Singaporeans are pros at short trips and getaways. Three-day public holidays are god-sent and people plan way in advance to schedule their time away from the city. And if preparation for the holidays is important to you, maybe it’s time to move away from just online resources and Lonely Planet guide books (if anyone still uses them) and move towards something of the virtual reality sort.
Singapore’s leading travel agency Flight Centre is now introducing a Virtual Reality experience in-store where customers can actually experience the sights and streets of a city before jetting off. A collaboration with Virtual Reality experts Takanto, Flight Centre is the first travel retailer in Singapore to implement such technology in the process of booking for holidays. With the aim of bringing the travel booking experience from online back to in-store, these VR headsets will offer customers an incredible 360-degree, life-like experience of a destination.
According to managing director of Takanto, Ariel Talbi, the VR experience is transforming the way holidaymakers can research and plan their travel, allowing them to get used to the various cities and get an accurate “feel”, before picking one which resonates — sort of like trying clothes, but definitely more fun. “We try to showcase two sides of the city in the video. Something about city life, and then something more relaxing,” Ariel added.
And I can vouch for that. Somehow on a rainy afternoon, I had managed to make a quick trip to Tokyo and stood in the middle of the Shibuya crossing and some area in the woods — via VR. There are three destinations to choose from — Cairns, Hanoi and Tokyo — and you can pop by their main store on Cecil Street for your quick lunch travel.
And quick it definitely is. As I went through various sights and scenes in Japan, I dreaded the moment it would be over. The clips were short and minute, without focus on much detail — perhaps this was their intention all along, to convert the VR usage to real life, physical tickets.
But bear in mind: if you’re making a booking entirely based on the videos itself, make sure you get your seasons right! As the videos are ultimately more of an “ad”, it is understandable that they feature the city at its best. For example, if the video of Japan is showing you all the lovely colours of spring and the cherry blossoms, then you jolly well book your trip in spring, lest you be disappointed.
If you’re thinking that VR will someday replace travelling itself, both Takanto and Flight Centre disagree. The videos are meant to be a ‘teaser’ to a more exciting experience awaiting them — the real trip itself. This innovative way is simply a way to help inspire customers and assure them they are making the perfect choice before booking.