers and companies during this pandemic, suggesting there is growing opportunity for more digital interaction between the two parties.

For consumers, social media has offered a gateway to escape stringent lockdown restrictions. A total 44% of travellers have increased their time spent browsing social media, 32% are reading online reviews/blogs about products/trends more frequently and 31% are spending more time watching videos and vlogs about product usage. Successful destination marketing organisations (DMO), marketers and travel agencies have been utilising increased browsing time as an opportunity to touch base with their customers, using the tagline message along the lines of ‘hope to see you soon’.

Travel operators will play a vital role in the recovery of the travel industry. Working in lieu with a range of other industries in the tourism sector. Incorporating VR into the booking process may act as another initiative to bring tourism suppliers closer together in a destination, resulting in greater collaboration and a stronger recovery.

Johanna Bonhill-Smith is part of GlobalData’s travel and tourism division, analysing and commenting on the evolving industry.

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