Game developers, YouTubers, techies and even the porn industry have accepted its power: 360° videos (often on Virtual Reality devices like Oculus Rift). But so far the examples of travel brands and tourism boards using the ground breaking technology are few and far in between. Brands like Marriot, British Columbia and Thomas Cook have been experimenting with the technology, but they are still pioneers. Even though travel is the perfect market for the use of 360° videos, it’s still not widely used. I’ll tell you why, and how tourism boards can harness the power of 360° videos.

Why is it the perfect technique to engage consumers?

Travel is an activity that calls upon all five of your senses. The sounds, the feelings, and the experience: it really is an emotional activity. A memory maker. Travel is often called a soft sell, an emotional sell. And what better way to reach those must wanted customer emotions, than actually having them experience a destination first hand through 360 videos? Out with the boring old brochures, in with the virtual 360 ‘brochures’.

YouTube has recently started pushing 360 videos (mostly through vloggers): they are videos you watch via the app on your smartphone, where you can turn literally any direction to see what’s going on around you. Not a picture, mind you. An actual video. An experience. Virtual Reality devices such as Oculus Rift have slowly been accepted by travel brands too, experimenting with them at fairs and live events. To my knowledge no travel brand has created a campaign on Oculus Rift for usage at home. The device has only recently and slowly become more available for consumers, and thus has a much higher entry level than a ‘simple’ YouTube video on your phone. However, seeing as Occulus Rift are actual ‘glasses’ they are the more intense experience. You are virtually INSIDE the experience or location, needing your head to turn and face different directions, whereas with your phone you turn it with your hand, and you can just put it away. The barrier for using YouTube is lower, but it’s also less all compassing, and easier to put away.

One thing 360° videos on Youtube or Occulus Rift have in common, though, is that brands are able to have their customer experience a destination even without actually visiting it. It’s a game changer in marketing. There is a slight difference in Oculus Rift-type video campaigns and YouTube campaigns, and since the first one is not available to every consumer yet, I will be focusing on the strategy you can start using NOW: 360° videos on Youtube.

Pioneers

As I’ve mentioned there aren’t many companies that have really recognized the importance of 360° videos for the travel industry yet. The few companies that have been using it, are pioneers. Marriot, British Columbia, Thomas Cook. And they have relied on the Oculus Rift experience, instead of YouTube campaigns for smartphones.

Marriot created a 4D-experience for newlyweds, ‘sending’ them to Hawaii or London, and having them experience the sounds, smells and feelings (wind, water) of a destination.

Thomas Cook has created 360 travel videos as well, that they plan on showing in their stores in UK, Germany in Belgium on Oculus Rift, after a successful trial in the Bluewater store in 2014.

Destination British Columbia was the first North American tourist board to use VR during events to showcase their destination to event attendees.

The sad thing is these campaigns are wonderful for people visiting their stores or actual locations to try out the 360° videos live on Oculus Rift, but since none of the campaigns are available on YouTube yet, it makes them virtually meaningless for the ‘normal’ consumer who is unable (or uninterested) in visiting a travel fair or store. The potential reach of these campaigns is there for very small. This however, means nothing for potential ROI, which might be very high, because of the personal contact in stores, which is lacking with YouTube videos.

So far I’ve seen only a few destination videos that use 360° technology on Youtube, such as Ontario, Hamilton Island, Iceland and North Korea (!?) but none of them seem to be commissioned by tourism boards (- as far as I could find). The Hamilton Island video is commissioned by Qantas, the only brand that seems to have actively experimented with this. This is also by far the best video out of all of them.

Ontario (the usage of this type of music is… surprising)

North Korea (part of the DPRK 360 project)

Iceland

Visit Hamilton Island with Qantas

Challenges

The use of 360° poses interesting questions for tourism boards. Will they opt for the more attainable (and cheaper) YouTube videos that are available to masses? Or will they go for the more expensive and more elite Oculus Rift videos, available only to the lucky few that visit their stores or own Oculus Rift devices? Eventually the 360° YouTube videos will be available on Oculus Rift, this is simply a matter of time. (It is actually already possible now, but requires downloading special software)

For videographers the 360° videos come with filming and editing challenges. Video is about capturing attention, and attention spans of consumers are short. The biggest pitfall in most 360° destination videos is that they are, well…. boring. Nothing is going on. It’s simply a shot of a destination, with the option of looking around. After a short amount of time (for me personally: about 2 minutes) the newness of the 360° feature wears off, and I become bored. So to make engaging videos there must be adventure in the video, movement. Something must be going on. Narrative is very important for these videos, to make them less static. Qantas has really understood this: something is constantly going on, keeping you engaged the whole time. It still has a bit of a brochure vibe, with their brochure type-models, but it’s by far the best and most engaging video of all of them. You really feel like you’re there.

Editing wise 360° videos pose a challenge for videographers compared to the ‘normal’ travel videos, which are comprised of gorgeous shots edited together. They all flow effortlessly, which is much more challenging with 360 videos, as there can be endless points of fixation for the viewer (they can look in any direction after all), so a seamless flow is hard to acquire. Once more, this is why narrative and adventure are important: it’s not about the ‘beauty’ (like many destination videos) of the images, it’s about the storytelling. Mind you, this doesn’t have to be a person actually talking to you, it can just be a logical trail of events (the viewer going on an adventure).

Future of travel vlogging

Travel vlogging, or at least the narrative vloggers use, are absolutely perfect for 360° videos. Travel vloggers sell the adventure of having people travel ‘with’ and ‘through’ them, and now they can actually “come along” and experience it all trough 360°. More and more travel vloggers are given the opportunity by YouTube to experiment with the 360° technology, and the results are stunning.

Trough the constant flow of action, people continue to be engaged. The fact that vloggers can take their followers ‘with’ them, having them being able to see absolutely everything, makes the experience even more intimate, which only increases their -usually already pretty high- engagement.

The technology seems to be less important for the less ‘personal’ or ‘narrative’ based videos, such as (beauty) tutorials, where the fixture is on one specific object and the surroundings don’t matter.

FunforLouis is the most prominent travel vlogger experimenting with 360° videos. He’s shot videos in Sierra Leone, USA, Norway and on the English Channel. (His 360° videos on average get more views than his ‘normal’ vlogs)

(Be sure to watch in the Youtube app – it doesn’t work on desktop)

How can travel brands & destination boards use 360° videos?

There’s an endless amount of ways brands can use the 360° video technology to creative effective campaigns. Explorista Media is more than happy to brainstorm with your brand on how to create the most effective campaigns for your brand. Some ideas:

Virtual Reality (aka Oculus Rift-type devices) is obviously the perfect technology to capture the attention of fair visitors. No longer will you have to wave your flyers in people’s faces on travel fairs, but visitors will come flocking to you, to experience your destination ‘live’ and be part of a new and exciting experience.

I personally believe 360° videos on the accessible YouTube platform are the way to go for now, for travel brands. And there’s plenty ideas for travel brands? Why not make the ‘cockpit videos’ lots of channels do into 360° videos? Produced by the actual airlines? It makes the flying experience much more personable and well… awesome.

Why not create 360° videos of destinations using a narrative? Maybe a walk through the destination? Zip lining? Bungeejumping? Make your viewer a potential visitor by having them experience the destination beforehand. There are endless adventures you can turn into 360° promotion of your destination.

If you’d like to go over some ideas, do not hesitate to contact us at info [@] exploristamedia.com.