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A recent study by Google indicated that nearly 3 in 4 travellers begin their travel research online, before they decided on the destination that they want to travel to. Real-live imagery combined with geo-spacial information provides an often overlooked opportunity to market destinations online (Skift). Especially features such as Google Street View are often ignored by destination marketing managers.

LOCATION POWERED EXPERIENCES

Location powered experiences that allow visitors to virtually explore the destination during the pre-trip stages, is a unique addition to the traditional approach of focusing exclusively on high gloss marketing imagery and footage. On the one hand, it provides travellers with an authentic insight into the destination. On the other hand, it allows them to virtually explore a destination. Especially the latter can impact significantly on the destination choice. Travellers with specific needs (e.g. people with accessibility issues, or keen cyclists wanting to check the road conditions) base their destination choice often on a very narrow set of criteria.

INTEGRATING REAL-LIVE IMAGERY

Although the integration of (customised) Google Map plugins has developed into an industry wide standard in destination marketing, it is surprising that many tourist boards do not take advantage of the opportunities that real-live imagery offers. Good practice examples, such as the Swiss Tourist Board, which strongly integrates Street View, 360 degree panorama views as well as live webcams into its websites, remain more exception rather than common standard.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR DMOs

Recently some exciting technological developments have opened up new opportunities for destination marketing organisations to integrate real-live images into their websites, and thereby support travellers during the inspiration stage. Globe Genie, a project by M.I.T graduate Joe McMichael is one of the great examples. The tool lets users choose a continent and then digitally “teleports” them to a street level view of a random place in that destination, offering an inspiring and interactive way for tourists to explore potential holiday destinations and get travel inspiration. A customised version of this tool could provide an innovative way for DMOs to inspire visitors on their websites.

Another fascinating development is Google’s announcement of Street View Trekker, a tool which allows third parties to create imagery for off-the-beaten-path destinations (for example a remote hiking trail in national parks). This will allow destinations to create virtual tours and provide authentic previews of highly attractive products.

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