Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Virtual Tours Offer New, 360-Degree Perspective

July 27, 2007

Juan Carlos Madriz knows a good thing when he sees it. Sporting a well-starched button-up shirt and khaki pants, he dresses for success, and for good reason. His business is booming.

The recent college graduate and founder of Virtual Works leans toward his laptop at a coffee shop in the western San José neighborhood of Rohrmoser, tapping his finger in anticipation as the computer loads the first images of a virtual tour he developed for Hacienda Pinilla, an exclusive housing development in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

“The timing is perfect. Both real estate and tourism are booming in Costa Rica – both areas where virtual tours are critical,” he says.

Madriz didn’t invent virtual tours – they’ve existed for a few years now, thanks to their increasing popularity among real estate agencies in North America – but his newly founded company has led the movement to popularize them in Costa Rica.

Simply put, virtual tours are self-guided, interactive visual tours of a house for sale, a hotel room for rent, a plane seat for hire or “any physical space,”Madriz explains.

That includes beaches, golf courses, empty lots for sale – almost anything that can be captured digitally with Madriz’s special cameras.

According to Madriz, the photography session usually takes just one day, using a camera that allows him to capture a location from all angles.

The real work comes afterwards, “behind the scenes,” with the programming that allows the user to interact with the images.

Madriz beams with excitement as he takes the virtual tour he created for Hacienda Pinilla. The sprawling development encompasses four white-sand beaches – each with its own tour – and lavish, elegantly appointed Spanish colonial-style villas.

The virtual tour allows close inspection of nearly every detail, from the kitchen sink fixtures to the table lamps, pillows and closets.

No stone is left unturned, says Madriz, adding that the only thing missing in the tour is smell.

“Most of the people in the market for these types of developments live outside of Costa Rica,” he says. “This is the perfect way for them to learn about a place they may be interested in, without having to fly all the way here to do it.”

And the tour isn’t limited to just interior spaces. Madriz double-clicks on one of the beaches, and a dramatic sunset scene appears, waves sparkling in the last minutes of daylight.

“Of course we needed a sunset scene,” Madriz says with a smile as he uses the computer mouse to tour the evening glow on the beach.

But he emphasizes the tours aren’t cherrycoated brochures meant to prop up mediocre locations with brilliant photography. Just the opposite, he says.

“With these tours, you see everything –not just the angle the photographer chose,”

he says.

As an example, he clicks on the backyard of one of the luxury villas. A beautiful, turquoise pool is in the foreground, but then he scrolls up, and, beyond, the dry Guanacaste countryside – less manicured than the backyard – bristles in the distance.

“You can see everything, from all different angles, with these tours,” he says. “It does a lot to inspire confidence in the buyer.”

As the U.S. market matures, more and more people are demanding the tours. Madriz hopes that trend will spread south to Costa Rica.

Recently, the U.S.-based Marriott hotel chain announced its intentions to add virtual tours to the Web sites of all its hotels, Madriz says. He was asked to begin work at Los Sueños, Marriott’s resort, marina and golf course on the central Pacific coast.

“There’s a lot of potential here,” he says. Virtual Works can be contacted at 296-0006 or info@virtualworks.biz, or visit its Web site at www.virtualworks.biz for more information.

 

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