Vic Sarkisyan of Glendale, Calif.-based travel agency SVH Tours and Travel Services, Inc. // © 2015 Vic Sarkisyan
Feature image (above): Sarkisyan snapped this aerial shot of Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit using a GoPro camera and a drone. // © 2015 Vic Sarkisyan
When it comes to selling a destination to his clients, Vic Sarkisyan, president of the Glendale, Calif.-based SVH Tours and Travel Services, Inc., finds that describing the crystal-clear water and white-sand beaches of Mexico’s finest resorts isn’t always enough. Instead, he wants to show them.
For the past two months, both Sarkisyan and Nick Ambar, director of online marketing for SVH, have been traveling to several hotels and resorts in Mexico, capturing high-definition aerial footage of the area with a GoPro and their newly purchased DJI Phantom 2 drone.
After watching a YouTube video that had used a similar method of filming, Sarkisyan was intrigued by the technology and wondered if the same shots could be used to showcase the properties he was trying to sell through SVH. Shortly after, he and Ambar boarded a flight to Mexico with the DJI Phantom 2 and GoPro in tow.
Fast forward two months: Sarkisyan now has 12 videos — uploaded to his YouTube channel and the agency’s social media websites — that give a complete birds-eye view of various areas in Mexico (parasailers and all).
“Our main point is to always show [clients] the reality … the real destination,” Sarkisyan said. “Some hotels have a sky bar, penthouses, pools or Jacuzzis on the balconies. In using the drone, we are trying to show those kinds of things to give a complete [picture of the area].”
Ambar said the investment has been a crucial component in sending the message that SVH is on the cutting edge of technology. It also allows the client to see the specific features of a resort that may not be noticeable from a magazine advertisement or a hotel’s online photo slideshow.
After its liftoff, the drone can capture 13 minutes of footage on a single battery before returning to Ambar and Sarkisyan’s waiting hands. It is eventually edited into a two-minute sequence, which Ambar then pairs with music and posts online.
Capturing picture-perfect images from this battery-operated drone (which measures about 13 inches in diagonal length) does not come without its fair share of challenges. Ambar said that a stabilizing effect is often added during the editing process, and there is always the challenge of maneuvering the drone to the exact spot where it can capture every detail of the property.
“We’re on site inspections, so we have maybe six hotels to film that one day,” Ambar said. “So I have to make sure every shot is perfect. We can’t go back. We flew all the way here, so we literally cannot go back.”
SVH has been a Crystal Apple Agency for the west coast for eight years. The agency books about 35 to 40 percent of business to destinations in Mexico. As of press time, all of the videos that have been uploaded feature destinations in Mexico, but there are future plans to expand to the Caribbean, Central America and Europe.
Although it is too soon to tell if bookings to these destinations will increase as a result of the videos, suppliers have been pleasantly surprised with the technology, Sarkisyan said.
“They didn’t see their hotels in that way,” he said. “They may have been at that hotel for 10, 15, 20 years, but they had never seen it from the birds-eye angle.”
Next up, SVH plans to film the new Swim Out rooms at the Barcelo Maya Beach hotel in Riviera Maya, Mexico, and has a contract to continue filming with Riu Hotels. Ambar said the agency is working to eventually attain contracts with all hotel brands.