For Marriott, The Future Of Travel Is Virtual Reality
Marriott hotels may have ‘teleporters’ but augmented reality on your smartphone could be the way of the future.
If your idea of a holiday is spending 10 minutes in an octagonal box with a pair of blacked-out glasses on, a Marriott hotel could be your ideal destination.
Last month the global chain launched a new toy to tempt guests: an immersive 4-D virtual reality travel experience in which participants don a pair of Oculus Rift spectacles before being transported to other destinations (and other Marriott hotels, naturally) such as Hawaii, London and San Francisco.
But while such teleporters may be little more than expensive gimmicks, it is part of a growing desire within the travel industry to experiment with virtual and augmented reality.
This year, luxury tour operator Destinology spent two months working with Google to produce StreetView guides to 40 of the hotels it markets, and Best Western hotels announced it would be spending $2m on capturing 360-degree images of 2,200 of its properties for a similar project.
“There’s a very media-hungry clientele out there,” said Professor Dimitrios Buhalis, director of the e-tourism lab at Bournemouth University. “The more you can satisfy their hunger the better. Some people are very unused to travel and want to see every aspect of their trip in advance. If you like to control your environment, the more information you have the happier you are.”
Kevin May, editor of travel tech website Tnooz.com, agreed that offering immersive visual information can benefit hotels and travellers. “Giving consumers who are searching for a hotel on the web the ability to go inside and see how wonderful the pool, the view and the lobby are is great,” he said. “That’s a powerful marketing tool. Hotels and online travel agents are all trying to differentiate [themselves from the competition]. Virtual walkthroughs are something we’ll be seeing more of.”
Augmented reality travel apps for smartphones – such as Paris, Then and Now, which allows you to explore the city with historical images layered over your actual surroundings, are also becoming more widespread. Google Glass, which projects information onto spectacles in the user’s line of vision, is also on the horizon.
For Buhalis, such developments are more likely to take off than virtual-reality projects of the kind Marriott is toying with. We are not, for example, likely to see virtual reality pods as a means of showing off destinations in local travel agents any time soon.
Augmented? Virtual? What sort of holiday do you want to go on?