6 years ago

What is the best for travel websites – videos or virtual tours?

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 you’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:

“How’s the photography!?”

Great, still images should be your foundation – that’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:

What’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 – even when they brag about creating videos in HD (High Definition).

Video options

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 – things that help create fluid movement (otherwise you’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 – 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 can’t showcase the entire property in a minute or less, try breaking it into sub videos – an overview video, and sub videos to focus on specific areas: meeting spaces, golf course, spa, dining, activities, accommodations, and local area (highlights nearby).

360-degree tours

Back to our dilemma – 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 property’s guests and staff. Like video costing, you can find VT photographers who produce “cheap” 360-degree virtual tours – but the old adage generally applies: you get what you pay for.

360-degree virtual tours have improved dramatically over the last decade – 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 consumer’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 it’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.

Luxurious position

If the budget Gods have descended upon you and you can afford to do both, do it – they will both be used in the booking funnel and there’s something for everyone.

Make sure your visuals are in as many touch points with the prospective consumers as possible.

Don’t create a great content (video or VTs) and only show it on your website expecting prospects to flock – your job, as a marketer is to get your best visuals in front of as many prospects as you can within your budgetary constraints – distribute your content everywhere!

NB: This is a guest article by Henry Woodman, president of ICE Portal.

NB2: Hotel filming image via Shutterstock.

NB3: 360-degree tour image from The Raviz Hotel.

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A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are the views and opinions of the author and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, tnooz, its writers, or partners.



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  1. Douglas AUrand

    The problem with Video is how they are done; one clip that covers everything in the hotel

    A bride-to-be considering the location for her wedding reception is only slightly interested in looking at the pool, restaurant, nightclub, etc, she wants to see the ballroom

    And she doesn’t want to play a video clip over and over to see a few seconds of the ballroom

    The reverse goes for a couple planning weekend getaway or a business man looking for a place to stay and occasionally have a small meeting, the ballroom has no interest for them

    Virtual Tours are made up of multiple files/images of specific locations of specific interest.

    A hotel sales person can respond to a call about meeting & banquet space by guiding the potential customer to the space that will best serve their needs and the virtual image will stay on that scene will they discuss what the potential customer wants….just like they would if the customer actially came to the hotel.

    Video can be used like television commercials to generate broad interest and awareness of a hotel, the virtual tour gets specific and can be used to close the sale

    • Brian Bogus

      Douglas, I agree with the bride aspect to an extent. Most people who are traveling for a wedding are looking at way more than the ballroom. Most people are also staying at their destination for their honeymoon and their guests are staying for more than a day. With that being said, all the amenities of the resort have value to getting them to book the experience. I think virtual tours are a great addition to the website but if you want to truly grab them on the home page, video is the way to go. The bottom line is virtual tours are cheap to create. A video or multiple videos will grab the viewer and open their eyes to the resort. If a specific person(like a bride) wants to look at a detailed layout of the ballroom then creating a virtual tour for such a low cost is a no brainer. If a person can afford the video they can spend a bit more for a couple virtual tours. If they can’t afford the video then they obviously need to focus on photos and virtual tours. You can take different approaches with the video as well: ex: reality tv style tour around the resort, testimonials, showcasing the personality of the resort, etc. You have the ability to capture way more than just the visuals of the destination. You can capture the experience and atmosphere while also showing the beauty of the location.

      • Doug Aurand

        The people traveling to the wedding can look at the virtual images of the different room types, the restaurant, the lounge/bar, the pool (especially if they’re bringing kids) and any other location the hotel has and chooses to have an image of, and they can stop and look as long as they want at what interests them

        After a Virtual Tour with Floorplan Navigation, they’ll already know where everything is in the hotel like in this link


        The “one video clip covers all” that hotels are using just can’t take the potential customers & guests on an “Online Property Tour like the link does.

        • Brian Bogus

          I feel they both have their purposes. I don’t think it is as easy as picking one from the other. Virtual tours are good for people who really want to research a destination but most people do not have the attention span for that. The stats for online use and length of time viewers stay on a video is the perfect example. The viewer and user do not stay in the same place for very long. I can’t imagine someone who has interest in finding a destination or resort going to a home page of a site and spending 10 to 15 minutes traveling through virtual tours on all the locations. You have to show them something first. If I had a travel site and the website was all about searching each element of the resort it would be overwhelming and very segmented. I think of the video as a trailer for the resort. It shows how great the place is and gives them a feeling of being there. It also has the “sharability” and search ability factor which are huge. I work with some realtors on getting their listings noticed online and nothing works better than hosted tours for the luxury homes. You can target Google and Youtube for search and get fantastic results. It shows the home in 2 minutes and focuses on 5 features of the home. It attracts the viewer to book in an appointment. The video on the travel site will attract the potential customer to explore the site and stay for a while.

          • Douglas AUrand

            That you can’t imagine some one spending 10 to 15 minutes traveling through all the virtual images is the advantage thay have, a potential guest will only look a the scenes they’re interested in. That was exactly my point using thr bride-to-be and the weekend getaway
            With one video clip for the while hotel, as is usally done, “some one” has to wait through the whole clip to make sure what they want to see doesn’t appear at the end.
            Isn’t that exactly what you thought people wouldn’t do?
            Using both as you suggest has defininte possibilities, a video on TripAdvisor to pique interest, virtual images to close the sale on a site that actually books rooms
            But then you’re muliplying the cost
            The other problem with every hotel video I’ve watched is the scenes aren’t labeled, the potential guest doesn’t know what room type they’re looking at or which meeting room is being shown for 5 seconds
            A vitual tour that combines separate 360° and flat images, mimics a real property tour, letting the sales manager or reservationsist and the potential guest pause and discuss details of how to setup up a banquet room or check the view off a room balcony while planning a weekend getaway or vacation.
            The “media is not the message,” the hotel is

  2. Peter Jones

    I would say another good youtube based hotel booking website ( one of the first ) is http://www.onlyrooms.com , they have only three people worldwide introducing the hotels but in a funny context.

