May 18, 2015 - 2:27 PM
VICTORIA - Don a headset and zoom off in a sea-spraying skiff ride up British Columbia's wild coast, or feel the moisture hanging just above your shoulders in a hike through the Great Bear Rainforest.
B.C.'s tourism marketing Crown corporation, Destination BC, is offering potential tourists a preview of what the province has to offer with a 360-degree video using Oculus Rift virtual reality technology.
Viewers can virtually jump in as the skiff makes its way to Nimmo Bay, past barking sea lions and the ever changing blue-green hues of the ocean.
"We were the first destination in North America to have a virtual reality tour," says Maria Greene, Destination BC marketing director.
"Experiences like Nimmo Bay and all of our West Coast lodges — that offer amazing wildlife viewing and wonderful fishing and hiking and outdoor experiences — are huge draws for tourists."
She said the virtual tours are being used as marketing tools at national and international tourism trade shows. Greene said it's only a matter of time before virtual reality tours become the latest version of traditional marketing brochures.
"The area of the Great Bear Rainforest was one of many examples of fantastic locations in British Columbia that really show the essence of what B.C. has to offer," said Greene.
"We had a crew that went into the area and used GoPro cameras and drones. We had guides to make sure we didn't impact the natural surroundings."
The virtual tours are an innovative and exciting way to showcase B.C. as a place to visit, said Tourism Victoria's chief executive officer Paul Nursey.
"We have to stand out because every country, every city, every big company like Disney and all the cruise lines are competing for the top time and attention of buyers and travellers," he said.
"We have to find a way to be innovative and different. If you are just another trade show stand, with just another brochure, you are nothing."
Nursey said the virtual tours help make emotional connections with tourists. They can immerse the senses with a personal, real-life experience.
"It's meant to capture attention and create buzz," he said.
"You have to differentiate yourself. We have beautiful mountains, but so does Chile."
On the rainforest hike, a waterfall cascades in the distance. No other person or building can be seen as the hikers traverse the mountainside trail.
The hikers and boat riders end their adventures at Nimmo Bay, sitting on the wharf in the middle of nowhere as the ocean shimmers in the moonlight.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2015