The City of San Jose Parks and Recreation Department was looking for something new and different to increase traffic to our webpage and keep our visitors on the site longer with the hope of increasing revenues.
As our staff is heavily slanted to the Boomer and older Gen-X generations, we decided to recruit some help from the more tech-oriented younger Generation Y. Working with San Jose State University; we developed a Graduate Student Internship position that would focus on making website improvements. While a number of changes were implemented, the most impactful element was the addition of 360 degree virtual tours of our ten largest “Hub” community centers.
Our local City-TV film crew was recruited to photograph and shoot video at each location. Images were focused on the areas most likely to generate revenue: the multi-purpose room, the classrooms, the fitness rooms, and the gymnasiums. The intern worked his magic using a software application called Panoweaver, creating a virtual walkthroughs for our largest and most modern facilities, which were then posted to the website.
The feedback on the initial effort was positive; however our team felt the videos were a bit too jumpy. After looking at the technology options, we made a second attempt using another software application called Tourweaver. This produced a series of images that was easier on the eyes. It also gave us the option of including buttons that linked to the course catalog, registration form, room rental information, and maps.
The final product can be viewed by clicking here.
Shortly after adding the virtual tours to the website, we received a phone call from the Disney Corporation, who wanted to book a room in one of our facilities for a corporate event based solely on what they had seen online.
The project was successful in meeting our goals of increasing both website traffic and Departmental revenues. In April 2011, the virtual tour page got 1,584 hits, while our main page received 11,579. At the moment the tours are only assessable through the main page, so we know that the tours captured the interest of 13% of our visitors and enticed them to further explore our website.
Rental revenues have increased by $132,246, an improvement of over 35% from FY 09-10 to FY 10-11. While we can not attribute this increase solely to the virtual tours, many of our new customers sited the tour as their motivation for meeting with a reservation coordinator.
Guest Blogger Cathy Noonan, CPRP, CPP, CeP, CCT, is a Senior Analyst with the City of San Jose. She is also a LERN Senior Leader currently serving as co-chair of the LERN Recreation Council.