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Tourism Marketing in Virtual Worlds


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The full KZero Worldswide report.

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Tourism Marketing in Virtual Worlds

  1. 1. Travel & Tourism Marketing in Virtual Worlds In todays global marketplace, companies in the tourism and travel sectors make heavy use of online channels to promote their destinations and venues. Now, with the advent of virtual worlds, companies in this sector are starting to set- up virtual representations of real world places. This KZero case study explains the rationale for tourism marketing companies to enter the metaverse, the marketing opportunities available, examples of organisations and companies already inside, profile analysis of the residents and why t h e s e p e o p l e a re important. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 1
  2. 2. What is a virtual world? However, as the chart below left shows, other regions and in particular Europe, have embraced Second Life. The World Wide Web as we know it today consists of In late 2006, Second Life resident numbers broke static 2D pages. You visit a website and read/watch through the 1m mark, helped by significant media the information or media presented on it. Virtual coverage. During 2007, resident numbers grew by 1m worlds (metaverses) are different. per month and now (Jul 2009) the total number of They are digital 3D environments accessed in real- registered accounts is over 19m. time that allow people to explore, examine and However, even greater growth has been observed in interact with the objects created within the world and virtual worlds catered towards younger audiences. importantly they allow people to interact together in a Stardoll for example, has over 34m accounts, Barbie shared collaborative space regardless of their Girls over 10m and IMVU over 39m. Appendix one geographical location. shows the KZero universe graph, an illustration of the Second Life was the first glimpse into the future of the size and range of virtual worlds available. Internet, a future of ‘Places, not Pages’. However, other Using Second Life as an example, as explained in the virtual worlds such as There, Kaneva, Stardoll and following sections, the unique characteristics of a many others are now available for marketers in this typical resident has expedited the take-up, and the emerging space. range of different countries represented. Why are virtual worlds growing? Who is a typical resident? The most popular commercial metaverse to date, Second Life, is a global application, meaning that Second Life is not a gaming application. There are no anyone can become a resident. Initially, North America scores, no ‘lives’ to protect, no objectives and no end- drove take-up due largely to the fact that the result. company behind Second Life, Linden Lab is based in San Francisco. Comparison has been drawn to World of Warcraft, an extremely popular MMOG (massive multiplayer online game) but the only real similarity is the fact that they Rest of World 23% are both virtual worlds. US Importantly, whereas the average age of a Warcraft 37% player is 17, for Second Life, the average age is 32. It is this fact which stimulated the interest in major brands to consider entering Second Life. Below (next page) is Europe the age range spread for residents. 37% Canada 3% Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 2
  3. 3. The graph below shows the regional breakdown of fashion-themed world Stardoll. Rest of World 16% US 37% Also of note and further interest to brand owners is the fact that females account for 45% of users. A Europe 43% surprising, yet valuable piece of information. So, a Canada combination of the average age and gender ratio has 4% made brands realise that there are benefits to be reaped by developing metaverse marketing strategies. KZero has in-depth data and research available for a wide selection of virtual worlds and is best-placed Further analysis of the demographic profile of to make media planning and virtual world selection residents reveals that these people reside heavily decisions for marketers across the world. within the Innovator and Early Adopter groups. Pre-December 2006, Innovators were the main types Hotels inside Second Life, but, as explained by the Rogers The first entrant from the tourism and marketing Technology Adoption Curve, Innovators act as a sector into Second Life was Starwood Hotels and their catalyst for Early Adopters. Whereas Innovators are Aloft brand. very keen to trial new technologies, they have local social networks. Aloft is a hotel brand aimed at business travelers and before a single brick was built in the real world, a The media landscape virtual version of the hotel was constructed in Second Life. Second Life aside, marketers now have a wide range of options available to them. And, importantly, Why build a hotel in Second Life? After all, avatars do traditional media planning techniques can now be not require sleep! Well, firstly, creating the hotel in a used to select the most appropriate virtual world for virtual environment enabled Starwood Hotels to the marketing objectives. promote their new venture at a very low cost. Shown below is a 3D model of a typical Aloft hotel created by Different worlds have widely different resident bases the architects. from a geographical perspective as well as different age ranges - as demonstrated by appendix one. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 3
