LAS VEGAS CONVENTION & VISITORS AUTHORITY
After beginning with a beta VR product many years ago LVCVA have continued to invest the technology and evolve its uses in the tourism sapce.
Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority were always looking at ways to market and promote the destination and VR seemed a natural part of the evolution of that whole process.
Tourism marketing was driven with static images of a destination, in a brochure, a magazine, or even somebody coming home from a vacation showing friends a slideshow of their visit to America, because imagery is obviously far more powerful than words. That medium evolved into video and that has lead to the question of 'How do you immerse people in your destination when they’re not there?'
The main goal was to try and help people understand what it’s like to be in Las Vegas. More often than not first time visitors are surprised how different things are than initially visualised. When asking how they were going to immerse people in the destination and show them what it looks like, VR was the natural tool to achieve that aim. The really exciting thing for LVCVA is it enables them to talk to their customers, whether it’s a sales customer they want to bring to Vegas, a tour operator who they want to utilise to sell Las Vegas as part of their tour packages or regular consumers.
LVCVA were totally aware that you can’t be everything to everyone, but what they’re trying to do is immerse people in what Las Vegas looks and feels like and have found it appropriate both for consumers and trade audiences.
Several years ago working with Google Las Vegas had a program developed called 'Geovegas'
which was an immersive platform that enabled people to drop themselves into Las Vegas and look around and see different things. The evolution of Geovegas to the Vegas VR app was born from the goal of trying to create something similar to that of the old "Hasbro Viewmaster". They had thought it would be ideal if they were at a trade show or industry event and they could put one on a client, and people could go through and look at different images of Las Vegas, just to be different.
Once the decision had been made to develop a dedicated VR app, content needed to be produced to highlight the particular elements that they wished to focus on. They had to get permission from hotels up and down "The Strip" and explain what they were trying to achieve, which at the time was an interesting sell given the infancy of the technology.
In addition to developing the app, LVCVA also invested in a number of branded cardboard headsets to hand out at trade shows.The first large-scale consumer activation they did was in Milan, Italy. They secured a shipping container and people would come in and go through the process to experience Las Vegas. Staff would guide first timers through the experience and encourage users to dive deep into the Las Vegas virtual world.
Based on the success of multiple trade shows and installations they have recently evolved their content into the world of VR Art, which involves merging the Las Vegas lifestyle with art and the VR experience. Working with a number of global artists they curated this eclectic collection of immersive, interpretive visions of what Las Vegas is. It’s not a traditional destination marketing 360 video with product, restaurants, hotels, and shows, it’s more of an inspirational mixture of lifestyle, art and Las Vegas which is driven to resonate with an audience and spark a conversation.
Outside of trade shows, LVCVA distributed the app through both Apple iTunes & Google playstore allowing potential visitors to the city to download and explore the region from literally anywhere, on their smartphone.
While tangible outcomes weren't necesarrily recorded, it was clear to the team that no matter where they were whether it be a consumer activation in Milan or a small conference in the US, they had lines of people talking about the VR experience and Las Vegas in general.
They identified that the app was aiding people who were planning a trip to Las Vegas by helping narrow the decision process. This discovery actually prompted the authority to look at developing content that focussed on attractions outside of the Vegas hub, such as the Grand canyon, making the app multi-purposed.
While they have invested significant dollars to create a slick application, LVCVA have committed to continue to use VR as an additional marketing tool to their more traditional forms of marketing. Up to this point there has not been a tool that was able to capture the surreal nature of Las Vegas. It's a larger than life experience and the reality of it has traditionally been hard to capture through images or 2d video. Now they are excited that they can actually give people a real feeling of what it looks like to look at the Bellagio Fountains without standing there.
LVCVA acknowledged the significant investment they made in production is not possible for small tour operators, but encouraged businesses to creatively think of ways that it can be done. One suggestion they made was to get into a consortium with a number of other small operators. If 20 small businesses look to tell one big VR story those high level production costs become more accessible while your reach grows times 20.
They certainly supported the theory of how well VR can manage expectations and articulate accurate perceptions. Las Vegas has the both fortunate and unfortunate circumstance of perceptions being heavily influenced by pop culture. Whether it be Oceans 11 showing Las Vegas in a extremely glamorous light, to the Hangover, which positions it in a very different manner. How do you shift someone's perception who has made their mind up based on what they have seen in movies and television. My own apprehension was prevalent based on ill-conceived assumptions, however I used the Vegas VR app to gain some insight into what my surroundings might be and what sights I might like to see while there.
Given their affection for the technology, the team were confident that VR never posed or will pose any threat to experiential services. The lack of 3 senses outside of sight and sound is significant and strengthens the case that VR is the ultimate teaser and driving force to provoking people to want the real thing.
So impressed with the success of their VR projects, it has now become a vital and necessary tool in their marketing program. The most appealing aspect is there is no existing parameters, it’s what can be created? What can be developed? It’s all new which is fun to be apart of. They also described that that initial reaction of 'WOW' from first timers was not only rewarding but most importantly validating.