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Spotlight on: virtual property tours

Click. explores how virtual tours are being used by properties to enhance the pre-arrival experience and attract new guests

In an increasingly saturated market, hoteliers are turning to virtual tours to showcase their unique features and gain a competitive edge. Enabling potential guests to walk through a property with 360-degree views, the technology creates an immersive pre-arrival experience, while conveying a level of detail beyond still images.

This try-before-you-buy method of marketing is strongly desired by today’s consumers, with prospects in the 18-34 year-old age bracket 130% more likely to book a property based on a tour.

Attracting new guests

With a huge range of different properties to choose from and a significant geographical spread across the globe, virtual tours are presenting hoteliers with the opportunity to attract new customers. “Potential customers cannot always visit in person and see for themselves what they can expect,” says Keith McMahon, Managing Director at VenueView, which creates 3D virtual tour experiences for hotels. “They will often scroll past a property that may be perfect for them due to poor imagery.

“Existing customers already know what to expect. However, there are potentially millions of customers every single day that are looking for somewhere new, and in a world that is becoming more and more tech-focused, hotels need to provide tech-based solutions to show people what they can expect.”

Image
Photo: Pixabay, Pexels.com

Photo: Pixabay, Pexels.com 

As well as giving guests an insight into their options, new virtual tour technologies allow customers to select their exact room type and location based on availabilities – something the wider travel industry tapped into years ago. “Since forever, the travelling public has been able to select their seat on an airplane, pick the exact car they’re going to rent or, more recently, be able to select a specific seat in a stadium or theatre,” says Victor Vesnaver, CEO of technology company Koridor, which launched it’s MyRoom platform to offer guests 3D virtual tours and dollhouse views of hotel rooms. “But, for whatever reason, in the hotel space that’s something that hasn’t been available [until recently].”

Since Best Western started offering virtual tours, its Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Dorothy Dowling, has noticed an increase in property viewings: “80% of individuals who view a tour on Google click-through to the website to view the property availability and rates. In 2018 there were 1.9 billion views of Best Western virtual tours, driving traffic and ultimately revenue to properties. Through virtual tours, hoteliers have the opportunity to showcase their impressive properties and connect with potential guests in a truly engaging way.”

Crafting your pre-arrival experience

By investing in technologies that impact the pre-arrival stage, hoteliers can create an enhanced guest experience before they even step foot in the property. “Research by Professor Helen Chun at Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, found that the sooner you get involved with your guest and the pre-arrival phase of their journey, the more of an emotional connection they’re going to develop to their stay and the more excited they’re going to get,” says Vesnaver. “Then, once they leave, the positive emotions they developed during their stay linger longer if they’ve been a part of the process along the way. I think engaging the guest before they even leave their home delivers a real opportunity to drive additional revenue and guest loyalty.”

No longer does a hotel need to depend solely on that first impression as a guest walks through the door

And as the technology progresses, further benefits come to fruition, including the ability to seamlessly upsell to guests through the use of live hotspots embedded in the tour. This allows the hotelier to offer additional items – such as champagne on arrival – to the guest during the pre-arrival stage. Another advantage is that guests gain additional information about what they will pay for, aiding customer satisfaction by mitigating the risk of expectations not being met upon arrival.

Virtual tours also add an experiential touch-point to the pre-arrival journey, an increasingly important element as the industry continues to shift from service-based offerings to experience-based solutions. “We wanted to provide the customer with the opportunity to experience our updated properties, and virtual tours enable us to bring that experience directly to the customer,” says Best Western’s Dowling. “As we listen to the wants and needs of our customers we continue to invest in allowing guests improved access to their stay, and pre-arrival is one of the most critical elements of their experience.

“Just as significant for any hotel, the pre-arrival experience provides a property the ability to connect with a guest earlier within the customer journey, setting itself up for success with that traveller. No longer does a hotel need to depend solely on that first impression as a guest walks through the door.”

Hero image: credit to Jason Briscoe, Unspalsh


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Takeaway
  • Hoteliers are turning to virtual tours to showcase their unique features and gain a competitive edge
  • Google statistics revealed prospects in the 18-34 year-old age brackets are 130% more likely to book a property based on a virtual tour
  • By investing in technologies that impact the pre-arrival stage, hoteliers can create an enhanced experience for guests before they even step foot in the property
  • Virtual tours also add an experiential touch-point to the pre-arrival journey, an increasingly important element as the industry continues to shift from service-based offerings to experience-based solutions

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