Pearl Harbor's new virtual tours include a “you-are-there” viewing of the attack on Battleship Row. // © 2017 Pacific Historic Parks
Feature image (above): Clients can climb a grand koa wood staircase during a virtual tour of Iolani Palace. // © 2017 Friends of Iolani Palace
Descriptive words and pretty pictures always come in handy as travel agents assist clients with their Hawaii bookings. But with virtual reality (VR) tools, clients can feel like they’re right in the heart of the destination without ever leaving their chairs. The alluring and interactive technology has evolved from a source of entertainment to an effective promoter of island tourism.
VR is easier than ever to access, and it’s catching on quickly in Hawaii’s visitor industry. Here’s a look at some of the new VR tools that agents can use to inspire Aloha State vacations.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has rolled out Hawaii VR: Let Hawaii Happen, its first-ever VR tour app — a dramatic way to encourage travel to the islands. As clients view 360-degree live-action footage and stunning images, they find themselves smack dab in the midst of Hawaii’s breathtaking beauty. Narration by a Hawaii resident adds personal perspective and advice to the experience.
Hawaii VR helps users choose what appeals to them most in terms of environment, attractions and activities on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island. It can be downloaded for free and used on headsets, smartphones and other platforms.
Located near Lihue Airport, this 450-acre Kauai resort will be opening in stages. Private residences and a club will debut in summer 2017, followed by a retail village, a boutique hotel and a spa by 2019. Thanks to a new VR experience, present-day island visitors can get a preview of the oceanfront visitor oasis.
Anyone can stop by Hokuala’s sales center for this free look ahead, perhaps with future bookings in mind. Wearing Oculus Rift headsets, travelers can peruse the design, architecture and layout of the resort. While there, golf buffs might want to play an actual round on Hokuala’s Ocean Course— formerly the Kiele Course at Kauai Lagoons — which has been renovated and upgraded.
The only official royal residence in the U.S., downtown Honolulu’s Iolani Palace is a distinctive tourism draw. Now, a VR makes it possible for visitors located anywhere in the world to stroll through the lovingly-preserved 1882 landmark, home of Hawaii’s final two monarchs.
The online tool brings agents and clients face-to-face with one of Hawaii’s most revered buildings. Using computers or mobile devices, they can see rare artifacts, view ornate furnishings and climb the grand koa wood staircase, whetting their appetites for an actual tour of the palace during their next visit to Oahu.
The popular Oahu attraction recently released three VR tours that allow clients to learn, see and feel what happened during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. One tour lets visitors walk the decks of the battleship USS Arizona just before the attack. Another has them witnessing the attack on Battleship Row, and the third presents a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial.
Visitors can buy or rent the VR app and viewer at the attraction’s visitor center. For people who aren’t physically at the park, Pearl Harbor VR Tours will be available soon at Pacific Historic Parks’ online store and from iTunes and Google Play.