Virgin Holidays, the travel agency arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin empire, has signalled the demise of the iconic holiday brochure with the opening of the first of two paperless ‘holiday laboratory’ travel outlets this weekend.
Virgin’s new hi-tech holiday stores will assist customers with creating their own vacations with the use of giant computer screens and iPads, and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent will be the first venue to host a new-look store. The second store is earmarked to open on July 8 at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield.
The stores will rely on video and sensory experiences to fulfil clients’ holiday expectations, with no place among the hi-tech offerings for the printed word. Having created their own holiday itinerary using technology that records their movements, clients will have their own copy in digital format to take away with them. Sensory effects, including textured flooring, mood lighting and appropriate scents will all be employed to provide the client with a virtual taste of their preferred exotic destination. And as no experience is complete nowadays unless it has been shared with the world on social media, customers will also have the option of having their photo taken against a green screen to provide them with a shareable record of the vacation that they have just booked.
Virgin Holidays’ customer and sales director, Mark Anderson, commented, ‘Our holiday laboratories have been designed with one purpose – to harness the latest technology and the increasingly powerful influence of social media to create something really different on the high street. As our retail network has grown, we’ve increasingly seen the need to put ‘play’ at the heart of the buying experience and these two stores are the logical conclusion of that process.’