Virtual reality is one of the hottest buzzwords in hospitality and technology right now. The trend is a natural progression following the internet’s love of video, and now VR hopes to bring realistic interactive video to life. VR quickly came into the spotlight as companies like Samsung released new technology and Facebook announced they had a social virtual reality team. It’s not a surprise that everyone wants to talk about their future plans for the new tech.
Now hospitality brands from Best Western to Hilton to Marriott are creating new experiences for their guests. Here, we’ll walk through the different ways some brands are using VR and who’s already got the ball rolling.
Why should businesses even care about virtual reality? Virtual reality (fully immersive experiences) and augmented reality (partially immersive experiences) are expected to produce $150 billion in revenue, $120B from AR and $30B from VR, according to Digi Capital. Many industries, including hospitality, are trying to ride the wave straight into new revenue. One day, travel brands hope that VR/AR will help produce more bookings, provide entertainment, and produce new activities that will generate more revenue.
Consumers need a lot of information to inform their travel purchases. As video and pictures help people make decisions right now, more immersive experiences like 360 video, virtual reality headsets, and other technology will have an impact. The thinking is that a traveler can put themselves right there on the property or in the activity to see if it meets their wants and needs. We’ve previously written about how important it is to set the right expectations, and virtual reality and augmented reality have the ability to paint a clear picture. In short, VR/AR will help leave little to the imagination, but in the best way possible.
Hotels like Best Western, Shangri-La, and Carlson Reizdor are using VR as a tactic to sell before guests arrive at the property, according to Skift.
Virtual reality, at its core, is entertaining and the possibilities are seemingly endless. Hotels and other travel brands can use VR and AR to show people what local activities and attractions look and feel like. For example, say your concierge recommends the local hang gliding experience, but the guest wants to check it out before they go. VR can offer an unparalleled example of what a guest can expect. As mentioned above, it takes away the uncertainty travelers may have.
When people travel, they’re out of their element and virtual reality can help make people feel more comfortable. Currently, I have not heard of anyone offering this particular experience, but this type of experience seems compelling.
Virtual reality also has the ability to completely transport guests to every corner of the world, or even out of this world. Marriott tested out virtual reality at there New York and London properties, according to Skift. They created three VR experiences in Chile, China, and Rwanda. Marriott has gone all in on their content marketing this year, so their head-first approach to VR is expected.
It’s also an interesting and different concept. A traveler goes on vacation to a city like London or New York, but instead of experiencing the city, they are transported to an entirely different location. Personally, I think that’s a tad odd, because you might as well be in your home than travel to another city to then experience a different place.
You can also imagine the possibility of a hotel or other business offering “travel” experiences to fantasy worlds. Imagine exploring a completely different world as if you’re in a movie, but unlike a movie, you can control everything going on around you. VR reality games will also have a huge impact on the industry and we expect hospitality to play into that as well.
Amusement parks are outfitting their roller coasters with VR headsets that transform the entire experience. At Six Flags New England, roller coaster enthusiasts can ride beside Superman as you climb, dive, twist and turn, outlined Skift in a recent article. And imagine if riders were able to choose their own ride. Three people could ride the same roller coaster, but one is riding through the Amazon rainforest and another is white water rafting. The creative possibilities are endless.
While virtual and augmented reality have not gone mainstream yet, there is at least one thing you can do now. Google offers their street view service to businesses. Street view is a 360 photo sphere that shows the surrounding area from every perspective. Google started Street View to go down streets to make getting directions easier. They now offer the same services and have added interior shots.
On their Street View request page, Google shows specifically how hotel street view shots will look in Google Searches. The 360 photo sphere will appear next to the pictures that guests currently see. When you hire Google to do the shoot, the video also appears in Google Search and on Google Maps.
Other virtual reality solutions remain expensive and probably out of reach at this time. It will be interesting to see how VR plays a role in the overall market in the next few years.
The virtual and augmented reality trend in hospitality is in its infancy. With the current state of technology, only large brands like Marriott and Hilton will be able to capitalize on the experience. However, we expect technological adoption to be fast and soon more widespread solutions will become available. It is a fun and interesting time to see all the new technology enter the hotel and hospitality space. We look forward to watching this trend grow in the future.