Virtual and Augmented Reality are arguably the most revolutionary technology since the iPhone. Simply put on a headset, push a few buttons and you’re instantly transported to anywhere in the world.

Whether it’s jetting off to the Bahamas for some winter sun or escaping to the Chalets of Val d'Isère for an Easter getaway, competition for consumer attention when it comes to booking holidays has never been stronger. And with increasing pressures on the pound, potential implications of post-Brexit travel, and the increasing number of discounted offers to tour the world, the pressures on the travel industry to secure bookings at keys times of the year are only going to escalate.

With the ever-increasing fragmentation of the marketing landscape – with consumers now turning to countless platforms, channels and devices when making a purchase decision – marketers and travel agents will need to work harder than ever to stay ahead. Or else, risk falling behind the competition and losing out on bookings and repeat visitors.

So with all of these new channels and platforms to target the digital-savvy traveller, and as brand advocacy through sites like TripAdvisor become more influential, what options do destinations have to stand out in a crowded marketplace? And how can they leverage this new wave of technology to engage and convert holiday makers from the go?

Whilst the past twelve months has seen an undeniable boom in the importance of social and digital media when promoting destinations online, with the rise of the infamous ‘hot-dog leg selfie’ leading the charge, as an industry we are seeing an increasing preference for experiential tech when booking holidays aboard.

What this means is that as virtual, augmented and mixed reality become more readily available to consumers, holidaymakers are gravitating towards destinations who are able to give them a snapshot of life at their chosen location before they’ve even left their local travel agents or sofa.

From in-flight experiences to virtual tours of the surrounding areas and 360-degree viewing of your hotel room, travellers are looking for a taste of their holiday experience in order to assure them of what they’re getting – as part of the new ‘try before you fly’ culture. But while this is great for the customer jetting off around the world, the big question remains – what does this mean for the person selling the holiday?

Recent research by YouVisit found that more than 13% of people who have a VR, AR or MR experience of their chosen location are directly inspired to move to the next stage in purchasing a holiday package for that destination. And with 44% of consumers now saying they’re very interested in trying some form of VR experience, this opens up a huge opportunity for travel agents and brands to add that additional touch point in the purchase journey which can help to secure the booking over another vendor or destination.

Having this additional experience, which an estimated 43 million global users are already currently seeking from brands, also helps to create an emotional connection with the destination – even before the trip commences – and begins to develop a stronger consumer-brand relationship right from the point of interest through to purchase.

Experiential tech offers more than just a cool way of entertaining potential customers or standing out from the crowd with the latest gadgets. It could be a valuable means of obtaining insight into individuals’ destination of interest which could help fuel campaigns across other online channels - where and how the VR app is downloaded becomes highly significant when considering data integration.

This wealth of additional data provides endless opportunities to target highly interested consumers with relevant marketing messages at key points in their decision making process in a timely and relevant way. Having this information will help to cut down wasted budget on irrelevant marketing, saving time and man-hours chasing down new leads, and ultimately provides the customer with a far more interactive experience of their holiday – from start to finish – and a greater likelihood of building a loyal relationship.

So as holidaymakers increasingly look beyond the realms of reality – be it virtual or otherwise – for inspiration when booking their holidays, the big question now is: ‘if they’re there, then why aren’t you?’.

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