ICC Sydney Convention Centre has adopted VR marketing.
The International Convention Centre Sydney recently became the first venue of its kind in Australia to adopt virtual reality to help market itself to conference organizers, event planners, delegates and other travelers from around the world who are considering or planning a visit. The move highlights the growing interest in VR as a marketing tool for venues and others with destinations to promote.
ICC Sydney Convention Centre opened in 2016.
ICC Sydney’s VR video experience provides viewers with an immersive way of touring the facilities at the convention center, which opened in December 2016.
“Our VR experience provides viewers with a unique opportunity to witness the full scale and magnitude of ICC Sydney’s technologically advanced facilities, including its 35,000 square meters of exhibition space, flexible meeting spaces, the 2,000-capacity grand ballroom – the largest of its kind in Australia – and world-class theaters,” said Geoff Donaghy, CEO, ICC Sydney.
Donaghy said the benefits to ICC Sydney were evident. He said VR aligns with a creative marketing approach that “places an innovative lens over everything we do.” Venue operators developed a suite of creative tools before opening that included a custom magazine, interactive maps, animations and advance modeling and renderings. The venue secured 500 event bookings before opening.
“The VR experience brings ICC Sydney to life in new ways, right before people’s eyes, and will become an important point of reference during the planning stages of an event, while also creating a buzz and excitement for delegates pre-event,” he said. “It’s an impressive tool that we believe will help shape the future of events in Sydney.”
In addition to an intimate look at the ICC Sydney facilities, the VR content includes a chance to enjoy a 360-degree view of Sydney’s Darling Harbour, where the convention center is located, including a look at nearby landmarks Sydney Harbour Bridge and Bondi Beach.
Penny Lion, executive general manager of events at Tourism Australia, said the convention center’s adoption of VR is a fit with the venue’s design and operations.
“As Australia’s newest convention, exhibition and events precinct, ICC Sydney is at the forefront of design and technology innovation,” Lion said. “Utilizing this technology to showcase what the center can deliver for customers is in alignment with this culture of innovation. It’s also a great way to see ICC Sydney up close and to understand the venue in the context of its location.”
ICC Sydney and Tourism Australia worked together to develop the showcase video of the convention center’s setting as part of the VR content, highlighting Sydney as a leading event destination. Tourism Australia has produced its own VR/360 content for various Australian locales, and Lion said its effectiveness has been “stunning,” citing 10.5 million views on Facebook, YouTube and Australia.com.and a 64-percent rise in engagement on Australia.com.
Lion said the VR efforts represent Tourism Australia’s recognition of “the need for tourism bodies and other entities to find new, engaging and compelling ways to cut through the highly competitive and crowded marketplace.”
Tom Griffin, assistant professor in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and assistant director of the Hospitality and Tourism Research Institute at Ryerson University in Toronto, has researched with colleagues the use of VR in marketing for destinations. He called tourism “an intangible product for marketers” that makes it a challenge to provide potential customers a true sense of what their experience will be. While still falling short of real life, VR “helps convey a sense of what a place is like,” he said.
“Our studies have shown that students who watched a VR advertisement for South Africa felt more positive about the country as a destination compared with those who watched a 2D video or read the website,” Griffin said. “So even though they hadn’t been, they were creating word-of-mouth marketing about what the place is like to visit.”
Lion said VR has rich potential for venues such as ICC Sydney, in particular.
“VR allows customers to discover event spaces like never before,” Lion said. “Immersive and interactive, it provides the user with the next best thing to conducting a site inspection. Using VR in conjunction with personal interaction with venue representatives – for example at trade shows – is an effective tool to help bring to life what it’s like to be in those spaces and to have questions immediately answered.”
ICC Sydney Convention Centre.
Griffin agreed, saying, “For a convention center, I imagine there are many opportunities. I’m guessing that a primary target would be meeting planners and to give them an opportunity to see both the logistics of a center, but also to allow them to experience some of the elements that a center wants to show off – a view of the mountains, a ballroom set up in full decor, etc. VR is a great and convenient way to demonstrate that.”
Griffin said VR is becoming increasingly popular for marketers and its use will grow as VR headsets continue to become more accessible. As of now, VR is new enough that abundant questions surround the best ways of using the tool. He said he sees VR as more enduring than a fad, though its use will evolve as more adopt it.
“I think a lot of people don’t know how to best use it yet,” Griffin said. “It reminds me of when social media arrived on the scene some years ago, and companies and organizations just got on board with little strategy or understanding of how to use the technology and communications. Of course, now companies take social media very seriously and strategically. I see the same thing happening to some extent with VR.”
Lion said venue marketers considering VR should be sure to commit the necessary resources and identify appropriate partners to create a vivid experience for viewers.
“Work with experienced and highly capable production companies who understand not just the medium but the user experience that accompanies VR,” Lion said.
Donaghy said it took three months for the team creating ICC Sydney’s VR experience to film its multi-use spaces sufficiently. He said the venue’s team has worked diligently to use the tool.
“We have sent virtual reality headsets to over 250 of our global contacts and are utilizing it in all of our trade shows and road shows, as well,” Donaghy said. “So far, we are getting an amazing response, and it’s been credited as one of the most unique tools a venue is using to inform and stimulate clients, and is even inspiring them to use the technology themselves.”
For ICC Sydney’s full VR experience, viewers need to have access to a VR headset. They can download the ICC Sydney VR app from Apple or Android application stores. Without a VR headset, viewers can still see 36-degree images on the convention center’s website at www.iccsydney.com.au.