By Andrew Sanders
Virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR)? This is the question. The hotel and travel industry is at a pivotal time regarding technological innovation and how it may impact the future. Do travelers want an immersive experience that they can enjoy from their living room? Alternatively, do they want to be educated and informed while on vacation?
While AR and VR have a lot in common, they could also lead us down totally different paths. Augmented reality is a synthetic, computer simulated reality or recreation of a real-time environment where a user can interact with the replicated real environments, whereas virtual reality is entirely immersive.
It is understood that both VR and AR have their unique applications, but right now, the latter is proving to be much more traveler friendly. The use of VR can be very attractive when used as a way to entice a prospective traveler or group buyer to give them visibility into your property look and feel. It can also be leveraged as a proactive sales tool, and in fact – it should be used in this manner. Selling space for conferences, weddings, and larger group bookings can be managed and results delivered with virtual reality. The big shift towards AR occurs when we look at how to impress the physical traveler. When it comes to impressing the individual traveler, augmented reality is definitely where it’s at!
There are many app development companies in the hotel and travel space that are implementing AR into their platforms. The goal of these innovations is to amplify the traveler or guest experience. Including data that is delivered via a mobile solution is certain to pique the interest of almost every leisure and business traveler. AR information can be consumed to make a business trip more efficient or productive, but it is also in place to educate and make a leisure trip much more interesting.
Some of the ways that AR can impact a trip are:
- It can show directions and routes to the tourist.
- It helps to translate the signs on the boards while traveling.
- It gives the travelers a detailed information about sightseeing at a particular location.
- It helps the users to track and guide the locations by adding the layer of AR technology.
- It provides a new cultural experience to the mobile app user.
A great example of this functionality is illustrated in the image below (mtrip):
mtrip, based out of Montreal, Quebec has been in the location guide/technology business for quite some time, and they are beginning to perfect the implementation and delivery of AR to impact the guest journey directly. This is the essence of AR. It needs to be impactful to be widely adopted. It also has to be incredibly in-depth so as not to leave out information that a traveler seeks. It may be the evolution to a predictive environment that ultimately makes the adoption of AR by the traveler or guest a top priority. Once the persona or details of the guest and their individual likes or wants is applied, it will be much easier to deliver relevant information to them. This approach is far more effective than the delivery of just generalized information.
Some of the challenges that face the AR travel world are significant. One of the biggest involves the cost of developing the content. In a Lifestyle Magazine article, Destination CTO founder Alex Bainbridge brought a dose of reality to the Travel Tech portion of WTM in London. He noted that creating high-quality AR and VR content is expensive in today’s current environment and that he looks forward to the time when independent tour providers and hotels can all participate in these technologies. Bainbridge explains, “Technology teaches us something. 10 to 15 years ago a content management system was $1 million now you can use systems such as WordPress for free. When technology is expensive, it’s winner takes all which means the big intermediaries.”
While VR and AR have been a hot topic for a while, the next few years will see an explosion in applications, innovations, and revenues in the category. The travel industry is merely scratching the surface with these technologies, and there is still a great deal of groundwork to be done in delivering the optimal VR or AR experiences. Technical issues posed by AR are of a very different nature than in other technologies. Though the challenges can be overcome, companies delving into this space will need to stay focused on the emerging expectations of today’s travelers and guests in order to successfully develop relevant offerings and meaningful content. They will also need to fully appreciate both the technological and human engineering requirements that are necessary to create engaging solutions that provide value and reach mass adoption.
With technology changing so fast, it’s hard to imagine what’s coming next. Your imagination may very well be the limit and seeing the game-changing potential for augmented reality in travel and hospitality isn’t hard.