Virtual Reality (VR) is a new consumer technology and remains in early adopter mode currently, so when should travel brands expect the technology to really take off? EyeforTravel's Does Virtual Reality Have a Place in Travel? White paper believes that we are a few years off but there is plenty of potential.
In 2016, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear were the leading VR devices by shipments, both of which are designed for smartphones. Both shipped around 5 million units according to their parent companies. Although this is a relatively small number it puts them way ahead of more complex, dedicated sets, such as the much-publicized Oculus Rift, the parent company of which is now owned by Facebook.
Indeed overall, 2016 was not the break-out year that analysts had initially expected, with actual shipments disappointing initial forecasts. As yet it remains a relatively new technology and only a small number of leading-edge consumers have acquired headsets. However, the report notes that consumers are extremely open to the possibilities of using VR for travel content even at this early stage of the technology's adoption. Interest ranges from just over a third of UK consumers who feel VR could be useful for travel planning up to nearly three quarters of US consumers who are interested in the applications of VR for travel and tourism. The report also expects 2017 to see strong growth that will continue out to 2021 with the US being the leading market in terms of shipments and market value.
Alex Hadwick, Head of Research at EyeforTravel believes that, "In 2017 the market will still be quite small overall and only just beginning to mature from a consumer perspective. A dedicated set with a PC could easily see a consumer set back by more than USD1,000. Likewise, content is quite limited at this stage, although growing rapidly and investments by big companies in the area have also not yet been fully realized. Therefore, going all-in as a travel brand seems premature at this stage. However, big changes are afoot, with new offerings pushing prices down."
"Travel-focused businesses must also keep an open mind to the broad range of uses that this technology might bring in the future," said Andrew Newton, Head of Corporate Travel, Colpitts World Travel. "I think we are currently limited in our view of VR as we think of it as something that requires goggles to view an alternative, and often intense, experience. While it may be a long way from the minds of the average travel service provider today, this is something that might be common to us all in ten years' time."
Hadwick also advises that "travel brands should also keep an eye on AR in the future and how this interacts with VR. Already, the vast majority of VR device shipments in the medium term are expected to be smartphone systems, which is also where practically all AR applications will be hosted. Given that everyone already owns an AR device, albeit one with a few limits, the possibilities are enormous and there is room for conflict with VR in getting the consumer's attention as well as co-existence. Perhaps we can expect VR to take a major role in the inspiration phase and AR to be a major aid to the traveler once they begin their physical journey in the future."
The full whitepaper goes into detail about the business case for VR, case studies from leading travel brands currently using VR and much more. You can download the full whitepaper here.
Head of Digital & Content