It’s hard to choose one overarching theme at IMEX America 2016. Destination representatives from all over the world are offering games, prizes, demonstrations and food to intrigue the waves of attendees that pass by their booths as they move from one appointment to the next. But there is one common trend that has continued popping up all over the trade show floor and even the afterparties, and that’s virtual reality.
VR has been on the “trends to watch” list for some time now in the meetings space, but the amount of destinations who are actively using it to showcase their venues and cities has seemingly blossomed overnight.
Here are some of the places VR made an appearance at IMEX.
At a media breakfast hosted by Meet L.A., Los Angeles’ official convention and visitors bureau, the team announced the launch of Virtual Discovery L.A., a new virtual reality travel platform that provides meeting professionals with immersive 360-degree viewing experiences on both mobile and desktop that will allow visitors to view more than 50 venues all over the city.
One look at the site and you’ll see it’s more than just viewing a 360-degree view of each meeting room. The program, which was developed by partner XplorIt, allows users to see a broad overview of the city, check highways and travel routes, and even experience the subway system. They can select a particular neighborhood and then see the options they have for venues.
Distinct “only-in-L.A.” venues include L.A. LIVE, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Getty Center, The Studios at Paramount, Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, Petersen Automotive Museum and L.A. Memorial Coliseum. It’s the wide range of not just venues, but restaurants, cultural attractions and entertainment that can be explored that makes this the most comprehensive virtual tour of any destination.
A menu of icons in the corner of the screen make it easy for meeting planners to navigate the site and see specs such as capacity and square footage.
Virtual Discovery L.A. can be viewed directly on a smartphone, desktop, or tablet, or used with a VR viewer such as Google Cardboard or Samsung Gear VR.
The tourism company also announced a new app coming in November that will also offer the virtual platform.
Though it wasn’t present at IMEX, Singapore filled us in on their recent accomplishments using VR. At Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME), held in Melbourne, Singapore Tourism was recognized for having the most innovative booth. The booth featured projectors that displayed 4-D images on every wall so that attendees could walk up, select a space, and view the space as if they were there.
The reaction from attendees was so positive that the tourism group anticipates using this technology at future events to showcase their destination.
Raddisson Red–the newest brand within the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group umbrella– launched in Brussles in April and is opening its first hotel in the U.S. in November in Minneapolis. The line is catered toward the millennial generation, offering the newest tech such as mobile check-ins and keyless entry, and design elements that reflect music, art and fashion.
The new brand hosted a party at IMEX to showcase it’s offerings, and guests everywhere wandered the party with VR headsets to check out renderings of the Brussels location. Guests glided through a vibrant red hotel lobby and into meeting spaces and guest rooms.
A third Radisson Red is expected to open by December in Campinas, Brazil, followed by Portland, Oregon and Miami in 2017.
It may sound like a bit of a lost cause for Las Vegas to be offering a virtual experience to people who are physically in Las Vegas for IMEX–but if you’ve ever been to the city you know how difficult it can be to navigate, especially when you’re inundated with options.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority gave away DodoCase VR viewers–similar to Google cardboard–and invited attendees to “Enter the Vegas VR Experience.”
Like Google Cardboard, DodoCase VR is a thick cardboard viewer that allows you to slide a smartphone in front of the view finder to experience virtual reality. See it for yourself or check out the demo below.
Site Inspections vs. VR
Will VR replace site inspections if it becomes available for every venue? The short answer is no. Darren Green, senior vice president of sales for L.A. Tourism, said the technology isn’t intended to replace a real onsite property inspection, but what it does is narrow down a planner’s options.
“Following last year’s launch of our acclaimed meetla.com website, L.A. Tourism continues to elevate the destination’s meeting planning process with an immersive virtual travel experience for all generations of the meeting community,” said Green.
Kaaren Hamilton, vice president of global sales for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, echoed a similar sentiment about the VR capabilities for Radisson Red. She pointed out, however, that site inspections aren’t nearly as common for small groups, and that’s where a VR tour of the property can come in handy.