Augmented reality can help hotels fight off digital competition, says Kaan Aydogmus, founder of multi-disciplinary design agency and augmented reality specialists, Magnetic London
The hospitality industry has never been more cut-throat. So-called ‘collaborative consumption’, aka homeowners letting rooms to guests, has proved more than a short-lived fad and the pressure is on hoteliers to muscle up.
Technology may just be the answer, and I’m not talking about hotel booking websites. The bleeding edge is augmented reality (AR).
Forget high-tech headsets (that’s virtual reality). Augmented reality bridges the gap between print and digital via a simple smartphone app, which brings text or images ‘to life’. In other words, printed material like billboards, leaflets and business cards can host hidden layers of digital content.
Scan a photo of a luxury suite in a hotel brochure, for example, and it takes you there, giving you a 360-degree virtual tour and the option to ‘choose and book’.
AR’s capacity to enhance the pre- and post-booking experiences for customers is considerable, and goes some way to satisfying the appetite for planning holidays to the last detail. The chance to explore hotels in an immersive rendering of facilities – spas, pools, gyms – and ‘visit’ rooms as they would appear in different seasons is as much of a pull for corporate and wedding bookings as it is for individuals.
AR is cheaper and simpler than virtual reality, which requires immersive headgear. All users need to participate is a free-to-download smartphone app, while hotels can commission AR campaigns for as little as £450. Brochures, magazine ads, even room keys can enrich a guest’s stay, delivering useful and local information creatively.
Some hotel chains have dabbled with AR campaigns already, including Omni and Holiday Inn. With the world’s biggest AR app, Layar, having been downloaded around 40 million times, it’s already mainstream technology.
So far it’s posed major challenges for hospitality, but handled right, the explosion of digital might just prove to be the industry’s friend.