Nothing beats IRL
Utrecht, 27 October 2016
Is it too late to talk about the Olympic Games? I was there when Usain Bolt won gold! To be quite honest, I couldn’t really see what was going on, but it was fantastic to be there. It made me realise that being a spectator, experiencing the events in so many different ways, is incredibly powerful. This is something we can profit from in the travel industry.
"In Real Life"
You’ve probably seen the abbreviation IRL, which stands for “In Real Life” and alludes to the real world outside the internet and the games we play there. The simple fact that we have an expression for this indicates that there is a difference between World 1 and World 2, even though they are inextricably linked.
“You may wonder why we choose a different location every 4 years.”
Billions of people got a taste of the Olympic Games during the past summer – via television, social media, live broadcasting, blogs and maybe even via photos taken by friends who were actually there. We can safely say that 99.9% of the world’s population weren’t in Rio, but many still managed to get a pretty good idea of what went on there.
You may wonder why the Olympics choose a different location every 4 years, building enormous infrastructural projects that are usually finished just in time. For most “viewers” it is irrelevant where the games are held, with the exception of the local population, of course.
But… thanks to the intensive media coverage of the Games, people feel a growing desire to see these locations for themselves. The statistics confirm this: every year more and more international guests make their way to the Olympic Games.
This year I was one of them, and my wish to experience the games with all my senses was fulfilled. But to be quite honest, I’d have seen more if I’d watched 5 hours on TV than I did during my 5 days in Rio. Every day we spent 6 hours getting around. From the equestrian arena to the swimming pool and so on. Often I simply didn’t make it to all the events I’d planned to see.
You could say that, in this case, the technological experience beats the somewhat shaky experience of actually being at the Games. Even if you do get to the venue on time and manage to get yourself a reasonable seat, you miss the slow-motion replay or the photo finish. Then again, there really is nothing better than seeing Bolt win gold in real life.
The more virtual contact we have with each other and the more we learn about other cultures, the greater our desire to experience them in the flesh. Outdoor festivals are another example. From Burning Man to Glastonbury, the more people talk about such events, the more other people want to experience them for themselves.
What about travel? A piece by a travel blogger, a virtual tour of a penthouse at the Hilton, a trip to distant shores with David Attenborough or Michael Palin – these virtual glimpses whet our appetite for live experiences.
We see a similar interplay between real and virtual when it comes to business travel. Companies will always need to travel – to meet clients, solidify relationships, grow revenue, explore new business horizons. But we see virtual meetings and collaboration paving the way for those valuable in-person travel experiences. By balancing and blending the real and the virtual, companies help their people be even more effective
“Like a baby tasting ice-cream for the first time.”
It’s a misconception, I believe, that we will someday get a fully satisfactory experience by travelling to the Bahamas using our virtual-reality goggles. It will be more like a baby tasting ice-cream for the first time. A couple of careful licks soon becomes a feeding frenzy, with hands and feet thrashing wildly, followed by crying if a new portion isn’t served soon enough.
So keep feeding people new ideas! There’s no better way to serve our customers!