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02 Jun 2016

BY Rob Gill


Indie agent is looking ahead with VR service

Independent high street agency Ottery Travel has introduced virtual reality headsets for customers visiting its shop.

Indie agent VR headset

This independent travel agent is grasping tech with both hands

The Worldchoice member, based in Ottery St Mary in Devon, has started using Samsung Gear headsets to offer clients an immersive experience of destinations.

Ottery Travel owner Harv Sethi said customers were using the headsets, which operate through Samsung Galaxy smartphones, to get a taste of destinations such as the Maldives, Iceland and Rome.

“It’s really an amazing way to see a destination because you get 360-degree images and it’s just like being in the location,” added Sethi.

“You could be floating on a lake in Goa passing houses on stilts, going to the fountains in Rome or sitting on a beach in the Maldives.”

Sethi said that the reaction of the first customers to use the virtual reality service had been “amazing”.

“They have been smiling from ear-to-ear after using the headsets,” he added. “It helps to sell the country and the destination. It’s also really quick – we’re saying give us five minutes and we’ll show you the world.

“We don’t see it as being a hard-sell, we are selling perceptions.

We can say to them – if you want to sample the destination in the real world, then we are here to book.”

Sethi said that high street agencies could benefit from using virtual reality to tempt clients into their shops.

“This is the way that travel is going and it’s better to be a leader than a follower,” he added.

“We have a poster in the window advertising virtual reality, but we think it will mainly spread through word of mouth.”

Ottery Travel is also planning to take the headsets on visits to clients at their homes or workplaces.

“We can take the holiday to them, all they need is good broadband,” explained Sethi.

Thomas Cook introduced virtual reality headsets at some of its stores last year while STA Travel also used the technology on a promotional tour with Brand USA around the UK.

Research firm Mintel has identified virtual reality as a way for travel agencies to “cement loyal customer bases that will return time and time again to book their holidays”.

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