Virtual tours are rising in popularity as venues have to work harder to compete in the online booking world. But virtual tours aren’t just flashy nice-to-haves on your website—they positively affect your website traffic and bookings. One Google study found that a virtual tour can double a customer’s interest in your business. Similarly, a different study determined that a virtual tour can increase booking rates by up to 67%.
In March 2020, during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Google search term virtual tour reached the max popularity a search term can have. And although that popularity has dipped since, current virtual tour searches are almost three times more popular now than ever before.
But virtual tours aren’t just important for virus outbreaks. They are also perfect alternatives for inclement weather when a planner can’t visit, out-of-town planners who don’t want to travel for a 30-minute in-person tour, and online shoppers who want to browse before they buy. No matter your budget or your venue, there are ways for you to provide virtual tours for potential customers.
1. Panoramic & 3D Images
Perfect for: Low-budget placeholders
Panoramic and 3D images are a quick, simple, and inexpensive way to capture your venue experience. Panoramic-style photography isn’t new, but it is a great way to feature your dining hall, private rooms, and scenic view. Most smartphone cameras have the ability to take high-resolution panoramic shots—so you probably already have what you need! Be sure to test different angles before choosing the perfect photo. For example, does your beachfront view look better from the front steps or the veranda?
You can also use the Facebook app to take 3D pictures of special venue features. Like, for example, your built-in bar or rustic, exposed beams. While these images aren’t the preferred virtual tour method, they will work on short notice. No matter which method you choose, add at least ten different images to give your planner a real 360-degree view.
2. Live Video Calls
Perfect for: Customers about to book
Who says your virtual tour can’t be in real time! If you have a customer who wants to book, but can’t visit your venue, use any video chat platform for a hand-held tour. While you would typically walk around the grounds with a customer in person, you can still do that using video. If your company uses Skype or Zoom, send the customer a link to join the online meeting. Then, simply turn on your device camera and show them the world! Or, at least your venue. You can also use your business’s Facebook Messenger to video chat.
Bonus Tip: If a customer is uncomfortable turning their camera on at home, that’s OK! They can still see everything you show them.
For a good video experience, we recommend a few important tips. First, invest in a camera stabilizer, so there isn’t extra movement as you walk around. Second, use a smaller device, if you can. For example, a smartphone or tablet will be easier than a laptop to walk around with. And finally, ask a coworker to handle the device. That way, you are free to be on screen and point out specific features.
3. Partner With a Videographer
Perfect for: Local hot spots
If you don’t have the equipment, time, or skill set to create a video tour—that’s OK! It just means you can partner with a local videographer to create the resource. That’s exactly what DC videographer Tom Bowen did. He worked with nearby venues to create stunning video tours of the space. And because he’s been in the area for a while, he was able to add footage from past events in those venues—so the videos include “both a blank canvas and executed event.”
Start by reaching out to local videographers who have worked your venue before. If you don’t have a list handy, contact event planners that you’ve worked with in the past, or put the call out on social media. However you find your videographer, be sure to give them lots of credit!
4. 360-Degree Tour
Perfect for: Scenic venues
A 360-degree view of your venue is the ultimate virtual tour. It allows planners to see every inch of your venue—from the ceiling to the floors, and everything in between. Planners can access the video on their computer at any time, too, giving them more than a sneak peek at everything you have to offer. That way, you know the leads you receive are serious inquiries—the planner has already seen the space online!
Creating your own 360-degree tour might be a big challenge to tackle alone, and it will definitely affect your budget. But if it’s something you’re interested in, plan ahead to create one for your venue. Hiring an agency to create your video can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. It all depends on how large your venue is, how much of the venue you want to include, and the specific agency you work with. If you’re interested in your own 360-degree tour, start planning and researching now so you can budget accordingly.
5. 3D Floorplans
Perfect for: Booked customers looking to continue planning
Even if a planner has booked your venue, they still might want to view the inside a few more times. This is especially true as they try to arrange seating and plan decorations. But you might not have the availability to offer multiple tours. That’s where platforms like AllSeated and Socials Tables come in.
Their platforms let venue owners collaborate with event planners and customers—all at the same time! You can try out different seating arrangements, or even show why a certain arrangement won’t work. Everything in your virtual room can be moved and rearranged to accommodate different set-ups and number of guests. Of course, it won’t be your actual venue, but the planner has already booked, so they already saw the inside. (Maybe on a video tour!)
Whatever your budget is, and wherever your planners are in the booking process—there’s a virtual tour solution for you! Don’t be afraid to start small; any form of virtual touring is better than no tour at all! The more details that planners have about your venue, the better.
Which virtual your solution will you try? What have you already tried?