To say technology is integral to the pre and post-booking experience would be an understatement. You’ll all be able to reel off the sites travellers use for researching, booking – and later reviewing – their trips, now the local travel agent has become an endangered species.
During their stays, guests increasingly expect tablets, smart TVs, wireless speakers or iPhone docks in their rooms. There’s constant pressure on hoteliers to keep pace with the fast-evolving digital world – the early adopters really stand out.
Augmented reality (AR) is set to transform the hotel industry. Its capacity to enhance the customer experience is considerable, and certainly helps satisfy the appetite for planning holidays down to the last detail.
Not to be confused with virtual reality, which requires high-tech headgear, AR is far simpler. All users need to participate is the free-to-download smartphone app Layar, while hotels can commission AR campaigns for as little as £450.
AR bridges the gap between print and digital via a smartphone app, which brings text or images ‘to life’. Printed material like menus, leaflets and brochures can host hidden layers of digital content. Scan a photo of a honeymoon suite, and it takes you there, giving you a 360-degree virtual tour and the option to ‘choose and book’, perhaps with a special offer attached.
It’s fun, immersive and it can boost bookings. It can also enhance the stay of your guest and improve takings at the bar or in the restaurant.
Scanning a room key or room service menu could reveal to your guest an exclusive video interview with your head chef in the kitchen or sommelier in the wine cellar. It could even link through to a code offering guests a complimentary bottle of champagne with their dinner, or send them push notifications with daily menu specials or alert them to the start of happy hour.
Printed restaurant menus would come ‘alive’ when diners hover their smartphone camera over a main course or dessert, with videos showing the dish being prepared.
A host of hotels have already adopted this technology. During the 2012 London Olympics, Holiday Inn launched an ‘AR hotel’ with augmented views of athletes inside their reception and rooms. Meanwhile, Marriott Hotels showed off its futuristic redesign of its hotel lobbies with an AR advert in Wired magazine.
But what are the barriers stopping mass adoption of this technology? Commonly, it’s simply a lack of knowledge in the hotel industry about the realm of possibilities, along with misconceptions about the price. Some 40 million people have downloaded the Layar app, so this is already mainstream technology among guests.
The consumer appetite for technological innovation in the service industry is too great to be ignored. In the hospitality business, where possible uses for AR are so directly beneficial to customer experience, breaching the digital frontier feels like an obvious step in the right direction.
Kaan Aydogmus is the founder of multi-disciplinary design agency and augmented reality specialists Magnetic London