NB: This is a guest article by Henry Woodman, president of ICE Portal.
Travel suppliers are constantly looking for better ways to effectively market themselves on the internet and inevitably I get asked the question: “Video or virtual tours?”
It is just not that black and white, just varying shade of gray. Imagine youâ€™re the new marketing manager of a resort hotel and the boss asks if you think they should create a promotional video or create virtual tours.
The first question you would ask yourself:
“Howâ€™s the photography!?”
Great, still images should be your foundation â€“ thatâ€™s the starting point for prospects that may be motivated to see and learn more if they like the photos.
This is where videos and 360-degree virtual tours play a role.
The second question to ask the boss:
Whatâ€™s the budget?”
A respectable video will cost $10,000 and up! This is not a place to skimp on cost and look for the cheapest production you can find â€“ even when they brag about creating videos in HD (High Definition).
My six year old can shoot 1080p HD video using my iPhone, but she lacks composition and lighting skills. Good video requires some thought. You should expect a two to three-man production crew with a respectable production package (camera, lens(es), tripod, light kit, etc.).
Additional funds should be considered for production toys like a jib arm, dolly, steadicam, etc â€“ things that help create fluid movement (otherwise youâ€™re shooting postcards).
Other budgetary inflating elements to think about: scripting, voice over talent, music, aerials, on-camera talent (do you get paid models or wrangle hotel staff and guests), hair and make-up, wardrobe, art direction, graphics and special effects in post-production, etc.
You get the idea.
Video can get pricey, but an effective video generates higher conversions and increases the average daily rate because the consumer perceives greater value. A property with no video, or even worse a crappy video or a poorly created photo slide show, may devalue your offering.
Video should be a visual a teaser of the property highlights and your Unique Selling Proposition (USP). Video, especially a video viewed online, should be short â€“ no longer than one to one and a half minutes.
The average viewer abandonment rate is 45% after the first minute (higher if the video lacks appeal). If you feel you canâ€™t showcase the entire property in a minute or less, try breaking it into sub videos â€“ an overview video, and sub videos to focus on specific areas: meeting spaces, golf course, spa, dining, activities, accommodations, and local area (highlights nearby).
Back to our dilemma â€“ video can be sexy and pricy (done correctly), but virtual tours (also referred to as 360s, 360-degree virtual tours, panoramic images, and virtual reality to name a few) are more affordable, provide a slightly different function in the sales cycle and in may deliver greater value or return on investment (ROI).
The investment to create good looking 360-degree virtual tours ranges from $250 to $500 per image (location). The crew would consist of one photographer with a camera, wide angle lens and tripod (with rotating head).
The production process is much faster and less intrusive to the propertyâ€™s guests and staff. Like video costing, you can find VT photographers who produce â€ścheapâ€ť 360-degree virtual tours â€“ but the old adage generally applies: you get what you pay for.
360-degree virtual tours have improved dramatically over the last decade â€“ visuals that rival any high quality photo can now be displayed with full screen panoramic imaging that allow consumers to virtually look all around. It gives consumers an honest and accurate representation of the room, lobby, meeting space, restaurant, pool, etc.
Simply put, what you see is what you get.
Consumers interact with 360-degree virtual tours more with by clicking or selecting what they want to see and spend as much time as they want viewing them, whereas video is a linear presentation.
Many of the newer 360 virtual tour players provide additional interactive elements such as detailed text descriptions, interactive property maps, supporting photos, and weather forecast.
Look at the booking cycle from the consumerâ€™s perspective, the first elemental component would be good photography. If your property comes up when a consumer is searching for you and they see appealing photos they will stop and look.
If they like what they see (and itâ€™s in their budget), they will go to rich media and reviews to vet and validate their selection. In the final stage of selecting a room type, a 360 image is a tremendous help.
If the budget Gods have descended upon you and you can afford to do both, do it â€“ they will both be used in the booking funnel and thereâ€™s something for everyone.
Make sure your visuals are in as many touch points with the prospective consumers as possible.
Donâ€™t create a great content (video or VTs) and only show it on your website expecting prospects to flock â€“ your job, as a marketer is to get your best visuals in front of as many prospects as you can within your budgetary constraints â€“ distribute your content everywhere!
NB:Â This is a guest article by Henry Woodman, president ofÂ ICE Portal.