. How VR Benefits Planners and Destinations | Northstar Meetings Group

How VR Benefits Planners and Destinations

I'd wager that everyone in my line of work has been in this situation: You've been talking with a group or event planner for months and you're sure that their program will work perfectly in your venue. They're interested, but busy. They can't get out for a site visit. Without seeing everything firsthand, they don't feel comfortable making a final decision. So you sit waiting. 

That's where Meet AC and I found ourselves earlier this year with a large education group -- a charter-school academy looking to host its annual meeting. Teachers were unable to make time for a site visit and the leadership members couldn't make the trek out to Atlantic City to see our convention center and give the final go-ahead. The presentations and photos I'd shown them were good, but not enough to move the needle. We were at an impasse.

That was when my marketing team gave me something that sealed the deal: a full, 360-degree immersive digital experience.

A few months prior, they'd started working with an interactive experience company, YouVisit, which creates immersive experiences for destinations, colleges, and corporations that can be viewed on desktop, mobile, or VR devices. What was important to us is that they bring locations to life in a way that we weren't able to with our existing content. 

They came to Atlantic City to capture our facilities and build an experience for us. They filmed our convention center, our meeting rooms, our boardwalk and historic Boardwalk Hall, and the Adrian Phillips Theater -- everything we have to offer. From there, they compiled it all into an advanced digital experience that can be viewed on desktop or in mobile VR, adding clickable, interactive elements that viewers can use to launch more content like videos and additional still shots. It's really the next best thing to being here. 

Within days of sharing the link with the academy, they were able to make the final decision. Based on what they saw in the experience, they signed on for August of this year. Booking the group will now bring 560 room nights and close to $300,000 in economic impact to Atlantic City.

But this is about more than just one event. I see this as a fundamental change in the way our industry will be doing business in the years to come. 

For decades, we've used a lot of paper and a lot of travel to land events. Presentations in front of board meetings, brochures -- these are the tools of our trade. Convention sales can be a long and painstaking process. Sometimes it takes years to land a single group event.

The use of immersive experiences will change all that. With the ability to show off our spaces through engaging digital experiences, we'll spend less time traveling to prospective clients. We'll spend less money on paper presentations and spend less time waiting for answers. 

The benefits aren't all on my side of the table. Event planners will embrace this approach, too. They'll be able to explore more potential venues in less time.

They'll spend less time hosting in-person pitches from teams like mine. They'll approach meetings with a clearer vision of the event spaces they'll be utilizing. They'll ask more detailed questions and reach decisions faster. 

Immersive experiences perform in ways that our photos and our floor plans have never been able to. They show the beauty of our buildings and the flexibility of our facilities in a full 360 degrees. They make it easier to see how the flow of an event will work from an attendee perspective. They enable the viewer to learn more about the specifics of an event space in less time. 

When we got an immersive experience of our own, I honestly wanted to give someone a hug. Because of what YouVisit and our marketing team had created together, I was able to get my client to not only sign for 2018, but for 2019 and consecutive years. To anyone in my industry exploring the idea of creating a 360-degree experience for their facility or city, I simply advise: if you don't have one yet, you need to get it.

Sandi Harvey, vice president of sales for Meet AC has worked in the tourism and hospitality industry for more than 25 years. At Meet AC, Harvey is responsible for productivity reporting, ensuring the sales team has the resources they need to meet their goals, and managing the synergy between the Atlantic City Convention Center and property partners.