2023 will see a VR boom in the hospitality industry, with multiple uses for this technology, from self-guided tours to educational content and beyond.
Why Virtual Reality for Hospitality?
VR is a cutting-edge technology with a wide array of applications and benefits for the hospitality industry. It has many advantages for both businesses and customers.
Several studies support the equivalence between VR training to face-to-face training. In addition, VR offers economic savings, cutting travel expenses and even the cost of face-to-face training in both man-hours and salaries for trainers.
In hospitality, VR offers an excellent medium for teaching soft skills to customer service and managerial teams. Moreover, it is a safe space, according to Harvard Business Review:
"VR shows a unique balance across experiments — it is immersive enough for people to take the training seriously, but also a safe environment where learners are less self-conscious about speaking frankly compared to talking to real people."
Employee training: Walmart has used Oculus VR headsets to train its employees across the USA since 2017. The company has already trained over one million Walmart associates using virtual reality. They observed that VR makes training and learning fun and experiential, boosts confidence and employee retention and improves test scores by 10 to 15%. The VR training modules also increased employee satisfaction by 30%.
Reduce interruptions to the regular business flow: Using VR, Walmart shortened training time for training associates by 96%. They have more than 30 VR training modules covering different scenarios to prepare employees for special situations, like Black Friday and responding to angry shoppers without disrupting customers on the floor.
Increase customer satisfaction: Well-prepared employees provide better customer support with understanding and empathy. A good VR customer service training program featuring real-life scenarios teaches employees how to deal with unhappy customers and complex situations. Ultimately, VR can enhance the customer service culture, boosting customer satisfaction outcomes.
To give you a concrete example from the hospitality industry, in 2016, Best Western reported a 71% decrease in customer complaints and a 20-point rise in customer satisfaction after implementing VR customer service training for front-desk employees.
Hilton uses Oculus and SweetRush to develop empathy and appreciation for front-line hotel service delivery through VR scenarios that help train hotel staff to handle challenging interactions with guests.
Improve brand culture: Communicating brand values is more accessible through VR training programs. VR-based immersive learning can better communicate brand values and improve brand consistency across the customer experience.
VR Trends and Use Cases in Hospitality
Experts consider VR and AR (augmented reality) the trends that will shape the future of hospitality beyond 2023. However, hospitality professionals have used the technologies for decades now. For example, some eight years back, Mariott Hotels utilized VR technology to give newlyweds (and guests) a virtual travel experience (honeymoon) to London and Hawaii.
Still, VR was costly, and as it becomes more accessible to both users and businesses, we can no longer overlook - nor deny - its future as a mainstream marketing tool.
There are already multiple uses for VR in the hospitality industry - for example, VR hotel tours, already offered by many hotels on their websites through 360° media using Google's VR View and made accessible from browsers without any special VR hardware. These browser 360° tours are also compatible with VR platforms.
VR theme parks are nothing new, either. For example, Disney opened its DisneyQuest VR theme park in Orlando in 1998 to give tourists a unique, thrilling experience. Although the park closed in 2017, it was innovative at its time. Today, the world's largest VR theme parks are the VR Star Theme Park in Guizhou, China, and the Virtual Reality Park at the Dubai Mall in the United Arab Emirates.
VR hotel replicas in the Metaverse are gaining momentum now, with Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel and Conference Center paving the way for this trend. Marriott partnered with RendezVerse to create a digital twin of its Madrid flagship venue. And this is just the beginning.
"Hotel spaces of any size, either in the meeting industry or the luxury industry, will eventually digitize totally and offer virtual environments, and we are at the start of that mountain of building those virtual environments," said Worldwide Events founder and CEO Peter Gould.
Worldwide Events launched RendezVerse in January 2022.
Experts already consider 2023 as the year that will start a wave of investment in the Metaverse for the hospitality industry and a plethora of other businesses.
Another emerging trend in VR with applications for the hospitality industry is the VR payment experience developed by Worldline and premiered at the ITB Innovation Radar in March 2023. According to its developers, this payment solution provides a simultaneous multi-factor authentication method for payments in virtual reality. Users no longer need to remove their VR headsets to make a purchase.
While these are still emerging trends, we must recognize VR's potential in marketing, customer satisfaction, and business operations. VR is not a fad - it will make or break a business's relevance in a tech-first market in the upcoming decade and beyond.