Lights, Camera, Vacation: Exploring the Rise of Immersive Film Experiences

How innovative tour operators are transforming stories from the screen into immersive experiences, and how other operators can take advantage of this growing trend

Stories have an almost magical ability to transport us into new worlds. We experience this every time we turn on the TV or enter a theater, tune out our surrounding reality, and become immersed in the unfolding narrative before us. But when the credits roll and the story ends, we are often left wanting more.

Enter immersive film tourism. While film tours have been around for a while — enabling fans to see and learn about the filming of their favorite flicks — and filming locations increasingly inspire destination choice for travelers, immersive film tourism takes this to the next level by putting them into the stories. 

Recently at Arival 360 | Orlando, Ana Araque from Imagine Experiences shared just how powerful it can be when we enable guests to step into the life of another character.

“Instead of telling you a James Bond movie was filmed over there, you’re being treated like you are James Bond,” Araque shared of Imagine Experiences’ “Bond For A Day” immersive experience in her breakout session Creating Truly Immersive and Highly Profitable Experiences (available on-demand for Insider Pro Access members).

Imagine Experiences Founder Ana Araque shares how they turn a popular movie franchise into an immersive experience. Araque will be presenting again at Arival 360 | Berlin 2024 in March.

So how can other tour operators take advantage of this opportunity? Let’s look a little closer at immersive film experiences in action. 

The Immersive Experience Opportunity for Operators

Searches for immersive experiences have been on the rise since the beginning of 2021, due in part to the popularity of immersive art exhibits such as Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. But now the label is being applied to every sort of experience, from walking tours to major attractions. 

Google Trends shows a rise in searches for “immersive experiences” as a search term since early 2021

Even giants like Netflix are looking to leverage this opportunity by experimenting with immersive experiences like Squid Game: The Trials in Los Angeles and partnered with Fever to produce Stranger Things: The Experience and The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience, immersing fans in the worlds of their favorite characters.

@strangerthings.exp With our power and heart combined, no one can stop us ⚡️ Eleven and Mike step into the Upside Down together at the #StrangerThingsExperience #StrangerThings #Netflix #Fever ♬ original sound – StrangerThings.Experience

Netflix and Fever partnered to produce Stranger Things: The Immersive Experience

GetYourGuide CEO Johannes Reck also emphasized the growing popularity of immersive experiences as a category for the online travel agency as well in a recent interview with Arival.

In addition to this, an interesting trend that Booking.com unveiled in their 2024 predictions is that travelers enjoy embracing “alter egos” on vacation, with 37% making up stories about their real life to people they meet on their travels. What’s more, well over half (57%) of travelers feel “main character energy” on their travels, with these performers empowered to be the stars of their own life. Fitting with Araque’s definition of immersive as “become the main character of your own story” we will continue to see story and experiences be taken to creative levels over the next few years. 

With travelers looking to add more experiences to their trips according to Arival research on traveler planning and intentions in 2024, tour operators have an opportunity here, by focusing more attention on immersive experiences. So how can you attract these experiences-over-things travelers and their “main character energy” to your tours, activities and experiences? 

ARIVAL 360 | VALENCIA

28-30 APRIL 2025

Insider Pro Access Members Save 20%

THE event of the year for the European in-destination experiences industry

SAVE UP TO €990 as an Insider Pro Access Member

Learn More

Finding the Stories in Your Destination

Every destination has its stories, but not all of them might be blockbuster hits or have a cult following. And while story is an essential aspect of immersion, it doesn’t always have to be a popularized show or movie. We have been seeing a similar trend in literary tourism, where people will travel far and wide to walk in the footsteps of characters from their favorite books. And let’s not discount cultural lore, myths, and legends that have been a strong driver of travel for centuries.

Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Araque recommends putting a twist on the classics.

For example, there are over 93 groups on social media, comprised of two million people around the world, dedicated to James Bond. Tapping into an enthusiastic, built-in market can be incredibly lucrative for experience operators with a passion for a certain film or show. 

Ana Araque uses Imagine Experiences’ “Bond for a Day” to illustrate the potential of immersive film experiences

Is there a story that takes place in your destination that you know travelers are eager to engage with? What are the stories you’re already telling on a tour that could be made more interactive? Sometimes all it takes is adding a sensorial layer to a story to help bring it to life. 

Creating Immersive Moments for Your Guests

Most importantly, what we can take away from Araque’s talk as well as her interview on how Immersive Doesn’t Have to Mean Tech, is the importance of not just telling a story, but immersing guests in it. Also known as ‘story-doing’, this is the concept of making stories interactive and actionable, and most importantly using story to allow travelers to advance their own personal narratives.

As you start looking at ways to tell stories through experiences beyond just using words, you’ll naturally begin to create immersive moments for your guests. When you look at the sensory touchpoints and interactions across your guest’s journey, what can you do to make everything come alive with more emotion? How can you incorporate a bit of theatrics to help transport people into what feels like an intentionally curated scene? Put your movie director hat on for the day and see what ideas arise! 

