Immersive technologies have transformed the marketing, production and UX of goods and services of industries across all sectors. The hospitality industry has always been at the forefront of adopting technology into their processes.
From online bookings to digital check-ins, the future of hospitality is forecast to move inline with technological developments.
Initial applications of some of the most innovative and game-changing technologies, namely augmented, virtual and mixed reality - AR, VR and MR respectively - have been used to amplify guest experience in hospitality. Of the most common applications, the use of virtual reality to tour hotel rooms has boosted the industry.
Some hotels have taken things a step further and have leveraged VR in their marketing campaigns.
The Marriott Hotel launched its “Travel Brilliantly” campaign using VR to transport guests from a New York booth to various luxury locations around the world. New use-cases of MR have moved on to new frontiers including in-destination marketing, room entertainment as well as pre-booking processes.
Mixed reality is essentially the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments, visualisations and experiences. In these worlds, physical and digital objects coexist and interact in real-time. Such an environment uses technologies from both augmented and virtual realities. The outcome is a hybrid of reality and virtual reality and the use-cases are boundless.
Augmented reality has emerged and took off as an essential marketing tool across industries. Allowing customers to change the way they perceive the environment they are in is paramount to the hospitality industry, in particular. Hotels, restaurants and bars are ultimately selling a physical environment as part of their experience - which can be enhanced through AR.
Technology company Mesmerise Global crafts AR and VR experiences to blur the lines between reality and imagination. Consider telling the story behind the establishment of a hotel, bar or restaurant through interactive visuals and engaging simulations.
Virtual reality, whilst still breaking into some sectors, is one of the biggest emerging technology trends and we’re still thinking about how it can be applied across businesses. VR has a particular appeal in the hospitality industry since it effectively digitally transports potential and existing customers to a hotel, bar, restaurant or travel destination.
AR investment expected to grow significantly in the next 2 years: (Hackernoon)
Investment in augmented reality has been bleak in the hospitality industry. As of 2017, only 5% of the industry had begun to explore the potential of augmented reality in their services. However, in a 5-year forecast (2 years from now) PwC predict that 20% of the hospitality industry will be investing and dabbling in mixed reality to enhance the experience of their guests and grow their businesses.
The hospitality is not broken. Mixed reality applications, therefore, are used to enhance the guest experience. From convenience to novelty and gamification, mixed reality in this industry is all about making the experience more exciting and efficient for guests.
And what do guests love most?
Personalised services and rewards for their custom.
Available on App Store and Google Play, rewards app, Repeat connects customers with their favourite participating restaurants via an app - where they can unlock rewards for them to redeem and ‘repeat’.
A combination of VR and AR will make it possible for potential visitors to survey rooms of a property, get the information they need including size, amenities, rates and features, before making a booking. The experience is massively improved since guests will know exactly what they’re getting.
The creation of virtual booking processes has recently been put into action by travel companies that allow customers to find flights, compare hotel prices and features and book trips through a VR headset.
Whilst the potential for this is yet to be fully explored, the future of hospitality booking is looking seamless.
One of the most common uses of virtual reality technology within the hospitality sector, hotels in particular, are virtual reality tours. Using AR and VR to allow guests to explore the hotel grounds and location using 360-degree interactive and immersive technology can help guests imagine their stay before booking. When done effectively, it can help encourage bookings too.
Whilst these tours are best experienced with a VR headset, they can be made available on hotel websites or made accessible on social media sites like Facebook which offers a 360-degree video technology.
Hotel rooms are filled with opportunities to make interactive. Digitising hotel rooms also improves the guest experience.
For example, AR can be used to pull up information about individual rooms - such as celebrities who stayed there, information about the artwork on the wall and historical facts about the hotel.
Hospitality tech company - Koridor - has pioneered in the next generation of guest personalisation. Their software enables users to market rooms more effectively and curate features using dynamic content and analytics, while empowering guests to self-select their rooms and upgrade features.
Most hotels have adopted emerging technologies into their rooms, from lighting to sound-systems but AR takes things further through the use of more interactive elements.
The Hub Hotel has recently started using AR in combination with wall maps placed in its hotel rooms. Using a smartphone, guests simply point the camera to the map to find more detailed information on what’s going on nearby.
The current use-cases of MR in hospitality are clearly contributing to a more convenient, enjoyable and memorable experience for guests.
But how far can these applications go? Will mixed reality technology ever evolve to the point where MR will replace the actual experiences of staying in a hotel, fine dining or having a drink with friends?
Innovation in augmented and virtual reality is creating new and affordable high-spec hardware that generates highly realistic and immersive experiences. As the technologies become more sophisticated, some travel and tourism experts have questioned whether hyper-realistic VR experiences might replace the real thing.
Virtual travel, whilst compelling in the height of a pandemic, is unlikely to replace the real tourist experience. This can be said even if additional sensory features are incorporated into the MR rig.
Rather, research suggests that experiencing a destination via VR usually makes a person more inclined to visit the destination or attraction in real life.
Questioning whether MR has the capacity to diminish the appetite for wanderlust seems to be a simple question to answer - no.
But it’s one which we’ll have to revisit in the future as the technologies evolve.
What’s clear and definitive of the future of the hospitality industry, is that VR and AR have the ability to elevate customer experience. As more hotels, restaurants and bars adopt these technologies, we can anticipate deeper, more immersive and exciting experiences as each attempts to gain a competitive edge.