How VR and AR can help attract and engage higher visitor numbers
While virtual reality (VR) is often used as an initial marketing tool to attract people to visit a destination (think virtual tours of holiday resorts or 360º videos of landmark cities), VR in itself can be an effective and impactful tourist attraction – enhancing a location with a unique and engaging form of entertainment, ranging from VR arcades to cultural trails and heritage experiences. In this article, we take a look at how using immersive technology such as VR and AR can help enhance real destinations to make them more attractive to both local visitors and tourists.
But it’s not just VR that can offer new perspectives on a location or heritage site. Augmented reality (AR) apps are also proving their worth in the destination sector, creating a location-based experience that users can access through their smartphone. This type of technology, which can be triggered by a physical marker or even a geo-tag, is ideal for trails around a location – encouraging users on a journey of exploration that gets them moving across a particular area, whether that’s a single building or a whole city.
It works by overlaying virtual objects in a real world environment, which users can view and interact with through their smartphone or tablet. The mix of virtual elements with the physical world allows users to view a location as it is today compared with what it once was or what it will be in future – and building these types of AR experiences into a treasure-hunt-style trail provides a great day out for local visitors, tourists and family groups that’s easily accessible through a smartphone. We’ve worked with several town councils to create AR trails as a tourist attraction, with the most recent launching at the Ness in Lowestoft in November 2020.
AR has also proved itself an excellent platform for location-based games, with the most famous example being Pokemon Go. In fact, the entertainment potential of immersive technology is considerable for destinations looking to pull in higher visitor numbers, slotting seamlessly alongside popular location-based entertainment venues such as escape rooms, bowling alleys, cinemas and arcades.
While the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily pressed pause on many out-of-home entertainment options, with the development of effective vaccines and the cautious optimism that social distancing will be easing by spring 2021, VR entertainment venues could present an attractive option to get people coming back into town centres. After all, in 2019 spending on VR games, entertainment and other experiences at dedicated location-based entertainment facilities reached $1.5 billion. In the upcoming years, we could well see new VR venues opening which offer affordable and accessible multiplayer experiences for groups of people. These can also be cost-effective for the venue-operator as VR venues do not need masses of space and, after initial investment in the hardware, experiences can be regularly updated – attracting repeat custom.
Immersive technology continues to evolve and develop at high speed and organisations such as councils, museums and more are already adopting AR and VR experiences as a way to enhance a destination. AR offers engaging and practical means to add an extra layer of interest, education and activity to a destination that can be easily accessed through the smartphones most people have in their pockets. VR offers an even more immersive experience and, what’s more, not everyone has access to it at home – giving dedicated VR venues an extra appeal. With the return of normality just around the corner, using immersive technology to enhance a location will be a clever, impactful and cost-effective way to welcome visitors and tourists back to a destination.