WOODSTOCK — Imagine walking through a business or down the main street of a town before ever setting foot there.
Virtual reality tours of local businesses and towns were a topic of discussion during the Shenandoah County Tourism Council’s monthly meeting, held Tuesday in the board room of the Shenandoah County Government Center.
Jenna French, the county’s Director of Tourism and Economic Development, showed the council a virtual walkthrough of Box Office Brewery, done by A.D. Carter of Retail VR.
Online viewers could virtually saunter through the brewery, seeing just about every nook and cranny along the way while finding out valuable information such as beer options.
The tourism council discussed whether it could be a viable option for other businesses — with Strasburg Interim Director of Community Development Olivia Hilton noting that three or four businesses in Strasburg have already opted for using such technology.
“Maybe a place like American Celebration, that’s really hard to describe to people, this kind of give them a glimpse of that,” French said. “There have been a few retailers who have utilized it because you can actually link to products for people to purchase and do online sales directly through it. I can see potential.”
French said places that hold events or places that will hold group tours could likely see a benefit to the virtual reality tours.
Some discussion was had, too, around whether or not towns would want to use it to give a tour of their main street options.
Katie Mercer, enhancement coordinator of the Town of Woodstock, said she could see it being beneficial for a town, as long as it was different than what someone could find on Google Earth.
“Maybe this is the first step in that direction,” Mercer said. “But there would have to be a reason for people (to use it).”
Mercer said it could be beneficial to see all of those businesses and what they have to offer, even if it’s just allowing a view from the front door while linking to that business’ website and offerings.
“I could see it from a town level, saying here are all of the things on our main street,” said Meredith Norris, who owns Water and Flour Co. in Woodstock.
Hilton said she plans to meet with Carter about some options in the Strasburg area.
“I think we’re looking at doing things like our river walk, just because people who may have not found us before may not know how long it is and what’s along it,” Hilton said. “We’re looking at it for some of our green spaces, possibly our museum and visitor’s center.”
Cost of the project would depend on the size and scope, possibly ranging from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars.
French said there may be opportunities in the future for a grant program if enough interest in the virtual reality tours came up.
Other new business discussed during Tuesday’s meeting included:
• The start of Shenandoah County’s new bus options, Shen Go, which will begin Oct. 4 with a shuttles running from New Market to Woodstock and another from Strasburg to Woodstock between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
• The use of a new data service, AirDNA, which tracks how many Airbnbs are in the area. French said the data service has found 264 properties. The data service helps find trends of what type of properties are being utilized, which could be helpful for tourism purposes. It will also be helpful for tax purposes, French said.
- A photoshoot will take place throughout the county from Oct. 2-8 and will include shopping, food, scenic drives, horseback riding and hiking for marketing purposes.
- Attending Tuesday’s meeting were Hilton, Mercer, Norris, Dan Harshman, Eunice Terndrup, Lynn St. Claire, Amber Smoot, Barbara Adamson, Jessica Sager, Jennifer Henson, French and Kary Haun.