Expedia unveiled a new virtual reality experience today that takes viewers to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to see and swim in the cenote pools that were important pieces of Mayan culture.
The virtual reality experience comes from ExpediaLabs, the company’s testing ground for new travel tech, and is the second one the organization has produced. Last year, ExpediaLabs worked with the Space Needle on a VR experience that included the ability to bungee off the iconic Seattle structure.
“We’re continuing to experiment in the virtual reality space to make travel more personalized and inspire customers to book their next trip,” Brent Harrison, vice president of product and technology for Expedia, said in a statement. “ExpediaLabs has created unique VR experiences, and we’re stoked to let travelers explore the world through these immersive experiences.”
Cenotes are a series of underground pools in caves, daylit by collapsed bedrock. They were important parts of Mayan culture, both as a source of fresh water and as a sacred place.
The cenote VR experience is available for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets through Steam and Viveport marketplaces. Expedia is offering users of the experience $10 off a real-life tour of the cenotes, which regularly costs $79 per person.
Expedia’s VR ambitions date back several years. In 2016, Expedia live-streamed 360-degree virtual adventures to four children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
At the 2016 GeekWire Summit, former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said “I hope that VR in travel fails miserably because I want people to go places.”
He elaborated that Expedia was interested in using the technology as another tool to whet customer appetites for trips. That’s exactly what the company is doing with the cenotes experience, pitching it as a “try before you buy” option.
“I think that VR can certainly play a part in your research in travel and your being inspired to go to amazing places on earth,” Khosrowshahi said in 2016. “From that standpoint, it can be a real positive.”