  4. 4. Avatars entering the hotel were monitored to understand the footfall and traffic flows through the different parts of the hotel. Feedback was also sought and obtained on a real time basis by Starwood employees being present in the hotel as avatars entered and explored. The findings of this research was then aggregated and fed back to the marketing team managing the launch in the real To illustrate the design capabilities of Second Life, the world. image below shows the actual Aloft hotel built in Second Life. So clearly there are benefits to be realised by hotel brands entering the virtual space. Another company in this category following the lead set by Aloft was Rixos, a Turkish-based chain of luxury hotels. From a PR perspective, the Aloft project generated a significant amount of coverage across mainstream Rixos also opted for the recreation option in Second marketing media channels. Life. There venue showcases a typical Rixos hotel, allowing visitors to explore both internal and external Over and above the PR though, the project had a areas in order to better understand the brand and tangible objective for Starwood Hotels. By creating a design values. virtual replica of the a real world hotel, the company was able to obtain market research about the design Another hotel brand, Crown Plaza has also entered and layouts. Second Life. There strategy however was not to primarily present their hotels as a way of exploring them but instead to provide a service to businesses. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 4
  5. 5. Their concept, ‘The Place to Meet’, allows businesses in One organisation which has successfully deployed this Second Life to use areas on Crown Plaza Island for strategy is the Galveston Island Convention and Visitor virtual meeting purposes, mirroring a real-world use Bureau. of their hotels. Galveston is a small island located in South Texas and was the first destination to officially promote itself in Second Life. The island contains several different sized rooms and The virtual island is a replica of its real world areas which Crown Plaza rents out on an hourly basis. counterpart and has many of the features actually To further support this initiative, the rooms come found there, such as the visitor centre (shown above), complete with the ability to stream video, audio and the East End historical district and the working presentations directly into Second Life with the harbour complete with the Tall Ship Elissa and the booking process managed by a dedicated website. Opera House built in 1894. Tourist boards and organisations Recognising the ability to recreate real world places in virtual environments, several tourist boards and organisations have taken steps into Second Life. Bearing in mind the global target audience in Second Life, their higher than average disposable incomes and the fact that the internet is used heavily for The Netherlands Tourist Board also has a presence in marketing by these organisations anyway, deploying Second Life. Their island features buildings and architecture taken from Amsterdam, complete with metaverse initiatives in many ways supports other canals, windmills and bridges. activities. Furthermore, as many people use the internet to conduct research about places prior to visiting, being able to visually present these venues provides valuable information. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 5
  6. 6. This project is part of an integrated marketing "We are planning to establish a Swedish embassy in campaign called ‘New Holland’ , supported by website Second Life primarily as an information portal for activity and focussed on specific themes such as Sweden. Second Life allows us to inform people about culture, architecture and music. Sweden and broaden the opportunity for contact with Sweden easily and cheaply.” The virtual embassy, the Second House of Sweden provides cultural insight and information about the country. In addition, the venue will host a regular programme of Swedish-themed events designed to educate and engage potential visitors to the country. The launch of this virtual programme centred around culture and arts with a building on the island presenting works of art from famous Dutch painters. They are also working hard to create a community of avatars interested in The Netherlands within Second Life. Another aspect of the decision-making process and pre visit stage is researching and gathering more official-type information such as visa requirements The Maldives also has a virtual embassy presence in and other related paperwork. Second Life. Taken from their launch press release: On this theme the Swedish Foreign Ministry recently The Maldives Virtual Embassy is, quite simply, a place (May 30) launched an official Second Life embassy. in Second Life where visitors can come to find out about political, social or economic developments in the Maldives, where they can meet virtual Maldivian diplomats and ask questions on subjects such as visa requirements, where they can access information about holidays in the Maldives and trade and investment opportunities, where they can take a virtual tour around a real Maldives holiday resort – the Maldives Hilton – or where they can simply relax, listen to Maldivian music and meet friends. Swedish Institute (SI) director Olle Wästberg is quoted as saying: Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 6
  7. 7. Another project using historical architecture as the driving them is Virtual Tuscany. The tourism marketing organisation for Tuscany - Fondazione Sistema Toscana. Region replication Second Life is also being used to re-create specific regions and cities from around the world. One project which was developed to provide a historical insight As the European population of SL continues to grow, into an area is ‘Paris in the 1900’s’. more destinations/venues are being launched. The Virtual Tuscany island has many of the famous landmarks from Tuscany. Furthermore, this tourist board is actively driving visitors to the island to become part of an online community. Growing online communities is an excellent way of cultivating leads - people interested in a particular region. Other regions in Italy that are currently developing Second Life venues include This island has re-built central areas of Paris based on Venice, Pisa, Milan And Rome. the architectural and historical events of the time. Germany is also starting to embrace virtual tourism Paris in the 1900’s includes the Moulin Rouge, The marketing. A recently launched project involved the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elyse, Metro’s and many recreation of Augsberg in Bavaria as well as Munich, fashion and automobile-related items of the time. which is shown below. The city centre has been Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 7
