How Virtual Tours can help you reopen your doors

As lockdown conditions persist across most of the world, virtual tours are proving a popular choice for those craving interactive experiences. But will this interest last? And is it worth it to invest in these products as restrictions start to lift within the next few months?

Within the tour operator community, there has been much conversation around the opportunities that virtual solutions pose. Though it’s likely that interest for completely virtual tours won’t be too high for too long, many operators are confident that virtual content may help to shape and upgrade their current and future experiences, bringing more customers to their business.

If you think virtual tours may be right for you, here is some key information to help you get set for success in the virtual world.

Are virtual tours a long term investment?

It’s all well and good producing a product that could save you while customers are trapped inside – but when things are back to normal, will these products really be relevant? Yes! As with all products, they need to be done right – but if they create a meaningful experience, there will be a place for them in a post COVID world. Here’s why virtual tours can be a powerful asset for your business in the long term:

1. They are a powerful marketing tool

  • In a world of social proof, customers want as much info as possible about products before they commit to a purchase.
  • Virtual tours can help give a much clearer idea of what customers can expect when buying your experience.
  • 90% of users say that product videos are helpful in the decision process – consider the amount of times you’ve been tempted to visit somewhere after seeing a 1 minute video.

 

2. They can help you engage with new customers

 

3. They can boost your experiences and upgrade your products

  • Cindi Richardson, founder and owner of French Quarter Phantoms, joined our Tour Operator Roundtable and shared how her tour company is successfully selling virtual products – and how she will use the content they are selling right now to upgrade her tours in the future.
  • They have filmed their tour guides sharing unique stories or recipes that relate to the culture and history of the local area.
  • Take a look at the recording for some more ideas: Tour Operator Roundtable #2: Recording

 

4. They can help diversify your offering as a business

  • Say you run kayak tours – you could launch a series of virtual kayaking classes. Run through the gear you recommend buying, tips and tricks of looking after and storing kayaks, and how to train your body to help you when you’re on the water
  • If you get a lot of international customers, why not develop some virtual language lessons to help them with the basics and engage with them before they do your tour, get them excited for their visit and raise awareness about your brand.
  • Our partner Andrea Cheriechi, founder of Taste in Bologna, normally operates food walking tours. With the current situation in Italy he is now looking into virtual cooking classes. He is excited to open this new arm of the business and believes this new offering will boost his business when things are back to normal.

 

Here’s an example of virtual tours selling before lockdown:

Clio Muse are a virtual tour company that specialize in audio tours; they have since pivoted to incorporate visual content. Co-founder Daphne Tsevreni has highlighted the adaptations they have made to their products to account for the shorter attention span of audiences, given the current climate.Their top tips are to include fun facts, history and personal stories to keep people engaged.

What is a virtual tour?

A virtual tour is digital content that tells a narrative. That can be actual stories about your local area for walking tours, visual content of stunning landscapes for zip line parks, or surf inspired work-out videos for beach rentals. Virtual tours are a chance for you to get creative about the products you sell and tell a story to your customers. They often take form in three mediums:

  1. Pre-recorded tours
  2. Live tours
  3. Tours with a physical element

1. Pre-recorded tours

In this case, you would create content and sell to your customers for them to enjoy any time – you relinquish responsibility when you send over the link.

  • This could be a single video that you have previously created of a dramatic story telling, or cooking lesson.
  • You could also divide up your narrative into physical locations, and release each video or audio as the customer virtually travels on a map –  to give the feel of a real walking or driving tour.

Lights over Lapland have created a stunning pre-recorded tour of the Northern Lights using incredible 360º footage.

 

2. Live tours

  • For a live tour your tour guide would present at a specific time, allowing the opportunity to interact with customers.
  • On a small scale – this could be a private video call where the customer could engage in a dialogue with the guide and the tour could be personalized to them.
  • On a larger scale – you could open the tour to a range of people and still interact with customers through a chat box.

Avital Tours usually run walking food tours. Over the last couple of months they have created and launched a series of ‘chefinars’ and mixology classes. They have pivoted their offering and are now operating live sessions where customers can learn a new skill and have a laugh.

 

3. Tours with a physical element

You could send customers a physical component to compliment the virtual experience.

  • For a tour of a vineyard, send them some of your wine.
  • For a walking tour, partner with a local business that you pass on the way and send them some of their food or products.
  • Email customers a document to print out – this could be a map or a riddle related to your tour.

Unexpected Atlanta has gone viral with their new offering. They launched virtual tours that are accompanied by a delivery of ingredients for the customer to whip up all the samples they would have eaten on the physical food tour – and have proven very popular!

How can I start from scratch?

Pre-recorded tours:

Use a specialized software to easily create virtual tours that customers can use to take your full tour from the comfort of their homes. For example, the Junket app allows you to draw your tour on a map and release video or audio content when a customer virtually arrives at each stop.

Junkets also have a physical element – they are GPS enabled so the customer can experience the tour in real-location. They can wander round all of your stops and when they get there a new video will pop up with your pre-recorded tour guide telling them all about the spot they’re in. They’ve already been a hit – and they tend to sell at $5-10.

