min read

The future of travel advertising

by Helen Roberts , 02.02.2016

Virtual reality and augmented reality could be game changers for the travel industry. They offer many opportunities to connect with and excite travelers, using new and engaging promotions and advertising – and even immersive travel experiences in-store. Can the travel industry take it to the next level?

How VR and AR can make a destination seem a reality

Augmented reality, also know as AR, is the merging of virtual reality and real life, as such it offers a new dimension for the connected consumer. Developers create images within applications that blend with content in the real world. With AR, users can distinguish between the created images and the real world content. Virtual reality, also known as VR, creates a completely virtual world (often using a VR helmet or goggles) in which users can immerse themselves and interact with their virtual surroundings. With good VR, users find it difficult to tell the difference between what is real and what is not.

A famous example of an augmented reality campaign is the ‘Unbelievable Bus Shelter’ created by Pepsi Max in London. The bus stop window was a hyper-realistic screen that created the illusion of a tiger approaching, a meteor crashing, or an alien tentacle attacking people. The people in the bus shelter soon realized it was a stunt and found it amusing.

Such an attention grabbing approach could work well for the travel industry, where connected consumers often take a trip in their imaginations long before they begin the process of researching and booking a holiday.

GfK - The future of travel advertising Virtual reality and Augmented reality


Augmented reality billboards can engage and entertain customers in a way conventional billboards cannot. While AR and VR still have novelty value, they promise to be a practical way of helping customers to make decisions and visualize their purchases more clearly – for example with virtual reality changing rooms.

In his recent article in July 2015’s “Marketing Week”, Thomas Hobbs examined how AR and VR technology is already making a significant impact within the UK travel industry. TUI is making interactive world maps and iPads available to customers, while installing large immersive digital video walls in their high street shops to showcase holidays. Thomas Cook has pioneered VR headsets in their largest London store and, according to Chief Digital Officer Marco Ryan, one in ten customers who tried the headsets went on to book holidays there and then.

A personalized experience

AR and VR are already becoming an important part of the tailored and personalized shopping experience, and personalization, according to our recent GfK ‘Young Shopper’ survey, very much appeals to the 18-21 year old audience

Combining AR with wearables and personalization engages the consumer, both online and inside or close to retail spaces. Today and tomorrow, these techniques offer new ways to appeal to connected consumers both visually and emotionally. A customer can be alerted via their Google Glass or smart watch about a deal in a local travel agency, or reminded via an interactive billboard of the attractions of a tourist destination.

The challenge lies in getting the balance right between respecting people’s privacy and tolerance for messages, while providing them with information that could directly benefit them, based on their personal preferences, as we explore in our recent Tech Trends report.

The opportunities that AR and VR provide the travel industry are immense. Such technologies are evolving into a relevant way of marketing to a new generation of consumers who are easily bored and comfortable interacting within virtual worlds. For the connected consumers of tomorrow, such techniques, that transport them virtually to other destinations and new experiences, will no doubt be a welcome innovation.

With the rise of wearable technology, and with ever improving technology offering new and exciting ways to showcase and promote the travel experience, the travel industry will be able to interact with and attract potential customers as never before.

Moving with the times and embracing the possibilities offered by AR and VR could be an exciting trip. However, the most important journey of all is one of understanding. Informed by high quality insights into the behavior of customers, travel companies can optimize their campaigns and increase their return on investment.

Do you agree? Please email me to share your thoughts at laurens.van.den.oever@gfk.com.