Immersive Experiences at Arival 360 | Berlin

Join us at the next Arival to dig deeper into experience design, immersive experiences and the latest travel trends and research. Ana Araque will be presenting again at Arival 360 | Berlin 2024 in March on “Creating Immersive Experiences That Wow Guests and Drive Profits.” We hope to see you there!

Become an Insider Pro Access member today and get access to the full library of Arival research, plus many other benefits such as free consulting sessions, special discounts and 20% off in-person events, starting from $179 per year.

GET ON THE LIST!

Sign up to receive insights tailored for the in-destination industry as well as updates on Arival.

Sign Up

Header photo: Pexels / Cottonbro Studio

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

trending

already a member?

Lost your password?

NEED TO REGISTER?

Become an Arival Insider
THE ARIVAL INSIDER PRO ACCESS MEMBERSHIP; YOU GET ALL THIS TO HELP YOU ADVANCE YOUR BUSINESS.

Included in Free Membership

Included in Arival Pro Membership

The Arival on-demand video library archive
Access to the entire library of over 150 video sessions and webinars

Arival.guides
Short, digestible research & trends reports delivering insights into our industry, such as The Tour Operator Outlook for 2021.

Arival.travel articles
Topical articles about marketing, tech, operator business and operator stories in all areas of tours, activities & attractions & experiences

Job board access
Find a job from our regular listings, post a resume to the talent network and learn strategies from the job resources articles

New webinars
Helpful, instructional sessions covering subjects such as Mastering Facebook Ads, Grow Your Business and How To Work With OTAs — topics to help advance your business.

Discounts on all Arival in-person events
20% Discount on all Arival in-person events (save up to $300)* based on business type

Arival ProShield – Insurance program
Access to tailored insurance solutions by Granite Insurance is available exclusively for Arival Insider Pro Access Members. Insider Pro Access Members also have access to a suite of resources from Granite Insurance including templates, forms and other informative documents.

Insiders Pro Access member exclusive webinars
Paid membership-only webinars to deepen your understanding of important industry topics.

Job postings & talent directory
Post jobs & connect with candidates most applicable to your business.

Private roundtables to connect, learn and engage
Small, focused and intimate discussions exclusive to Arival Insider Pro Access members.

Full access to Arival’s library of in-depth reports
Up to date, deep analysis of tourism topics ranging from Self-guided Tours to Sales & Distribution Trends and Outlooks, based on the data that defines the industry.

The latest on-demand videos
Over 350+ on-demand videos featuring hot topics in tours, activities & attractions

Insider discounts in digital marketing, tech, e-learning, and more
Save money on additional tools, services and learnings you need to run your business. Exclusive to paid members.

Membership Overview
ARIVAL CODE OF CONDUCT​
CONFERENCES AND COMMUNITY SPACES​

At Arival, we believe travel can make the world a better place. Our mission is to establish and inspire a diverse community of individuals and companies in the In-destination Industry by providing opportunities to gain insight, share knowledge and build connections. To make it possible for true collaboration, creativity, innovation, and idea exchange to thrive, we are committed to facilitating a welcoming and respectful community for all. This Conference Code of Conduct shares our community expectations and applies to all attendees, employees, exhibitors, speakers, sponsors, volunteers, and other participants at Arival- produced and sponsored events. We empower all participants in our community to actively engage in creating a friendly, inclusive and safe environment for all.

Arival’s core values include the following, and create an expectation for conduct at our events and in online community spaces:

We demonstrate a deep respect for human beings inside and outside our company and for the communities in which they live.
We value integrity and strive to consistently interact with others in ways that are authentic, ethical, and fair.
We are dedicated to transparency, committing to clear, open and honest communication.
We actively pursue and advocate for inclusion, diversity and representation of varying cultural backgrounds, perspectives and ideas

Arival welcomes people from all cultural backgrounds, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, gender (including pregnancy, perceived pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender identity, religion (including religious dress and grooming), marital status, domestic partner status, genetic information, age, national origin or ancestry, military or veteran status, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, or any other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.

Accordingly, participants must refrain from displaying any demeaning, harassing, aggressive, or intimidating behavior or materials that would interfere with others’ experience and participation in our community.

If you witness or are subjected to inappropriate or disruptive behavior or have any other concerns, notify an Arival staff member as soon as possible.

Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will not be tolerated. Arival reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove any party from any event or community space at any time when participation or behavior create a disruption or hinder the event or enjoyment of the event by other participants. All determinations are at the sole discretion of Arival, and the decision of the Arival team will be final. Severe breaches of this Conference Code of Conduct may result in disqualification from participating in future events. Individuals expelled due to violating this Conference Code of Conduct will not be eligible for a refund or other consolation.

If you have questions regarding this Conference Code of Conduct or its implementation, please contact us at [email protected].