Give it a go by downloading the app here. To find out more about how to get started and top tips for successful Junkets check out our webinar with Junket CEO Lance Zaal. You can view more information here and check out this example of the software in use.

Live tours:

One of the ways you can launch interactive virtual tours is using Zoom.

  • For larger groups, the Q&A and chat boxes provide an easy way of getting input from your customers and answer questions efficiently without detracting from other customers’ experience.
  • For smaller groups, you can have open discussions with your customers and completely personalize the experience for them.
  • Zoom resources:

G Adventures are hosting live virtual tours using zoom. They want to bring people together and keep travellers inspired while they are stuck at home. They allow up to 16 people on the live zoom call with a tour guide or expert. Their first session was led by their CEO, Stefano Paris – it was based in Italy and stopped off  in Venice, Tuscany, and even a football match!

Visit Las Vegas is an awesome example of a tour business using Zoom to engage their customers. They are also teaching customers how to change their Zoom background to help them imagine themselves in Las Vegas and keep them dreaming of these tours.

How can virtual tours help you reopen your doors?

Virtual tours are a great way to drive business to your local area and show that it’s safe and open for business. Video is the most appealing content, so it’s a great way to entice people in.

This is especially important for companies that rely largely on international travel – it’s crucial to keep your location front of mind and keep customers dreaming about their future vacations.

Reintroduce your area to the world by recording a virtual tour of busy streets and businesses up and running. Customers will need a bit more encouragement now to visit new places and visual content is a great way to boost customer confidence.

For a great example of this – check out these virtual live tours of Wuhan, China.

    • People are extremely interested to take a look at how the city is coping after the eruption of COVID-19. This is a great reason to create a virtual tour and will help show that things are getting back to normal.
    • Walks market this tour at $10 for an hour live session with their guide in Wuhan, and also include a $25 voucher towards any of their physical tours in the future, valid for two years. This is a great way to boost future sales and keep customers engaged with your business.

Another example is Discover Puerto Rico.

    • They are streaming free 30-minute guided tours via Google Earth, over the next couple of months to keep Puerto Rico on the map.
    • They’re also using this as an opportunity to collaborate with other tour operators and highlight other local businesses – this is a great way to use your community to produce juicy content and keep your customers engaged.

Technical tips

When selling a virtual product the standards are often higher – they need to look professional. Here are a few technical tips:

    1. Keep them short and snappy – the audience has a much shorter attention span when they are not in the physical location dn watching a screen – don’t drag, include personal stories and shocking facts to keep them hooked. Remind people to turn their phones off / close other tabs – this will help them concentrate.
    2. Audio is crucial – make sure you have done at least one test version with a family member or friend to test the audio and get their feedback.
    3. Cancellation / rescheduling policy – in this turbulent time, boost customers confidence by giving them flexibility.
    4. Include a Virtual Experiences FAQ on your website – break down exactly what will happen on the tour to increase customer confidence.

 

For more practical tips watch our webinar with Kelsey Tonner and Ingo Albrect from Be a Better Guide: How to Design, Launch and Sell Online Tours & Experiences. They cover all you need to know from how to set up your lighting to where is best to sell your virtual activities.

How can I make them sell?

Virtual tours are a relatively new concept, so you may need to convince your customers a bit more than usual.

  1. Record a 30 second video introduction
  2. Include reviews and testimonials on the your virtual products landing page
      • Include reviews of the tour guide who will be leading the session.
      • Reviews of your physical products are still relevant – include a reviews widget on your virtual tours web page or link particularly positive reviews of your tour guides.
  3. Target your audience
      • Create tours for kids at home, or target people that are super interested in your niche – and clearly explain this in the title and description.

From virtual paella classes in Barcelona to Q&As about the coliseum with tour guides in Rome, The Tour Guy has produced some incredible experiences and doing a great job at marketing. Have a look at the short videos they have created to market each virtual product, they are quick, informative and fun.

How can I market my virtual tours?

Your past customers are a great place to start. They’re an audience who have paid for your products before, and you’ve had a chance to interact with them in person – this is a great way for them to support your business.

  1. Email customers who have had to cancel a physical tour with you.
  2. Put a button linking to your virtual products on the homepage of your website.
      • Make sure it’s ‘above the fold’! This is often the first place people look to see what you’re offering, and if it’s not obvious a visitor will not click through your website. Make sure this button is one of the first things they see when they land on your website.
  3. Use your social Media
      • Use short clips of your virtual content as instagram posts to give viewers a taste of what’s on offer.
      • Write blogs about your local area and use them to launch a facebook campaign for your virtual tours.

Can I see an example?

Some of our incredible Peek Partners have already kickstarted their virtual tours. For some clever ideas and super fun activities to enjoy have a look at these examples:

 

Miranda Peterson, founder of Namaste in Nature, is holding some virtual yoga classes. She has also been developing virtual content using a 360º camera – head over to her youtube channel to find out more.

Winchester Mystery House, based in San Jose, California, are offering an immersive 360º virtual tour. They have also created a coloring book and crossword puzzle to keep their young fans engaged.

Arthur Avenue food tours have launched a virtual cooking course. They email customers recipes over six weeks, they cook with them, share tips and photos and then work with them to write up a personalized cookbook for the customer at the end of the course.