The Perillo Tours long-running television advertising campaign is so well known that Adam Sandler parodied the company’s iconic commercials on “Saturday Night Live” (he used the name Romano Tours, but everybody knew what he was referring to.) The company, founded in 1945, was a pioneer on television ads, with long-time CEO Mario Perillo delivering the message that the tour operator was the best choice for trips to Italy.
It also claims to have pioneered video streaming as a travel market medium nearly 20 years ago.
Mario’s son Steve has taken on the mantle of pitchman, but he has now moved the company beyond television into virtual reality (VR). In 2018, Perillo and veteran travel industry marketing and sales executive John C. Graham started Perillo Travel VR, which was later changed to Travel World VR (TWVR). The reason for the change, according to Graham, who serves as president of TWVR, was to avoid confusion in the industry about TWVR being just an Italy-centric company. He said TWVR works with destinations worldwide as well as all categories of travel suppliers.
Graham said he pioneered video streaming at a company called Media On Demand. The new technology allows travel companies to provide an immersive, 360°/VR pre-travel experience for both travel advisors, meeting & incentive planners and their clients, the consumers. It allows for viewing on smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and VR headsets.
The company had been producing VR videos until the pandemic, which temporarily stopped the ability to shoot videos. Still, the launch has moved ahead, with TWVR sending out 5,000 cardboard and plastic headsets to travel advisors and meeting and incentive planners that enable the viewing of VR on mobile phones.
While that tool is not ideal, said Perillo, it does pique peoples’ interest. The company wants to take the new technology to the next level where phones are not needed. Instead, videos will be incorporated into a headset that can store two hours of video content.
VR will help consumers decide whether or not to travel and, if they do, where they want to go, Perillo said. He even sees significant opportunities for people who will never actually travel for physical or financial reasons. “When the technology works, you are kind of convinced you are there.”
As a gesture of good will, during the pandemic, TWVR has been hosting travel supplier videos on its TWVR app for free. That allows suppliers to continue to engage with their audience of travel sellers and their clients. It’s also a good way for the app to build inventory.
TWVR also acts as a production company, creating videos for other travel suppliers. While there are many companies doing similar things, said Graham, TWVR is the only one that specializes in travel. He said VR also works for training industry employees.
Suppliers that affiliate with TWVR will benefit from support including four email blasts to 127,000 travel advisors promoting suppliers' videos, four email blasts to 53,000 meetings and incentive planners in North America, and nationwide print and digital travel trade promotion. The supplier’s VR video will also appear on TravelWorldVR.com.
Perillo sees a future for VR and other pandemic-driven technology when things return to “normal.” He believes Zoom calls will continue, noting that one-one-one virtual meetings at the recent U.S. Tour Operators Association went very well. Demonstrating the family’s commitment to the VR technology, Perillo’s nephew Devin Buonanno, the fourth generation of the family in the business, is working on the project.