This article originally appeared here.

As virtual reality (VR) technology becomes increasingly commonplace, the travel industry too hopes to leverage on the exciting potential it affords. Dannon Har goes on a virtual trip to Japan, Vietnam and Australia in a span of 10 minutes, and tells us what his experience was like.

Flight Centre Singapore is boosting its storefront retail experience with VR headsets equipped with 360-degree video content that showcases destinations around the world.


The headset was made available on November 25. While it is currently available only at its headquarters at 137 Cecil Street, there are plans to roll out the headsets to its other two stores in Singapore in the coming weeks.


This is the first time a travel agency in South-east Asia is employing the use of VR as a mainstay sales and marketing tool, and probably one of the few in the world to do so.


As of now, customers can be transported to three destinations – Tokyo, Hoi An and Cairns – upon donning the Samsung Gear VR headsets, which uses the Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone as the video storage and playback device. This is the same technology used by Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts which launched its own major VR initiative just last month. 


The experience of putting on one of these VR headsets is novel and exciting as it is a reactive system which portrays real-life vision, in a sense that as you swerve your head, your entire vision sways with you to capture different parts of the panorama. This also means that videos have to be watched multiple times in order to see everything completely.


It is cool to see yourself looking out at the landscape from a hot air balloon in Cairns, hear food sizzling as it is being wok-fried in Hoi An, and watch as Tokyoites wave affectionately at you wherever you look.


But novelty is a resource that wears off fast. This is only my second time using a VR headset to experience travel destinations, the first being the aforementioned Shangri-La’s VR tool, and already the fun-factor has markedly subsided.


Luckily, these devices weren’t designed merely to entertain, but to flaunt and highlight travel locales. To that end, it is a highly successful apparatus of content marketing. It is the second-best thing to actually travelling to these featured destinations.


As Suyin Lee, managing director of Flight Centre Travel Group, puts it: “It enhances the discovery process and provides a try-before-you-buy option for customers. It never really replaces the real thing of course, but it does give people inspiration to try a new destination. It evokes emotion, stimulates interest and provides assurance as to what one might expect.”


Employing VR in an accessible manner for Flight Centre’s brick and mortar customers is a definite boon and goes in line with the agency’s expansion strategy to erect a greater number of physical stores islandwide.


Not only do walk-ins have an inventive option to find out more about a destination, the mere creation of 360-degree video content also opens up avenues for monetisation such as content sales.


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