Over the course of the last year, virtual reality has gone from a novel concept that seemed pulled from the pages of a sci-fi novel to becoming a major trending topic of discussion for hoteliers. This is in part thanks to Thomas Cook’s “Try Before You Fly Campaign,” and Marriott’s “Teleporter” campaigns, both of which used virtual reality technology to successfully promote travel.
One similar technology that should also be a part of this new conversation is augmented reality.
Augmented reality is a new tool that hotels can easily incorporate into their existing marketing efforts. Augmented reality refers to technology that uses computer-generated sensory input to change a user’s perception of their current surroundings. By embedding what industry experts refer to as “auras” on physical objects or locations, such as a painting in a lobby or a bar’s cocktail menu, hotels can bring their properties to life.
Below are just some of the ways hotels could utilize this technology to engage their guests:
It’s an extension of your concierge
Hoteliers need to look no further than several existing augmented reality apps geared toward travelers for ideas on how they could use the technology. Take for example the app “The Nearest Tube,” which allows tourists in London to locate the closest mass transit stations in any given area by pointing their smartphone in whatever direction they like. Another app, “Paris, Then and Now,” shows users what different sites throughout Paris looked like in the past, taking cues from where the user is standing at that moment.
If hotels included augmented reality features like these in their native apps, it could spur guests to rely on the app as a tour guide, increasing the amount of time they spend using the app altogether, which in turn provides new opportunities for hotels to advertise other services. The more guests interact with the app and the hotel property, the more data the hotel can collect on guest behaviour as well.
Like in the examples above, perhaps the easiest way for hotels to incorporate this new technology is through their existing proprietary apps. Imagine you’re staying at a hotel, and by simply opening the hotel’s app and pointing your smartphone in any direction, you gained access to useful information that enhanced your stay. Examples might include: being able to see the last time a housekeeper cleaned your room or a pop-up map that directs you to the hotel pool.
In a recent article, professor Dimitrios Buhalis, director of the e-tourism lab at Bournemouth University in Bournemouth, England, said, “Augmented reality is where the real future lies. Information will be projected in front of you—using things like Google Glass—as you travel around. It will allow you to customize your experiences based on your needs.”
Most people already own the hardware necessary to bring this technology to life on a mainstream level in the form of smartphones. Mounted headsets and other wearable devices are simply the next step, and hotels could be at the forefront to capitalize on these changes.
The next generation of pamphlets
The tourism and hospitality industries are keenly aware that there is a shift happening regarding the demographic that makes up their key consumer base. Many savvy business owners know that appealing to the internet generation of consumers requires adapting the next generation of technology—and it’s no different for hotels.
Today’s travelers do not want to rely on pamphlets for information, they want to access information on the go, and want things that are printed, such as directories and menus, to be interactive.
Picture sitting at a hotel’s bar or restaurant, and being able to point your smartphone at the menu to see other guests’ reviews and recommendations of various offerings. This function is exactly what augmented reality is intended for—making real-world objects interactive.
Hotels are not alone in this endeavor either. Companies from many other industries are doing similar things to appeal to today’s consumers. Take for example the Japanese publishing company Tokyo Shoseki: The company creates books to help Japanese adults learn to speak English, and incorporates augmented reality into them. By holding a smartphone over specific images in the books, readers can view auras explaining what the words they are learning sound like in English.
The most important thing that augmented reality offers hotels, however, is the image that the hotel is on the cutting-edge of innovation. Using augmented reality will show guests that a hotel is doing everything in its power to satisfy their technology needs.
Augmented reality will ultimately make finding stay-related information quicker and more convenient than ever before. Choosing between a hotel whose native app integrates augmented reality and one that does not could soon be a selling point for modern travelers.
About the author
Abi Mandelbaum is Co-Founder and CEO of YouVisit, the global leader in creating virtual tours and virtual reality experiences for a variety of industries, including hospitality, real estate, travel, events, education, factories, and more.