Why Hotels Must Make Room for Virtual and Augmented Reality

While virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) were once reserved for sci-fi films and video games, today many hotels have no reservations about using these advanced technologies as powerful marketing tools. In the past few years, these technologies have greatly improved and their costs have come way down, which is leading more travel and tourism brands to integrate VR and AR into their marketing strategies.

To help hotels discover the unlimited marketing potential offered by VR and AR, we’ve shared a closer look at some of the exciting and eye-opening ways to start exploring these advanced technologies.

Discover the Value of VR and AR
Now that more and more hotel and travel brands have gotten comfortable with digital technology, the entire industry is finally enthusiastic about using virtual and augmented reality to take their travel marketing to the next level. In fact, CNBC recently reported that these technologies could completely transform all aspects of tourism.

While both VR and AR can deliver stunning immersive experiences, each concept has its unique distinctions that are important to understand when selecting which ones to use.

According to business2community.com, virtual reality is a computer-simulated reality that enables users to virtually interact with real or imaginary places, people, and objects. In comparison, augmented reality takes virtual reality one step further by integrating it with real life. Essentially, VR takes users into an alternate reality, while AR lets users experience the real world with additional sensory content.

Both of these technologies are available at different levels, from basic experiences viewable on mobile devices to advanced offerings that completely immerse all of a viewer’s senses in simulated sensations. And both can be extremely valuable to hotels and travel companies for all types of sales and marketing purposes.

Giving Travelers a Chance to “Look Before They Book”
Virtual and augmented reality hold enormous marketing potential for hotels. Industry experts say the primary opportunities for VR revolve around helping travelers decide where to visit. On CNBC.com, travel industry experts explained that this can be especially beneficial to newer or smaller properties, as well as hotels in more obscure or less-popular destinations, because it can allow them to expose travelers to their appeal.

VR can provide travelers with the opportunity to virtually experience a particular travel destination or hotel before they plan a visit. It can be used by both hotels and travel agents as a sales and marketing tool to tempt travelers to purchase special travel packages.

Some forward-thinking hotels and travel companies have already found success with VR and AR technology. One early adopter was Marriott Hotels. In 2014, the global hotel chain debuted its first completely immersive 4D VR travel experience called The Marriott Teleporter. The virtual experience is viewed through an Oculus Rift headset while the user is inside a special Teleporter station that adds the sensations of touch and smell to the visual experience.

The following year, Marriott introduced VR Postcards. This is a virtual travel content platform that enables potential visitors, guests, and the public to experience personal travel stories in 360-degree 3D through a special VR headset. Each of these stories shows an actual traveler taking a journey to an exotic location. The technology allows the viewer to virtually experience the traveler’s destination and listen to their intimate stories to learn about what travel means to them.

In an effort to reach Millennials, DigitalTrends.com reported that Residence Inn launched an AR social program called Residence Inn Mix in 2015. It was designed to allow guests to interact with AR entertainment experiences. After downloading a special app from Blippar, guests could aim their smartphones at specified beverage coasters to access customizable selfies, interactive trivia games, recommendations for food and beer pairings, and more. The program added a fun and unique social element to the Millennial guest experience, which helped Residence Inn stand out from its competitors.

But VR and AR can be valuable to more than just hotels. In 2015, the tour operator Thomas Cook started using AR in ten of their store locations in the UK, Belgium, and Germany, to enable customers to virtually experience a helicopter ride above New York City. After just three months, this AR campaign led to a 190% increase in New York City excursion revenue.

And just last year, China’s leading travel tourism agency Zanadu opened the world’s first VR travel concept store, which is now the largest travel store in China. The retail location seamlessly integrates 360-degree VR travel experiences with digital POS terminals, mobile e-commerce, and social media. The store was designed to display future travel, from the ways people can find travel inspiration and information, to how they can select and purchase their trips.

Today, more and more hotels are adding VR and AR elements to their websites. These technologies make it possible to provide a closer look at the hotel experience that guests can expect. For instance, some hotels are using AR to offer travelers 3D virtual tours of their properties. And others are using VR to display previews of upcoming hotel properties, as well as the impending results of current property updates and renovations. These technologies allow travelers to get an upfront, personal look at a hotel and a sense of the experience they can expect by booking.

Providing a Clear View of a Hotel’s Unique Selling Points
With competition among travel brands at an all-time high, hotels need compelling and effective ways to stand our from their rivals. It can be challenging for hotels to distinguish themselves from competitors through mere photos, marketing collateral, or branding campaigns.

According to TravelTripper.com, what drives a traveler’s decision to book a hotel is the experience it provides. And both VR and AR can allow travelers to virtually experience every aspect of a hotel before they ever arrive, from entering the lobby, to lounging by the pool, to exploring the local attractions. These experiences provide travelers with a better sense of the hotel experience and allow the hotel to virtually sell itself.

Both VR and AR are already providing innovative sales and marketing opportunities to hotels, travel brand, and tourism firms all over the globe. There’s no limit to the ways that these advanced digital technologies can be used, which is why they offer hotel marketing professionals a world of lucrative opportunities.

Explore the latest hotel marketing tactics. Contact MDG today.

MDG, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top hospitality marketing companies and branding firms. MDG’s core capabilities include advertising, branding, logo design, creative, infographic development, digital marketing, creative media planning and buying, radio and TV advertising, website design and development, email marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, and SEO. To stay on top of the latest trends in hotel marketing and advertising, contact MDG today.