Giving Chinese tourists a glimpse of Singapore through virtual reality

Mr Bao and Ms Li hope the novel experience they offer through the virtual reality headset will boost their business.
Mr Bao and Ms Li hope the novel experience they offer through the virtual reality headset will boost their business.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

At Sohu Travel's sole China office in Hangzhou, near Shanghai, customers who want a glimpse of what Singapore has to offer can temporarily be transported here - through a virtual reality headset.

They can pick from 100 attractions, including the Singapore Zoo and Marina Bay Sands SkyPark, and get a 360-degree experience of the place before buying tickets.

Mr Paul Bao, 31, founder of the agency - which is not linked to the Chinese website Sohu, said: "Customers have many choices (of attractions to visit) but not enough time. A common question we get is 'Is the attraction nice?' but it's difficult to answer, so we let them preview it themselves."

In the short time since he launched the service in June, ticket sales have soared 80 per cent from the previous quarter. He hopes to expand the service to include restaurants and hotels.

His firm is also tapping beacon technology - using small transmitters that interact with mobile devices - to help customers navigate attractions like the Merlion Park.

Users of WeChat can turn on their app's "Shake" function at the Merlion Park and real-time information about the nearby attractions, retail and food and beverage outlets will pop up on the screen.

A mobile app set to launch next month uses augmented reality software to place information about a place on top of buildings in the user's phone camera.

Mr Bao and his business partner Megan Li, 26, hope the new technology and the firm's focus on inbound Chinese tourists will help turn business around for the five-year-old agency, which has closed three outlets here and is operating its only one in Chinatown.

Melissa Lin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 05, 2016, with the headline 'Giving Chinese tourists a glimpse of Singapore through virtual reality'. Print Edition | Subscribe