Embracing virtual reality in the hospitality sector
While many of us consider virtual reality to be fairly new to the market, the first VR headset was actually created in 1968.
It wasn’t until 2010, however, that the VR industry really started to take off. With the prototype of the first Oculus headset came a new wave of excitement around the concept.
By 2016, the virtual reality industry was in full steam, and all the influential technology brands were investing in VR headsets for consumer release.
Since then, companies from a wide variety of industries have been using virtual reality in one way or another.
From the use of augmented reality to visualise furniture in your home before you purchase it, to training new warehouse staff without interrupting operations—there are many uses for virtual reality in the business world.
But what about the hospitality industry?
How can virtual reality be used in a sector that focuses on the pleasure of adventuring our own reality?
As it turns out, many hotel chains are already taking advantage of virtual technology. Here we look at how hotels are utilising virtual reality and how it benefits the industry.
VR travel experiences
One of the most popular uses of VR in the hospitality industry is for virtual travel.
Typically, the hotel industry is a very competitive market and therefore many big chains have sizable marketing budgets.
Some brands have taken to utilising a portion of their budget on 360-degree video technology to offer virtual experiences of some of their most eye-catching destinations.
For Marriott Hotels, this came in the form of 'the teleporter', in partnership with Academy Award-winning Framestore. In 2014, the hotel chain offered a virtual travel experience tour around the US, demonstrating to the public some of the beautiful places they could visit while staying at a Marriott Hotel.
The Shangri-La hospitality company, on the other hand, now offers virtual tours of some of their stunning destinations and iconic hotels on their official website. Providing both a YouTube video and a link to download, this approach ensures they cater to a wide range of viewers and devices.
In 2015, Marriott Hotels introduced the VRoom Service in two of its hotels—Park Lane, London and Times Square, New York.
The add-on allowed guests in these hotels to order a VR experience as if they were ordering room service.
As it was launched a year prior to the release of the popular consumer VR headsets, the deal consisted of a Samsung Gear VR headset to use with a smartphone.
The VRoom Service had three options of destinations—China, Chile or Rwanda—offering beautiful views and interesting scenery coupled with characters delivering speeches about the thrill of adventure.
While the offering was never expanded, the concept opens up opportunities for more innovative in-room entertainment.
Many hotels have also adopted VR technology by offering virtual tours of rooms and facilities on their websites.
Embracing virtual reality in this way has reinvented how guests shop around for a hotel to stay in. From the comfort of their homes, potential guests can experience lobbies and amenities, and discover with their own eyes the difference between a standard and deluxe suite.
Best Western was one of the first to implement this strategy on their official YouTube channel back in September 2016.
Ranging in length from 50 seconds to 2 minutes, the videos feature music and a voiceover providing further details.
Now virtual hotel tours are a common feature on many hotel websites—including the most luxurious brands.
Anyone, regardless of their budget, can now step inside the most extravagant hotel suites whilst sitting in their own home.
Step inside blueprints
A VR experience doesn’t only appeal to customers.
The ability to visualise something described doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and therefore a VR-enhanced application for investors has also been developed.
In the process of building the Radisson Blu brand, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group created BluPrint.
The application allows investors to step inside the blueprints of a building and experience a 360-degree view of architecture plans.
Virtual hospitality, and more!
The whole of the hospitality sector is embracing VR technology.
Some bars have taken to offering a truly unique experience with some of their top shelf tipples.
The Lobby Bar in London’s One Aldwych Hotel offers customers a pleasant trip to the Highlands to discover the origin of its Scottish whiskey while sipping it.
In a timelier endeavour, a virtual travel company recently introduced what it claims to be the world’s first four-day holiday you can experience from your own home.
As lockdown measures continue, those desperate to travel can do so via Virtually Visiting, who launched their first virtual holiday in the Arctic region of Swedish Lapland in April.
There is no denying that virtual reality technology is shaping the future of the hospitality industry. With its variety of uses, it is possible to apply it to a range of hotel strategies.
And, in addition to raising the profile of the hotel, VR bestows more power on guests to customise their trip. The ability to visualise their stay before they arrive means customers can choose a destination they will love, pick a room based on the view, and pack their bag with the hotel facilities in mind.
And of course, the more a guest is able to personalise their stay, the more likely they are to have a positive experience to share with friends.