  3. Brian

    Hey peeps.. looking for both Live Action and CGI options for virtual tours. The majority of what I’ve seen online is a static 360 point of view. I’m potentially looking for the exact opposite, so the user can be in any position of the location and tour. Any recommendations?

  4. Peter Syme

    The issue with video is not the cost of production , it is the distribution of it. The most expensive video is worth exactly the same as the cheapest if it does not get seen.

    We have been using video for years in various ways and have seen very little difference in results in terms of quality of production. It all comes down to distribution.

  5. Tom

    Hi Henry,

    Great article! A really balanced view that I would agree with. We often emphasise the positives of each medium when discussing projects with our clients.

    Video – great for driving a specific message home. A passive medium with a story you control.

    360 VTs – For the user that enjoys a more interactive experience, great for those that wish to explore and control their consumption of media.

    Good to see you’re still leading the industry over there. We’re still doing our thing over in the UK, fully optimised 360 VTs for “touch devises” is our most recent advancement, ready to hit the market soon. If you can grapple your iphone from your daughter then please take a look!


    Hope you’re well,

    Tom Greveson
    (Revolution Viewing)

  6. Andrew Baker

    You make many really good arguments. Price will always be an issue when it comes to marketing from the business owners perspective. A virtual tour will always be the more cost effective way to go but will never be a more effective marketing tool over video. Just as you say, you get what you pay for. However in my mind, video can be exponentially more effective in relation to cost. Your outlets for showing a 360 tour are limited to your website where a video can reach audiences in the millions on multiple platforms like youtube and vimeo.

  7. Brian Bogus

    Great article! I think there is more value in video than expressed though. It helps your SEO(search engine optimization) when placed on your website especially when embedded through youtube. Youtube is owned by Google and is the second biggest search engine next to Google so it has quite a bit of power. I love how the article credits higher quality video because it is tough to get people to understand the cost. You can always have an “outside the box” idea to get people to want to share it with friends. Awesome job!

  8. Peter Syme

    User generated content is where the future is going. I do not want professionally made photography and videos of our lodges and activities, we have done that and been their. I want client driven photography and videos that has them interacting and making it a real experience instead of a stages one.

    Our photography site got nearly 2.5 million views last year, still trying to figure out how to develop it into a client driven resource. Go Pro’s seem like the tool to do so just have to figure out the system to implement .

    Nice App by the way Dan

  9. steve lloyd

    Probably the best way to get a full awarenes of any environment is to use interactive 360 video. Transmission TX Ltd provide a range of recording solutions and Arithmetica Ltd provide sales of both Spherevision recording systems and software, including touch screen & HMD exhibition players and integration with maps, plans and floor layouts. Spherical video can also be impressive in a mobile App. See free “360 video” App. As a guide a one day recording in London with processing and a spherical video web player would be around £3,000. Spherevision systems can of course quickly produce high resolution spherical stills that can be extracted for use in web applications. Spherevision software can also integrate high resolution spherical stills, linear video and other rich media.

  10. Scott Petoff

    I agree that 360 virtual tours are a great way to go beyond beautiful photos of your hotel to make the visitor truly imagine they are staying at your property. Photos only go so far, and many savvy travelers have learned to distrust (marketing brochure type) photos as only capturing the best side of a place to stay. Plus people are used to virtual tours when viewing houses for sale online. While booking a hotel is not as big a decision, it could be the most important aspect of their trip.

    My advice is to make sure the auto-play is not turned on, especially if there is a talking or background music track. That way you respect your visitors place (whether they are at home, browsing from work, or researching during a trip) and the device they are using to visit your tourism website (desktop or laptop computer on broadband versus tablet or smart phone with limited/slow data).


    BookingCounts, Get More Bookings

  11. Dan Smigrod

    Hi Henry,

    TourWrist introduced at Macworld last week shooting and sharing 360 panos using the free TourWrist iOS app (using an iPhone and soon, iPad2):

    While not a replacement for professionally shot 360 panos by a travel supplier, the travel industry will want to figure-out how their destination can benefit from user generated content: potentially millions of mobile devices easily and seamlessly shooting and sharing 360 panos (for free) with TourWrist.


  12. january

    We work with a Destination Management Organization and are pursuing 360 tours for selected properties – we’re selected a technology / industry partner called Tourwrist.

    What’s cool about their tech is that using an iPhone or iPad, the user can move their phone around so it feels like they’re in the hotel lobby etc. Each tour has built-in social media sharing tools too. Nearly any photographer with the right equip can use their tools.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the impact that it has for individual properties.

  13. Michelle

    Video spins aren’t the only options for virtual tours. We at Mouse On House offer interactive floor plan tours where we map out floor plans of the different areas of the property and link high quality professional photos to it. There is no waiting for downloads and the user gets a good feel of the entire property because the photos are taken from different angles.


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