Laduma CEO Ben Smith has suggested that the travel and tourism industry has not yet understood or grasped the full potential of the opportunity presented by Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality. This is a transcript of his keynote speech at World Travel Market 2017.  
 
WORLD TRAVEL MARKET 
 
All of us here today, have something in common. And it is not only a love and fascination with travel. It is that we like what travel does to us, we like the way it makes us think and feel, the way it challenges us. 
 
I was fortunate as a kid. I travelled the world with my family as we followed my father, whose job took him all over. I visited places like India, Italy, Costa Rica, Thailand and Colombia before I was seven. It was an incredible thing for a young mind. Not only to sample experiences so different to anything I would find at home in London, but because it taught me that to really fall in love with a place you need to get under the skin and see it differently to the crowd. 
 
Looking back, I also realise the memories I have from those trips endure. The joy, the fear, the emotion – it’s bound up in our memories. It shapes the way we look back at the places we have visited. And it’s the reason we go back. 
 
Travel is about seeing new things. It was the great American writer Henry Miller who wrote: “one’s destination is never a place but a new way of seeing things”. 
 
And so, when we talk about using technology to change the way people engage with the travel industry, we have to do it a way that preserves that emotion and those experiences. We aren’t trying to replace the real thing, when we talk about augmented and virtual reality. 
 
We are trying to add value to it, help people find the courage to get closer and go further than before.
 
And I don’t think we have seen enough of that yet with this technology. We are only scratching the surface and today I am going to explain why and how together we can change that. Because at the moment, I think 95% of the content is coming at this the wrong way. 
 
These technologies are already in the post-wow era. And so the content you create has to be more ambitious. You can’t simply expect a hotel tour to cut the mustard with people. And it misses all of the reasons we love to travel, it misses the emotion, the inspiration and the passion. 
 
So how do you use VR and AR successfully and stand out from the rest in the eyes of your customers? 
 
There are two answers to that question. The first is, in the same way TV and cinema had to, use these platforms to tell stories. Find the things that inspire people, focus on the details, inspire people and think creatively about this content. 
 
And the second, is what I am really here to talk about it. You have to use this technology to help your business, to help you solve challenges facing your brand. 
 
Can it drive revenue? Increase sales and influence the emotions of the customer at point of sale? I want to give you a couple of examples that show it can 
 
Let’s talk about the incredible Nambiti Plains Game Reserve in South Africa
 
I want to walk you through our approach. 
 
What was their challenge? It was the need appeal to wealthy guests primarily from the US who perhaps didn’t realise quite how wonderful this place was. 
 
So what did we do? Well we didn’t do a tour of the hotel. What we did was much more fun. This place is about the warmth of the people, the sounds and the surroundings. We created a solution that was designed to solve a problem that the business was facing. We built them a bespoke app and took that content to the people they wanted to target. So what was the result? Visitor numbers (and revenue) increased 9% in the three months after launch, and unique visitors to the website rose by 11% across the same period. Guest numbers from the US are up.  A problem solved. 
 
I also want to look at Etihad Airways and the reimagine VR experience with Nicole Kidman. This was a way of Etihad showing off their premium experience. From the lounges, through from economy to their award-winning apartments. Now because of their VR experience, which we did not create, people said they were 22% more likely to consider Etihad and 7% more likely to pay extra for the Etihad flying experience. But crucially, revenue increased by 8%. And that is significant. While referral traffic increased by 25% and Etihad’s app was downloaded 26,000 times in the weeks following launch.
 
Augmented Reality is potentially even MORE exciting for travel. The brilliant Gruffalo spotter AR app created for the Forestry Commission drove an increase of 1.5m people to forests across the UK and those numbers are directly linked to people wanting to come and try the experience for themselves – 1.5m! 
 
All of this technology can revolutionise the way you deal with your clients. It can help travel agents inspire, inform and excite customers. It can help tourists boards convince agents that their destination deserves a place in their brochures. It can help hospitality extend see before you buy. And with airlines and carriers it can provide a way to stand out, with opportunities in everything from product launches to maintenance. If travel embraces and understands this tech, it can give people who are otherwise not certain, the conviction and courage they need to buy. It can solve business challenges and it can do it a way that, let’s face it, is very cool. 
 
Travel is incredible but right now it is missing the opportunity to be even better.