Las Vegas tourism leaders tap virtual reality to enhance visitation

It’s the Bellagio fountains without the mist, a drive on the Strip without the traffic.

Thanks to virtual reality technology, prospective visitors to Las Vegas will get a taste of the city from the comfort of a chair as a result of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s expansion of the use of the technology.

Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who chairs the LVCVA board of directors and was a late replacement for President and CEO Rossi Ralenkotter as a speaker at Preview Las Vegas Tuesday, explained that virtual reality technology is being used more and more to provide a lifelike experience to travelers considering a visit to the city.

Weekly said the technology is a staple when selling the destination to prospective foreign visitors.

Las Vegas has one of the largest menus of virtual reality experiences that are accessible through an app to a smartphone placed within a special viewer.

Jeremy Handel, a spokesman for the LVCVA, said the program is a success because of the access the city’s resorts offer the LVCVA to record various locations and experiences to turn them into 360-degree, three-dimensional views. The LVCVA demonstrated the technology at its booth at Preview, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual networking and forecasting event, attended by an estimated 1,900 people.

The programs shown at Preview included a ride down Las Vegas Boulevard and a front-row seat to a Cirque du Soleil performance. People wearing the virtual reality viewer could look left or right to see the various resorts on the Strip and up and down to see the tops of the buildings on the route.

MORE CONTENT ADDED

The LVCVA started using the technology nearly a year ago, but only recently added content to the library of offerings, which are increased every time the app is updated. Handel said there are plans to add virtual tours of resorts’ convention facilities to provide additional interest in the LVCVA’s growing trade show presence.

The VR app, called Vegas VR, was launched last year at Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin, a major European tourism trade show, and at the South by Southwest Interactive Media conference in Austin, Texas. The LVCVA works with its contracted advertising consultant R&R Partners to develop content and costs are included in R&R’s $13.5 million annual contract.

Consumers with a virtual reality viewer can download the Vegas VR app free from the iTunes and Google Play Store.

In his presentation, Weekly said the technology would be beneficial in the city’s bid to attract more international visitors. Las Vegas already has strong visitation from Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom and is assured of growth from South Korea as a result of Korean Air’s expansion in the market and from China, thanks to new three-times-weekly nonstop air service from Beijing on Hainan Airlines that began in December.

Weekly noted that 2017 has been termed “The Year of India,” with a focus on expanded travel between India and the United States. Las Vegas expects a link to India thanks to planned new air service on Qatar Airlines between Doha, United Arab Emirates, and McCarran International Airport beginning in January 2018.

SEEING THE CITY IN A NEW WAY

Weekly says virtual reality at international trade shows and the LVCVA’s international marketing offices will help present the city in a new way.

“Thanks to virtual reality, we can market our town and bring Las Vegas to life to consumers like never before,” he said. “We now capture 360-(degree) video that offers the ability to completely immerse the viewer in the Las Vegas experience by allowing them to test-drive hotels and restaurants and experience the destination. We’re able to provide both education and something to look forward to when visiting Las Vegas.”

Domestically, the LVCVA will benefit from a fresh batch of “What happens here, stays here”-themed television advertisements, which Weekly showed to the Preview crowd.

Weekly offered no new details on plans for the LVCVA’s $1.4 billion expansion and improvement project that began with last year’s demolition of the Riviera. Through a contracted project management company, the agency will draft plans for a new 650,000-square-foot exhibit hall and various improvements, including a corridor that will enable conventioneers the ability to access each hall without going outside.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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