How Hotels Are Using Beacons and Augmented Reality

The technology landscape in the hospitality industry is constantly evolving. There is a perpetual need for hotels to adopt the latest technology, or risk falling behind the competition. Two emerging technologies in particular that hoteliers should consider adopting are beacons and augmented reality.
Beacons are special augmented reality technologies that use low-energy Bluetooth connections to communicate with smartphones and tablets. Businesses and individuals can place beacons on physical objects or in physical locations to push out information to these devices.
Augmented reality (AR) is a cousin to virtual reality, and uses computer-generated sensory input to alter the way users perceive their current environment. This is achieved through a dedicated AR headset, such as Google Glass, or with the use of a smartphone.
The most significant factor driving the need to adopt new technologies like AR and beacons is a shift in demographics. Millennials are becoming the largest segment of consumers with disposable income, and are estimated to spend $4.1 trillion annually by 2020. Additionally, about 52 percent of Millennials rank far above or above average for technology adoption. Augmented reality and beacons are two ways hotels can show tech-hungry Millennials they are doing everything they can to stay ahead of the curve. In fact, a number of hotels are already using these technologies. Here, Abi Mandelbaum, co-founder and CEO of YouVisit, shares some hotel use cases of these two emerging technologies.
Beacons in play at properties
Large and small hotels around the country have adopted beacons, including The James Hotels, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Marriott International. In 2014, The James Hotels, which has locations in Chicago, Miami, and New York City, released the James Pocket Assistant, which was designed to act as an e-concierge. The app allows guests access to special offers, view maps, contact the hotel, and request services. In addition, the app lets users take a self-guided tour of the hotel’s art collect and notifies users of special offers and perks based on their location on the property.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has tested beacon technology in two of its properties. After installing the Starwood Preferred Guest App, guests receive a virtual key on their smartphone that allows them to unlock their room’s door by tapping a button.
Starwood is now also testing beacon technology in 30 of its hotels and resorts. One of the goals of the technology is to help concierges greet arriving guests by name, accelerate the check-in process for frequent guests, and let housekeeping know when guests are still in a room.
Marriott International hotels are also using the technology; last summer, they debuted LocalPerks—a hotel loyalty program that incorporates beacon technology—at three of its hotels. Like other hotels that have incorporated this technology, guests must download the hotel chain’s app and opt-in to the experience.
LocalPerks presents guests with tailored localized offers, ranging from food and beverage to spa and golf deals. At the time of the launch, there were plans to include offers from local businesses surrounding the hotels. Recently, Marriott extended the program to another dozen locations, bringing the trial program up to 15 hotels.
Augmented reality enhances guest experiences
Augmented reality could be a powerful tool for any hotel’s marketing campaign. However, it hasn’t been as widely tested or adopted as beacons. While beacons push information to a user’s smartphone, augmented reality allows users to overall information over the real world in a passive way.
The Hub Hotel from Premier Inn, the U.K.’s largest lodging chain, is one of the few properties that has incorporated the technology. Each hotel room at the property includes a wall map of the surrounding area. Travelers can point their smartphone at the wall and view information about local points of interest.
With the example of the Hub in mind, hoteliers could potentially use augmented reality to enhance brochures and other printed materials. Picture sitting at a hotel’s bar or restaurant, and being able point your device at the menu to see reviews and recommendations of various offerings. Other practical uses for the technology would be allowing guests to see the last time their room was cleaned, or a pop-up hotel map.
If hoteliers need more inspiration for finding ways to incorporate augmented reality into their properties, they should look to augmented reality apps geared toward travelers from neighbor businesses in the hospitality industry. The app The Nearest Tube helps tourists in London find the nearest mass transit stations in any given area, while Paris, Then and Now shows users what different sites throughout Paris looked like in the past.
With Millennials set to change the customer-makeup in the hospitality industry, adopting these two technologies could set properties apart from less forward-thinking competitors.
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