Saturday, April 29, 2006
You really can sell anything!
A Moscow travel agent who offers virtual travel says that 20 percent of his customers now can't afford exotic vacations but want to look like they can.
For a fee, Perseus Travel supplies used tickets, boarding passes and snapshots faked to show clients in front of landmarks in their virtual destinations. The agency also writes narratives for clients on where they went, the hotels and restaurants they patronized, the sights they saw and the people they met.
"It's virtual tourism," Dimitry Popov, head of Perseus, told the Times of London. "We sell the dream -- and with that comes the social status."
Popov said that the idea came from a marketing consultant, and he thought it was a joke. But he has found that 15 to 20 customers a month are willing to pay several hundred dollars to look like they have been enjoying Carnival in Rio or New Year's in Finland.
"Status is so important here," he said. "If you say you've just come back from Brazil or China, people understand that it cost a lot and that you're an interesting and experienced person."
The original Times article tells the story of "Nastya"—
In September, she bought a two-week “virtual tour” to Peru for £275 [$500], a tenth of the real price. “I wanted to be out of touch,” she says. “And I wanted to make my colleagues think I’d been to Peru because that had been my dream for so long. I’d been telling people for the last year that I was going there. It was a status thing.”
She also hoped to impress her fiercely competitive female boss, with whom she had mutual friends in Moscow’s high-rolling social elite.
Perseus provided her with tickets, a storyline and photographs of her in Lima, the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and the ruined citadel of Macchu Pichu.
And they gave her souvenirs, including Peruvian clothes, jewellery, posters, a carved wooden chess set and some pan-pipes. All she had to do was memorise the storyline, head to the family dacha for two weeks, and book a couple of sessions on the sunbed.
When she returned, friends and colleagues thronged to hear about her adventures. It may have been coincidence, but within a few weeks her boss gave her a pay rise of £165 [$300] a month.
Wouldn't this make the perfect gift for someone you really, really hate?