6 VR-Forward Brands DMOs Can Learn From

In the past several years, DMOs have started to utilize virtual reality as a compelling marketing asset. The reason why is simple: VR experiences empower travel marketers to transport potential guests to their location, so they can experience activities and get a taste for what it might be like to visit in person. Not just this, but VR experiences and 360-degree videos (the backbone of VR) have a substantially higher engagement rate when compared to traditional videos.

Below are six travel destinations that have embraced virtual reality to drive tourism.

1. St. Petersburg-Clearwater

If you’ve spent any significant time in cold weather, you’ve probably daydreamed of taking a vacation to a warmer climate, maybe even moving there outright. St. Pete-Clearwater in Florida understands. Last year, the DMO released a series of 360-degree video and virtual reality experiences that allowed viewers to take sailing adventures, camp, and a trip to Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

What makes the DMO’s VR campaign interesting is how it used the VR content. Earlier this year in Chicago, when the winter winds were biting off the lake, St. Pete-Clearwater partnered with Uber for a month long marketing campaign called “Warm Up Wednesdays.” During the campaign, four Uber cars were wrapped in Florida advertisements and outfitted with virtual reality headsets. The idea was to entice Chicagoans to book a trip for a respite from the cold.

2. Visit Houston

Dispelling myths. This is a problem for every DMO. People always seem to have the wrong idea of what an actual destination is like. Recently, Visit Houston set out to eliminate the belief that Houston is little more than cattle and tumbleweeds. The DMO partnered with YouVisit to create a unique virtual experience that enabled viewers to explore the best parts of Houston from any device, including virtual reality.

Visit Houston’s experience (embed above) transports viewers to Minute Maid Park, the Houston Space Center, and the Houston Ballet, among others. Mike Waterman, president of Visit Houston, told Adweek, “We’re trying to provide new visitors with experiences that are memorable, and therefore, marketable. We sat down and thought about the 12 most interesting venues that would entice people to watch the content. The hope is that once people see the content, they’ll be so excited that they’ll book a ticket to Houston.”

3. Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority

Las Vegas CVA unveiled its 360-degree video and virtual reality app earlier this year. As with other DMOs tapping this new technology, the DMO focused on highlighting interesting and provocative experiences, with the hope of driving tourism. The Las Vegas Virtual Reality App takes viewers throughout Sin City, from the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to Lago restaurant at the Bellagio.

Cathy Tull, senior vice president for marketing at Las Vegas CVA, called virtual reality “the future of vacation planning.” And like Visit Houston’s Waterman, Tull also said she believes VR inspires potential visitors to book trips.

4. Visit West Hollywood

Visit West Hollywood took a unique approach for its virtual reality campaign. Both the DMO’s virtual reality and 360-video experience introduce viewers to the diverse people visitors might meet in West Hollywood, including a chef, mixologist, dodgeball champ, and bike store owner. Viewers listen to interviews, while also taking part in the respective activities.

5. Tourism Australia

Outside the U.S., virtual reality is also catching on. In January, Tourism Australia released virtual reality and 360-degree video experiences to highlight the country’s landmarks: the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Sydney Opera House.

Lisa Ronson, CMO for Tourism Australia, told Adnews, “We’ve showcased the beauty of the country as we always do, but we’ve tried to take it a little more experiential because that is what consumers are seeking when they travel now—they want to be immersed in the destination. The campaign is based on that insight.”

Along with the virtual experiences, Tourism Australia partnered with Air New Zealand for publicity activation. In March, the two collaborated for “Virtual Australia,” a pop-up VR exhibit in Vancouver that featured experiences of well-known Australian destinations.

6. Destination British Columbia

A lot’s been said about Destination British Columbia’s virtual reality experience “The Wild Within.” Destination BC was one of the first, if not the first, DMO to fully realize the power of virtual reality. The experience, which can also be viewed as a 360-degree video, takes visitors through the Great Bear Rainforest. Marsha Walden, Destination BC’s CEO, said the experience was responsible for a 5 percent increase in visitors and 65 million media impressions.