Marriott Chats with HT About Its New AR Mobile App Portal to Paradise
According to Hospitality Technology's 2018 Lodging Technology Study, 42% of all hotel respondents and 50% of hoteliers that identify themselves as innovators said that augmented reality or virtual reality had potential for hospitality implications. This was recently demonstrated by Marriott Caribbean & Latin America Resorts when it launched its augmented reality app, “Portal to Paradise,” on June 19. The app was under development for approximately six months prior to its launch and has now been downloaded more than 2,500 times. To learn more about the how and why behind the app, HT reached out to Marriott and spoke with Dylan Ellsworth, social media manager, Marriott International Caribbean & Latin Ameria.
HT: Whose idea was it to create this AR app? Why did Marriott choose AR tech in particular?
Ellsworth: Our Caribbean and Latin America Brand, Marketing, and Digital team developed the idea after monitoring and identifying trends in technology that we felt could transform the way people experience our hotels. We were excited about the prospect of augmented reality and its ability to blend the virtual with reality. Instead of requiring VR goggles or other equipment, all a user needs is their phone to create a portal and step into one of our hotels.
HT: What goals does Marriott hope to accomplish with this app?
Ellsworth: Our goal is to give our guests a unique way to experience our hotels and to learn about hotels that may be of interest to them. This technology gives everyone an exciting way to experience our hotels right from their living rooms. Our hope is that travelers are ultimately inspired to book a trip to uncover the Caribbean and Mexico firsthand and this tech provides them with a way to be more informed and inspired in their decision making.
HT: How many bookings have come through the mobile app? Does there seem to be a direct correlation between increased bookings and the app's use?
Ellsworth: The app is primarily designed to increase awareness of these destinations and the properties included in the app. While bookings are not the direct objective, we do ultimately hope that the app will inspire some guests to book hotels. The app is also being shared with consumers to experience paradise from their living room and with Marriott sales teams to help them showcase our beautiful resorts to their customers using this innovative technology.
HT: How does Marriott hope this tech will affect the guest experience, both before booking and after arrival at the resort?
Ellsworth: This technology gives people an exciting, immersive way to experience our hotels for themselves that goes beyond that of simple photos or even video. Guests have the chance to physically interact with the space and really feel what it would be like to be there for themselves. It is also a powerful part of their reflection after the trip, as they use the app to showcase to their friends what their favorite spots were at the hotels. It gives you an exciting way to try out your vacation before you even go.
HT: Why did Marriott start with the Caribbean and Mexico versus somewhere in the U.S. or in Europe?
Ellsworth: Following the effect of Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year, perception of travel to the Caribbean was affected, with people not realizing the many beautiful destinations that were unaffected by the storms. This gave us a chance to showcase these beautiful resort destinations to consumers throughout the globe who may be interested in traveling there.
HT: Does the company have plans to use this type of tech for other properties?
Ellsworth: Augmented reality has promise, and we continue to explore augmented reality and other cutting-edge technologies that can provide value in elevating the guest experience. Currently we are exploring expansion of the app and perhaps including resorts in other destinations throughout the world.