HT EXCLUSIVE: Choice Hotels Talks to HT About Its Use of VR Tech at GBTA 2018
In recent months, many hotel brands have announced innovative ways they're using virtual and augmented reality to improve customer engagement. Marriott Caribbean & Latin America Resorts debuted an augmented reality mobile app so that potential guests could view its resorts prior to booking, and Best Western announced that its virtual reality staff training program was one of the reasons why its Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures both guest satisfaction and loyalty, reached a record high of 61.7, an increase of more than 100 percent since 2007.
Now, Choice Hotels has thrown its hat into the VR/AR ring with its announcement that it would use virtual reality tours at its booth at the 2018 Global Business Traveler Association (GBTA) Convention. At the convention, held from Aug. 11-15 in San Diego, Calif., Choice Hotels used its VR technology to give travel managers the ability to experience their brands firsthand and in particular the enhancements it made to its brands that cater to business travelers, including the Cambria Hotels, Comfort, Sleep Inn, and WoodSpring Suites brands.
To learn more about its use of virtual reality technology at the convention, Hospitality Technology interviewed Chad Fletcher, vice president of global sales, Choice Hotels.
HT: Please describe in detail the VR tours at the Choice booth.
FLETCHER: Choice Hotels is a company in a unique position at the intersection of hospitality, franchising and technology. The virtual reality (VR) tours debuted at the 2018 Global Business Traveler Association (GBTA) Convention are just one example of how Choice leverages technology to add value to customers.
Using Samsung Gear VR headsets with Galaxy S8+ smartphones that we supplied at our GBTA booth, Choice invited travel managers to experience a personal, immersive, 360-view of our hotel brands that cater to business travelers, including Cambria Hotels, Comfort hotels, and Sleep Inn. The tours highlighted the substantial enhancements Choice and its hotel owners have made to the brands. The content was created in-house using the Matterport VR platform and was specifically designed for travel managers at the conference so that they could experience first-hand Choice properties throughout the United States and, in turn, feel confident recommending them.
HT: Why did Choice decide to showcase its brands using VR tours instead of more traditional media?
FLETCHER: The Choice booth at GBTA was built to feel like a Cambria hotel, creating an environment that reflected the brand. Choice used VR tours to offer attendees the most visually stimulating, immersive environment possible that truly showcased our products and brought the hotels to life. Without physically being in our hotels, what better way to experience them than by taking a virtual tour where you can feel like you are walking through the lobby, check out the fitness center or dining area, and see different guestroom options.
HT: What is Choice's personal opinion on the use of VR in hospitality? What other use cases does it see for the technology?
FLETCHER: Technology and innovation are part of Choice Hotels’ DNA. We are always looking forward. We believe that virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality all have great potential for hospitality. Choice strives to deliver an exceptional customer experience, and we believe there are some exciting future possibilities, whether it’s testing new on-property or in-room experiences in virtual or augmented spaces. Improving experiences through technology for guests, travel buyers, hotel staff, developers, and corporate teams will always be at the forefront for Choice.