July was a busy month for many reasons including hospitality industry specific networking events, virtual tours of modified vehicles and student halls of residence and a well-deserved family break in the (mainly) sunny Lake District.
However this month I want to focus on one of our most extensive tours to date: the beautiful and quirky Fish Hotel in the stunning Cotswolds. The Fish Hotel isn’t a normal hotel by any stretch of the imagination. As their marketing spiel says, it’s ‘a collection of buildings and huts set on a hillside within a 400 acre estate.’ Its quirkiness is its strength and its weakness in equal measure -certainly in marketing terms - compared to the more traditional accommodation found elsewhere on the Farncombe Estate of which it is one third.
For this job it was clear that each of the virtual tours needed to relate to each other as it was impossible to create a tour of the whole estate due to its size and the fact a lot of the estate is beautiful rolling English countryside. The challenge was to help people understand the way the accommodation was laid out across the estate, a challenge their marketing team knew they hadn’t quite addressed yet.
The day of the shoot was a hot, sunny early July day. As I recce’d the five buildings to be scanned with marketing executive Grace, I quickly ascertained that some sort of video embedded into the tags would be required to place the separate buildings relative to each other. The hotel already had a really nice quaintly-drawn schematic map of the estate. I knew I would be using that and asked for a hi-res image of it to be emailed to me. The five buildings were of varying sizes and ranged from 25 scan points for the retro-chic Treehouse to 140 scans for The Lodge, which contained a large restaurant and conservatory as well as a bar, lounge and chill out area. This is a VERY cool hotel.
The scanning process started with two meeting spaces at the top of the estate which were in use from 9am. Scanning therefore started at 6:30 to avoid disruption. Upon completion of these, we headed over to the restaurant for some breakfast - made using only local produce of course. We then started scanning the far end of The Lodge which was basically a large single-storey rectangular building, giving the staff time to clear the restaurant at the other end. As we worked along the building, Grace informed me that the caravan-style Hideaway Hut and the Treehouse we were scanning were expecting guests by 2pm so we broke off from the Lodge, leaving just the restaurant and outdoor Feasting Deck to complete, and scanned these relatively small spaces, closing the door behind us in time for their arrivals.
By this time lunch in the restaurant had been and gone so as the staff set the tables for dinner, we used the time to do some 360 views of the Feasting Deck and other outdoor patios to connect to the tour of The Lodge. Once this was completed, it was time for the final piece of the jigsaw and the scan of the large restaurant and conservatory was completed in about an hour and a half. It was then time for the drive back up North and I landed at home just before 9pm in time to upload the tours before catching up with family life then bed.
The following day it was time to create the tours for these spaces. One of the first jobs was to create five separate 20-second videos to embed into the first tags you see upon launch of each tour. The videos utilised the map I mentioned earlier and after a brief introduction to The Fish, zoomed into the relevant building that the tour was based on. We even took some HDR stills from the Matterport camera to use in this video. They turned out great and worked well in orientating the viewer. I guess the fact that we can produce branded bespoke interactive elements to the tours like this really adds value to our tours and set us apart from our competitors. We continued by adding hyperlinks to relevant pages of the hotel’s website, giving viewers the opportunity to find out more about The Fish - for example drinks and restaurant menus or direct booking pages as they virtually tour the spaces.
Finally, a guided tour which walks viewers through the highlights of each space was produced to be accessed at a click of the play button on the tour navigation interface. We also took the decision to ‘daisychain’ the five tours together using a tag titled ‘Where do you want to go now?’ so that each of the other four tours can be accessed directly from any of the other spaces. The tags were positioned near to the entrances and exits to the rooms.
Once this was done a first version of the tour was sent to Grace and Ellie at The Fish’s marketing department. Initial feedback was very good: “I love what you’ve done with the tours. This will save us so much time showing prospective clients around” was one comment. Edits were then sent back to me to create subsequent versions and once full satisfaction was achieved, the embed codes were emailed across for all the tours to be added to their website.
The process from initial scanning to version one of the tour took just under a week, which to the team at The Fish seemed a very short time frame for such interactive, rich and visually stunning web and social media content to be produced. Our tours are relatively inexpensive and can be recouped by a handful of direct room or M&E bookings. One single wedding booking secured as a result of viewing the facilities virtually would pay the cost of a tour five times over meaning that a return on investment would be very rapid. Stats from Google show that websites with a virtual tour are twice as likely to generate sales than those without.
Tune in next month to find out how we took a different approach to a high profile themed hotel in Manchester. To view The Lodge tour for yourself go to https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=sCpEAdwnAoJ You can access the other four spaces by going to the central lobby door and clicking on the tag by the door.