Augmented Reality for Hotels – The Future Is Here

AR evolved a lot over the past year, finding its way in more and more hospitality businesses around the world. Today, hotels find innovative ways to integrate this technology either for services or simply to enhance the experience of their guests.

As AR evolves, hotel rooms will soon be able to offer a fully immersive experience. For instance, the AR “mirrorworld” is predicted to transform a physical environment completely, like an alternate dimension. While laying on your bed in your hotel room, the walls could “mirror” a forest, and the floor could become a grassy glade. While mirrorworld is not here yet, there are already wearables able to display glimpses of it.

“Someday soon, every place and thing in the real world—every street, lamppost, building, and room—will have its full-size digital twin in the mirrorworld. For now, only tiny patches of the mirrorworld are visible through AR headsets,” Kevin Kelly of WIRED reported.

With such technology, hotel rooms can be anchored in two worlds, both real and augmented.

Unlike virtual reality, which replaces the real-world environment, augmented reality keeps you anchored while simple overlaying upon what you see images, video, and other elements when looking through a digital device like a smartphone or AR glasses.

Until technology can “mirror” the world through AR, however, augmented reality is ready to enhance the pre- and post-booking experience of the guests. It is already used for destination tours or guides, smart-room key systems, self-check-in, and other applications. Many hotels and resorts already customize AR experiences to include property tours, maps, and even room service. Hotels can also highlight their most interesting facilities like SPAs, gardens, souvenir shop, pools, gym, and others through animation, information – like opening times, and other data, through AR. 

Augmented reality can also be used to create tailored guest experiences. More importantly, the use of AR in a hotel responds to an actual customer need.

There’s no doubt about it: guests enjoy advanced technology when they stay at a hotel. The Hotels’ Digital Divide research by Alice revealed that travellers favour futuristic tech:

  • 52% would be interested in touring the hotel in AR or VR
  • 56% said they did not want to interact with robots during their stay
  • 43% want in-room technology that can be integrated with their personal devices

Considering the data, it’s very likely that travellers will soon choose a hotel with an integrated AR experience rather than one that still uses traditional technology. The main advantage of AR is that it offers information around the clock.


Creative Ways to Use AR in Your Hotel

In-room Experiences

Just last December, Marriott Hotels partnered with LIFEWTR® by Pepsi for an innovative art project based on AR. LIFEWTR® by Pepsi is the official in-room bottled water in Marriott Hotels across the USA. Part of the new AR experience, upon scanning with their smartphones the customized tags on LIFEWTR® bottles, guests are prompted to open Facebook in-app camera for the AR experience to begin. This will enable guests to customize their rooms virtually with an AR art gallery featuring art from 18 artists commissioned by LIFEWTR®.  Furthermore, the augmented reality experience will allow guests to create their own artworks to customize their virtual hotel rooms. Finally, they can share photos of the AR experience on social media directly from the app.

hub by Premier Inn makes use of AR to guide the guests around the neighbourhood of the hotel. Each room has one of the walls covered in wallpaper with a stylized map. When scanned with a smartphone, the map displays points of interest and additional information about every attraction.


Playful Hotel-grounds Experiences – Gamification

People love quests and games. In 2016, Best Western Kelowna partnered with QuestUpon to offer its guests an interactive wildlife adventure straight on hotel grounds. Called BC Wildlife Adventure Quest, the experience used augmented reality to overlay animals and other wildlife elements around the hotel courtyard to entertain visitors of all ages: a creek with salmon jumping, a grizzly bear looking at the fish, a moose, butterflies, eagles, and much more. The experience is complete with mini-games, trivia, and other dynamic features.

“I began to explore how we could enhance our guest’s Urban Resort experience,” said Brenda Rayburn, director of sales and marketing at Best Western Kelowna. “I wanted to provide a nice release from thinking about business, give a fun experience for guests staying with us on a leisure trip,” she added.


Destination Experiences

This January, TUI partnered with Mixed Reality I/O for an AR experiment in Palma de Mallorca. The project employed AR-powered wearables (glasses) that display information, images, video, and 3D models about local attractions, to help travellers learn more about these venues.


Such use of AR proves very effective for self-guided tours. With deeper content delivered to each wearer individually, AR-powered glasses provide a more immersive, personal experience, without the need of a guide, and even adding an element of fun.

In Florence, Italy, AR is already used through the AR app “Firenze Travel Guide” just like the glasses tested by TUI – when pointed at a certain direction, it will show information about the attractions in that area, and points of interest nearby. The app also works in Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano, Arezzo, Fiesole, Lucignano, and Siena.

In other cities around the world, AR apps already assist travellers in finding what they want to see, from city landmarks to restaurants, museums, healthcare, and other sights.

AR apps are convenient, eliminating the need for printed travel guides (although AR can be used to enhance printed materials, like brochures, posters, and magazines). As technology evolves, they will also be enhanced with even more features and more in-depth information.


Wrapping it Up

Augmented reality is a highly flexible technology, which can be used in a variety of applications, like 360° room tours, complete with information about amenities, availability, and pricing. This type of pre-booking use of AR can be used by the hotel marketing department creatively to attract direct bookings.

By showing upfront all the room features and pricing in a dynamic environment, AR enhances the booking experience for the customer too.


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