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Have you ever booked a vacation rental or hotel room based on the limited, but dreamy pictures available on the listing, get excited at the prospect of a well-deserved holiday, and upon arrival you see something different?  Choosing, and paying up front for a product sight unseen can be an intimidating experience.

Why should my listing include a virtual tour?

Now, imagine that prior to that less-than-desirable conclusion, you would have been able to explore and examine each corner of your home away from home. Pictures might be worth a thousand words, but browsing through multiple listings to pick the one that will be just right for their needs can be time-consuming.  

Virtual tours are a new capability that, give a much different picture (pun intended) of the place potential guests could soon call home. Virtual and augmented reality have the potential to change every point in a traveler’s journey, from looking to booking and staying to remembering. They give virtual visitors a new sense of the space they might occupy. Tours allow a traveler to answer all the questions one might have before arriving: will little Sally have room to run around the kitchen while her parents are cooking dinner? Is the apartment too far from the elevator for Grannie Joan to manage comfortably? Is the master bedroom far away enough from the kitchen so that early riser Dave will not wake up his beloved wife while preparing his morning coffee? Is the view really as terrific as the pictures present it to be?

For apartments listed in the same building, offering relatively comparable features, a virtual tour can give a significantly different sense. Here’s an example filmed by our team of a one-bedroom apartment located in the Whitley residence in Austin, TX.  The virtual tour really allows the consumer to make the best choice for his or her needs.

How can a virtual tour transform a listing?

Managing expectations is a key component of the hospitality business. A guest who knows what to expect from his or her stay is more likely to leave satisfied and write a favorable review.

Vrbo and HomeAway unified Virtual Tours provide 360-degree, linked spherical photos. Like in a video game, the visitor controls which part of the apartment he or she may want to examine more closely and gets to “walk” from one room to the next.

According to a 2015 Google Think Insight study, business listings that provide both pictures and a virtual tour are almost twice as likely to get booked than a basic listing. This number goes up to 130% with the millennial generation.

In a growing market like short-term rentals, where customers have access to a wide range of listings at the tip of their fingers, it is crucial to make your properties stand out. The Vrbo vacation rental network alone represents over 2 million listings, disseminated over 65,000 cities in 190 countries.

With the propagation of 360-degree virtual tours in everyday life, with the apparition of services like Google Maps and Google Business Virtual Tours, for example, it is a feature consumers have come to expect. In fact, two out of three people hope to see more virtual tours in business listings.

How can I  set up a virtual tour for my listing?

The technology required to set up a virtual tour for your listing has significantly evolved in the past couple of years, with more intuitive interfaces and more efficient performances. According to Senior Product Manager Ben James, the Vrbo sites are the first to provide a single file format with a single user interface. Vrbo and HomeAway virtual tours have been  filmed on personal phones and cameras as well as by professionals. To achieve more professional results, we’re excited to partner with third party companies including InsideMaps and TruPlace.

Even though the process has been simplified, it can still be a daunting, especially if you’re managing a large number of properties. To make the process as painless as possible, our Pillow or ApartmentJet team can take charge of the entire process, from start to finish. From studios to larger apartments, professional footage can represent the best features of your property. We will coordinate with the Vrbo virtual tours team to schedule 360 photography for your properties and upload the footage to your listing.

Virtual tours have the potential to bring your short-term rentals to the next level.

Contact us for more details.

Author: Todd Conway, Co-founder at Pillow

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