  8. 8. carefully re-created based on accurate street maps and As well as the first virtual St Patrick’s Day parade, imagery. Tourism Ireland will organise a range of events and activities during the St Patrick’s festivities in Second A similar approach was taken by Dublin. One of the Life’s replica city of Dublin. Events will include a live first real world citites modeled broadcast of the largest ever contemporary Irish music expo – “Snakes and Ladders” – from the World in Second Life, Virtual Dublin also plays host to Financial Center in New York; a treasure hunt which will marketing events and promotions, some of which involve visitors exploring Dublin to find clues that will have been co-ordinated to coincide with real world enable them to collect points and win prizes. events - a great way of widening the audience for marketing initiatives. Tourism Ireland’s objective is to encourage those who visit this virtual world to come and visit the real Ireland during 2008. “Dublin” in Second Life is a well- established destination – frequently making the Top Ten list of the most popular places to visit there. Tourism Ireland launched the first ever tourism marketing campaign in Second Life last October, with a Discover Ireland music festival. There’s also a large area of central Barcelona re-created in Second Life. Unintentionally, but successfully, this Taken from a Tourism Ireland press release: venue has become the first port of call for people from Spain when they enter Second Life. Tourism Ireland will host the world’s first virtual St Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday 16th March, in the internet-based, virtual world of Second Life. The virtual parade will include 20 Irish and Celtic themed floats and will be the highlight of a three-day Discover Ireland Festival in Second Life, sponsored by Tourism Ireland. Second Life is one of the largest virtual worlds in existence, with over 12 million registered users, 3 million of whom are considered regular users. Sixty per cent of Second Life’s users come from Ireland’s four biggest tourist markets: Great Britain, US, Germany and Landmark replication France. Half of those users are aged over 30 – a key On a smaller scale than re-creating an city (of parts of demographic for tourism to the island of Ireland. it), a highly effective and manageable strategy is the venue or attraction virtual tour. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 8
  9. 9. This option is ideal for marketers responsible for This feature is designed to extend their global fan- promoting specific attractions or requiring tactical base and allow fans from across the world to watch campaigns in Second Life. matches together in a collaborative environment. Several world-famous places have already been created in Second Life for a variety of reasons. Examples of leisure/sporting based destinations working well include the Yankee Stadium in NYC and the Ajax FC Stadium in Holland. Other famous landmarks created in Second Life are shown below: The Yankee Stadium project was driven by (Major League Baseball). The virtual stadium modeled exactly on the real world one re-creates famous baseball matches and allows visitors to watch and even interact with the players. Adding to the realism, released virtual tickets to the residents in Second Life. The Ajax FC project includes the virtual stadium and streaming video of Ajax matches via in-world screens. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 9
  10. 10. This company re-created their latest luxury liner, the Costa Serena in Second Life to coincide with the real world launch in France. The virtual effort allows visitors to explore the ship and get a feel for what it would be like to cruise on it, from anywhere in the world. Tactical marketing The regional development agency for the North West of England (NWDA) decided to integrated a virtual marketing element to their campaign promoting Manchester as a ‘Digital City’. The project itself was promoted long before the virtual island was available (not such a good idea) and six months after the press releases, the island opened to Also taking a tactical approach, the Mexican Tourist tie-in with an awards ceremony - Big Chips, taking Board (Visit Mexico) launched in June 2007 a Second place in Manchester. Life island promoting Chichen Itza, an ancient archeological site. The awards event was simulcast into Second Life whilst taking place in the real world at the same time. On a slightly different theme, this time related to travel marketing, a great example of using Second Life on a tactical basis is a recent campaign by Costa Cruises. Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 10
