The technology landscape is ever-changing and properties are constantly inundated with new developments to integrate. Augmented reality (AR) is one solution that has been widely adopted in recent years - by brands including Best Western, Marriott and Radisson - with the technology enabling hoteliers to enhance their surroundings and improve the guest experience.
Catering to the growing number of smartphone-savvy travellers, the AR market is expected to reach US$60.55bn by 2023, according to data published by MarketsandMarkets. The hospitality industry is likely to contribute significantly to this growth, with diverse applications of the interactive technology possible across all manner of properties.
What is AR?
Using virtual elements - such as sound and video - to augment real-world environments, AR alters the way users perceive their surroundings. Where virtual reality (VR) immerses individuals in an entirely virtual world, AR allows them to experience an extra layer of information on top of what they already see.
Typically, users access AR by installing an app - on their smartphones, tablets or similar devices - making it incredibly easy for hotels to adopt, as most guests travel with at least one of these gadgets.
Gamification is proving popular as a way of utilising the technology, with viral sensation ‘Pokemon Go’ paving the way in 2016. “The success of Pokemon Go has led to an increase in usage of the technology in the hospitality industry and how [hoteliers] are using AR games to improve the overall experience of staying in a hotel,” says Huibert de Jong, CEO of Xtend, an agency in Oslo that designs and builds extended reality (a mix of AR, VR and MR) applications.
One such property tapping into this trend is Rove Downtown in Dubai, which partnered with escape room company, Escape Hunt, to create ‘Operation Mindfall’ - an experience that leverages the latest technology in AR.
“We were very keen on using AR as it allows guests to interact with different design elements of the hotel without making any permanent changes to the hotel’s interiors,” says Naveen Advani, Hotel Manager at Rove Downtown. “We were able to create an immersive experience that transports players into a different world. Holding a device over a picture brings different characters to life and allows for a more interactive environment. An iPad, an action pack and quick thinking were all we needed to craft the perfect escape room experience.”
On-site restaurants can also make use of the technology, with AR able to transform menus into entertaining experiences - serving as an entertaining marketing tactic that could encourage other guests to visit. Along with this, the technology can also be used to create interactive elements in guest rooms to enhance their experience and offer additional information.
Bringing stories to life
AR also allows hoteliers to enhance the guest experience through the art of storytelling. In the case of New Orleans based The Marquee Resort, the technology creates an interactive lesson in history - tapping into the growing number of travellers desiring an immersive experience. “[AR] enables owners and guests to have a highly personalised experience and can transport them to faraway places - or even times,” says Famous Rhodes, EVP and Chief Marketing Officer at Bluegreen Vacations. “At The Marquee, we wanted to transport them back in time to experience the rich traditions of theatre, vaudeville and story in New Orleans. “Guest suites feature AR installations artfully woven into décor as well as other surprises throughout the space that are revealed through a customised phone app, powered by Inter-Blue,” he continues.
“Guests can download the Bluegreen Vacations mobile app and point their phones or tablets at certain elements in the guest rooms triggering AR characteristics to come to life, telling stories about New Orleans’ famed theatre district. It’s a new way for anyone staying at the property to experience artwork. Additionally, guests’ and owners’ names are dynamically displayed as featured characters on the storytelling script written on the walls of the lobby.”
However AR is integrated, the use of the technology can help properties stand out in a competitive landscape. “AR can really give brands the technological edge that will set them apart from the many properties that exist across the industry,” says Rhodes. “It’s important for hospitality companies to differentiate their brand experiences, particularly if they are looking to win over a younger/tech-savvy crowd. Consumers are becoming more aware of the power of AR technology and it’s important for us to stay ahead of the ever-evolving guest expectations.”
- Augmented reality (AR) is starting to be leveraged by properties in a variety ways, including as a marketing tactic and for gamification
- The technology allows hoteliers to augment their environment while providing guests with entertaining, immersive experiences
- Implementing AR can set properties apart from their competitors by offering a technological edge that can make the brand stand out