It’s a beautiful day on the South Saskatchewan River—you’re kayaking alongside a group of paddle boarders with blue skies overhead and University Bridge in sight.
The sound of paddles hitting the water is so clear, so real, you forget you’re actually standing in the middle of a busy newsroom wearing a virtual reality headset.
The experience is part of Tourism Saskatoon’s plan to draw national conventions to the city.
“When we go to them, we want them to experience our destination and really give them something of a different experience than what they’re used to getting,” said Candace Schierling, the director of national conventions and event marketing for Tourism Saskatoon.
“There’s so much to do in our city. We could do hundreds of these.”
So far, Tourism Saskatoon has developed two 360-degree virtual reality experiences: kayaking on the South Saskatchewan River and stopping in for an outside look at Wanuskewin Heritage Park.
“You can see the prairie grass blowing and hear the drums, so it’s a really beautiful experience,” she said.
Viewers get headphones to better immerse themselves in the moment. As the scene unfolds, information pops up on screen sharing interesting facts about the destination.
Tourism Saskatoon recently tried the technology at the largest gathering for national conventions in Toronto, Ont. last month.
Schierling said feedback has been positive so far, with many delegates drawing parallels to their own cities.
“We wanted to bring that element out to them; show our destinations in a unique way and show off what there is to do here,” she said, adding Saskatoon is first to market for using virtual reality to attract national conventions.
The team is now looking at creating a winter video, possibly on the skating rink beside the Delta Bessborough, to immerse people in a picturesque snowy downtown.