  11. 11. The venue has been nominated as part of the Seven aspects of travel. Further functionality includes the Wonders of the World competition and virtual world ability to buy real-life flights on the STA island. activity has been integrated into real world activities. German-based travel company TUI has also moved This type of initiative highlights the clear benefits of into Second Life. The company (known in the UK as using virtual worlds for marketing. Visitors to the Thomson) has several leisure-themed islands. Chichen Itza island can explore the features and related landmarks at first hand without having to physically be there. Travel Marketing It’s not just venue or destination ‘owners’ that can augment virtual worlds into their marketing plans. Travel marketing companies can also benefit. An example of this is STA Travel. Their approach is one of brand extension. In the real world they take people on holiday - transportation to destinations where people relax and have fun. This essence has been recreated on TUI island, where avatars can meet up, sail virtual boats and participate in activities such as cliff diving and treasure hunts. Related sector services Europ Assistance, a European provider of automobile, travel, health and home insurance entered Second Life in As a provider of travel services primarily into the mid 2007 and is offering residents protection against student and young adult sectors, they were keen to accidental teleport accidents. create a presence in Second Life to communicate their products and also work hard to develop communities Their press release states: of interested residents. As the world’s leading provider of modern assistance services, the Europ Assistance Group has once again demonstrated the pioneering spirit one would expect of this inventor of medical repatriation and travel assistance services, this time by launching the first ever Community building is being facilitated by in-world assistance policy for virtual journeys in Second Life® on events. An example of this is the ‘Sunday Travel Series’. June 29, 2007. These are STA hosted seminars discussing various Available from the Europ Assistance island, this virtual assistance policy symbolised by a belt and an aura Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 11
  12. 12. surrounding the protected avatars can be taken out free the functionality of creating fictional venues.Taken of charge by any avatars keen to avoid becoming from an Amazing Worlds press release: victims of teleportation accidents, which are today increasingly numerous according to a rumour currently ‘Amazing Worlds is a 3D online Mirror world which circulating in the Second Life® world. This rumour, depicts interesting places of the world, we help local spread by means of a video filmed in the Second Life® tourism venues and authorities build lifelike 3D mirror world, humorously portrays a series of imagined images of the locations which consumers from all over accidents befalling avatars during their journeys the world could access via the internet. Amazing Worlds through Second Life® (teleportation). employs the latest in MMO technology to provide high quality graphics with easy end user interface for a True to its goal of making life easier for its clients in enriching experience.’ both day-to-day and special situations, this “virtual” assistance service in Second Life®, (the first of its kind to Amazing Worlds in currently in beta trials, planning to be offered by an assistance company), is accompanied fully launch late 2009. by a software-based training programme to help “newbies” adjust to the Second Life® virtual world, and to show them how to get around, to meet people, to chat or to change their appearance, etc. Alternatives to Second Life 2008 saw new entrants into the virtual world space Multiverse is another alternative virtual worlds with propositions closely tailored to travel/tourism platform. This application allows companies to create marketing companies. standalone virtual worlds which could for example be hosted on a company website. Here is how the The first such virtual world is called ‘Amazing Worlds’ - company describes Multiverse: the self titled ‘World’s 1st 3D Tourism Mirror World’. Multiverse's unique technology platform will change the economics of virtual world development by empowering independent game developers to create high-quality, Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) and non-game virtual worlds for less money and in less time than ever before. Multiverse solves the prohibitive challenges of game creation by providing developers with a comprehensive, pre- coded client-server infrastructure and tools, a wide A mirror world is based purely on places in the real range of free content--including a complete game for word, as opposed to virtual worlds which also have modification--and a built-in market of consumers. The Multiverse Network will give video game players a Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 12
  13. 13. single program--the Multiverse Client--that lets them worlds. play all of the MMOGs and visit all of the non-game virtual worlds built on the Multiverse platform. • Engagement. Virtual worlds such as Second Life facilitate the ability to involve and engage people in The first demo world created by Multiverse is Times a shared environment. This means that visitors can Square New York. Here are some screenshots. be educated about the attributes of a region, town or attraction. • Interaction. Virtual destinations can be brought to life in virtual worlds with the inclusion of video, audio and many other interactive features. • Measurability. Activity in virtual worlds can be highly tracked and measured. This includes visitor numbers interaction metrics and referral sources. • Community building. If done correctly, virtual world marketing activity can be used to develop and grow online communities. These become valuable sources for business development. • Integration. Virtual world platforms can be integrated into other forms of marketing, thus creating a new type of synergy. There are several other mirror worlds in development/ recently launched included Twinity and Near. The benefits of virtual tourism marketing • Affluent audience. Second Life residents are typically Early Adopters. These are tech-savvy, opinion- formers with high disposable incomes. • Global reach. Although currently very popular in North America and Europe, Second Life is now growing strongly in the Middle and Far East. This pattern is expected to continue in new virtual Travel and Tourism in Virtual Worlds: A KZero Worldswide Case Study. Copyright 2006 - 2009 Page 13