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Major Innovations That Combine Travel And Entertainment Are Under Way

In an era where consumers demand experiences and not just products or services, there is a great opportunity for hospitality, media, and entertainment industries to come together and offer unique travel experiences and adventures. The good news for consumers that innovations are starting to happen, along two categories: Virtual and physical experiences.

Virtual Experiences: Travel Entertainment

Thanks to virtual reality, consumers can instantly travel to desired locations anywhere in the world, as long as they have a VR set. It could be a city, monument, or an entertainment venue. This is great for consumers who want to avoid the hassle of congested highways and airports, or who simply cannot afford to make the trip.

For example, Google has developed its Google Earth VR tool, where you can virtually transport yourself anywhere within the Google Earth app. One interesting application is for hospitality companies to use VR to promote tourist destinations, so the virtual experience becomes a preview of a physical experience. Kurt Miller, Senior VP of Strategy and Planning at experiential marketing agency George P. Johnson, says, “Engagement could be amplified, for example, if destinations entice both potential and live visitors with an observation view of a city or vista enhanced by AR/VR, highlighted by icons that could be further explored in detail.”

Destinations, venues, and experiences will be developed for all tastes as travel and entertainment companies compete for media savvy consumers. Innovation will thrive thanks to 5G mobile deployments that enable high quality VR, including for live phyiscal events. For example, in the last couple of years media and entertainment partnerships like Facebook - AEG and Live Nation - Next VR have formed to stream live concerts in VR, for bands like Vance Joy and Imagine Dragons.

New forms of virtual travel will emerge where VR truly satisfies consumer needs. For example, Françoise Masson, a French producer, is developing "virtual pilgrimages" of religious shrines around the world for the millions of people who cannot afford to travel or have a physical inability. She states, "I apply a highly aesthetic cinematic approach and trust that the latest technological advancements will capture the spirit of these locations and foster viewers’ thirst for inner peace and healing."

Physical Experiences: Entertainment Travel

In the end, however, virtual experiences can't fully replace many real travel experiences. Just last week, NextVR announced layoffs due to slower than expected demand for its VR sets. Therefore, even in the era of digital media, consumers have an appetite for integrated travel and entertainment adventures.

Hospitality companies are embracing entertainment heavy experiences. For example, Selina is a hospitality startup that differentiates itself with boutique hotels in unique destinations mainly in Latin America, with plans to expand in U.S. and Europe. Selina's hotels offer carefully curated entertainment such as live local band events and other activities like hiking, yoga, and cooking classes. Selina’s Founder, Rafi Museri stated, “The next generation of travelers are seeking experiences that drive energy and offer collaborative, inspiring, and culturally immersive environments. People are hungry for authenticity, connection and to be part of a global community... Selina is creating a global ecosystem for this growing demand.”

Realizing the power of local music entertainment, and the fact that many of its locations are becoming hip local entertainment hubs, Selina is developing music studios where international and local music producers, bands, and musicians can converge to collaborate and work on their creations. On Thursday, Selina launched its first Selina Music Studio in the Medellin, Colombia location.

Media and entertainment companies are, in turn, embracing travel. Putumayo, known for its carefully curated albums with music from around the world, launched in December Putumayo World Travel to extend what it calls its musical journeys into curated travel experiences that involve not just music, but also food, art, and visits to iconic places like Buena Vista Social Club's recording studio in Cuba. Putumayo will offer curated travel experiences in Peru and New Orleans in 2019.

The integration of travel and entertainment will continue to happen as hospitality and entertainment companies try to differentiate themselves. Social media and word-of-mouth will help bring awareness of awesome virtual or physical travel experiences for entertainment-hungry travelers. I can't wait to see which ones bubble up, and to report on them.