In part one of this two-part series, HT interviews hoteliers to learn why and how they're using augmented and virtual reality to foster loyalty and interact more fully with guests as well as employees. In part two of this series, HT interviews restaurateurs.
In 2014, Marriott Hotels toured the United States offering to "teleport" consumers to either the beaches of Hawaii or downtown London using virtual reality (VR). Marriott said it was using VR to help travelers understand that amazing travel experiences are available to them. Since then, virtual and augmented reality (AR) has become more prevalent and accessible by the modern day consumer. And the practical applications for using AR and VR within the hospitality industry has grown as well.
For example, hotels can market their properties and amenities using VR tours. Potential guests could be swayed to book a room after seeing how spacious a suite is, the spa or fitness center, even the pool.
The Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel is one such company that sees potential in offering future customers a VR experience.
"We are in the creative process right now for our VR web page experience," said Dianne Pepe, director of marketing at Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel. "We believe that the VR component will assist us in demonstrating to our customers what the hotel stay will 'feel' like, rather than just talking at them."
Plus, the average user will spend significantly more time engaging on a VR site than on one that does not offer this experience, Pepe says. The more time a customer spends on a webpage, the more likely she is to book a room.
As VR becomes more commonplace, Pepe sees many possibilities for expanding its VR program. For example, the hotel's Discovery Portal currently offers guests a google map and information on specific points of interest. However, giving guests a mini VR experience tied to that point of interest could better assist them in making their decision on which attractions to visit.
Similarly, St Giles Hotel decided to offer future guests a true taste of what type of travel experiences exist just steps away from the company's global properties. Using Samsung 360 Gear cameras, St Giles had guests and social media influencers film their experience with the local culture. The VR videos are hosted on a St Giles microsite: www.stgiles360.com for all to view. And starting in January, hotel concierges will offer current guests the chance to view these St Giles 360 experiences, which will include St Giles Cardboard viewers, says Abigail Tan, Head of U.K., Europe and North America, St Giles Hotels Group.
"We are testing this currently at a few selected properties and the response has been enthusiastic; guests see the videos as VR city guidebooks," she adds.
Of course, VR is not just of interest to Americans. In fact, VR has become widely popular in China. Knowing this, Intercontinental Hotel Group decided to launch a VR campaign there.
"We noticed that Chinese consumers have shown great interest in VR technology and a strong desire to experience it in every possible way," said Alexander Zhu, director, external communications, corporate affairs, greater china, IHG. "IHG saw this as an opportunity to elevate our guest experience by providing them with simple opportunities to experience VR in the comfort of their own hotel rooms."
IHG offers its hotel guests in China two VR options: public and private. The public area is called a "Vive Zone" and it offers gaming, entertainment and other interactions in a fully immersive digital generated environment. Guests can also enjoy Vive line of VR content through the Viveport application store for a fully digitalized entertainment moment in their own rooms.
Part two of this two-part series will feature interviews with restauranteurs that are successfully using augmented and virtual reality.
Want to learn more about augemented and virtual reality?
At #HTNEXT, Tan will present on the topic: "Engaging Guests by Enabing a Digital Journey." She will discuss how St Giles leverages virtual reality to engage guests and to see from their perspectives, what it actually means for them to “Be Central” in London, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Penang and Sydney. She will also share how the company engages guests in the campaign from the creation and sharing of immersive content, to procuring guests’ videos, and what role virtual reality will play in the company’s overall customer engagement strategy. Tan will explain the process from conception to next phases as well as how St Giles 360 crosses a microsite, app and social media channels.
Additionally, during a general session, Chris Ruff, president of Driven Growth will deliver a presentation on the topic: How Virtual and Augmented Reality Will Change Loyalty & Engagement for Hospitality. Already, creative uses of augmented and virtual reality are popping up at resorts and hotels of all sizes and types. This session will dig into how hotel brands can truly utilize VR and AR in better ways. Attendees will learn how VR can be used to increase brand loyalty as passionately as what was seen during the rise of the PokÉmon Go in summer 2016; how to use the “pull” tech of AR/VR, where users request the experience, with beacon technology where messages and information are “pushed” to guests; and why it’s so important for hoteliers to implement these technologies and differentiate themselves from the competition as they become mainstream. Through best practices and use cases from other vertical industries, attendees will take away from this session what can be done to harness this opportunity now as well as what is coming down the pike.
To learn more about this session or to register for the event, please visit: www.ht-next.com