Idaho’s beauty is no mystery to those who have visited the state. From the sharp edges of the Sawtooths to the white-water of the many rivers, from snowcapped mountain tops to Craters of the Moon and the edges of Yellowstone, Idaho’s natural beauty is something we often take for granted. But to those outside the state, Idaho (sometimes confused with Iowa) is little more than flatland for growing potatoes: not exactly a vacation destination.
Idaho’s Department of Commerce is seeking to change that perception with the creation of 360 degree videos that show off Idaho’s majesty to those looking to travel, increasing tourism and building the state’s economy.
"We’re a small state and not particularly well known or immediately thought of as a vacation destination,” said Matt Borud, Business Development Officer at the Idaho Department of Commerce. “We have to be creative if we’re going to stand out among other destinations.”
That thinking launched Visit Idaho’s 360 degree video project in partnership with Boise’s 360 Immersive. In the fall of 2015, Borud and others at Idaho Commerce saw the virtual reality video 360 Immersive had done of the BSU football team and were intrigued by the possibilities for augmenting Idaho’s existing tourism marketing, much of which is a combination of photography, video, and print advertising.
With the emerging technologies within YouTube and Facebook for 360 videos (with and without a virtual reality headset), Idaho had the opportunity to “stand out in terms of being one of the first states to give travelers this visual adventure,” according to Borud.
It’s that visual adventure that Visit Idaho is hoping will attract tourists, particularly adventure tourists, to the state. “So much of Idaho’s tourism product is active and to be experienced. We’re not just a ‘lay on the beach and do nothing sort of vacation’ spot,” said Borud. “These videos can give travelers a fun visual experience and inspire them to plan an adventure in Idaho.”
Currently, Visit Idaho has five 360 degree experiences on its website and YouTube channel that can be viewed both with and without a VR headset (in virtual reality, the experience is far more immersive):
- the North Fork Championship for kayaking;
- Idaho’s Adrenaline Rush showcasing some of Idaho’s many adventures including river rafting, zip lining, and paragliding;
- Twin Falls Canyon Experience with BASE jumping, kayaking to Shoshone Falls, and zip lining through the Snake River Canyon;
- Payette River Adventure showcasing Idaho’s whitewater;
- And the Boise Summer Experience complete with a ride along Boise's Greenbelt, a stroll through the downtown market, and a dip in the Boise River
Idaho Commerce is hoping that these experiences attract locals to explore their state as well, inspiring pride in the state that is shared with family and friends.
The marriage between Idaho’s beauty and the cutting edge technology of virtual reality and 360 videos seems natural to Borud. “The experience the technology provides is unlike anything most consumers have ever experienced. We feel the same way about the experience [of] skiing Baldy or biking the Hiawatha or rafting the Payette.” Many evangelists say that you have to experience VR to get it. Many Idahoans feel the same about the state. And Visit Idaho is hoping that with this new technology, potential tourists can experience the state in the virtual world, inspiring them to come visit it in person.