HONOLULU - In a first for promoting travel to the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) is introducing a virtual reality tour experience highlighted by 360-degree live-action footage using breathtaking imagery that instantly drops "visitors" into Hawaii from anywhere worldwide.
The virtual tour experience, Hawaii VR, debuts at the 2016 Hawaii Tourism Conference, Sept. 26-30, at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Hawaii's new VR tour experience will be addressed in the general session, Virtual Reality: The Undiscovered Territory in Tourism Marketing, on Sept. 29, from 1:45-2:45 p.m. In addition, VR demo stations will be placed in the conference Tech Hub of the Village Square for attendees to try out.
The conference theme, Transforming Tourism Together, describes perfectly how Hawaii VR will allow anyone in the world to experience up-close the welcoming culture, natural beauty, sunny weather and undeniable appeal of the Hawaiian Islands.
Leslie Dance, HTA vice president of marketing and product development, said, "Anyone who loves Hawaii or dreams about coming here is going to be amazed at how they can suddenly be in the islands whenever they want and capture the magic of being here. This virtual reality tour is a new platform for showcasing Hawaii's culture and natural environment, the two pillars of our global appeal."
Four islands, Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the island of Hawaii, are featured in the Hawaii VR experience. The virtual tour begins with the user floating as a paraglider through clear blue skies above the islands.
The user selects an island to explore, then gently descends into the midst of a tour experience highlighting that island's particular allure, environment and attractions. An island-based resident narrates as the tour guide, providing a personal perspective and advice on what to enjoy.
Hawaii VR combines cinematic virtual interactivity with live-action footage, a unique differentiation in virtual reality content, especially for promoting destination travel. Virtual sightseeing of spectacular landscapes, including coastlines, waterfalls and rainforests, is coupled with enticing activities, such as hula, surfing and catamaran sailing.
"This VR experience will be an educational tool for travelers, as well as travel trade professionals, about the diversity of the Hawaiian Islands and help inspire the booking of vacations," said Dance.
Hawaii VR is customized for mobile and tethered platforms. The gaze of a user's eyes controls selections from a mobile device, while the tethered experience is operated with Vive controllers, as the user holds them in the same way as the handles of a paraglider.
Hawaii VR is being launched with virtual tours of Oahu and the island of Hawaii on HTC Vive and iPhone. On Sept. 26, it can be downloaded for HTC Vive on Steam and on the iOS App Store for iPhone using the search: Hawaii VR.
A version for Oculus Rift and Android smartphones will be introduced later this year and coincide with the launch of virtual tour experiences for all four islands on all platforms.
Hawaii VR was conceived by OMD's Zero Code in collaboration with creative direction from Hawaii-based agency MVNP and visual effects shop Framestore, which also provided the VR and 360 live-action production.
The Hawaii Tourism Conference will feature 60 sessions addressing a range of topics, including Hawaiian culture, ecological sustainability, international travel, and the visitor experience.