In any crowded marketplace, those who seek to innovate and evolve are more likely to go from strength to strength. That’s certainly the case in the hospitality and tourism industry, with travellers now able to scan through literally hundreds of thousands of hotel resorts at the touch of a button. The rise of peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Airbnb has also meant that, if your resort does not stand out from the crowd and keep up with emerging trends, how can you expect to retain and attract new business? Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two of the main buzzwords in tech throughout 2018, with the ability to create immersive virtual worlds and use AR to enhance our perception of the physical world around us. A host of the world’s biggest and best hotel resorts are seeking to embrace VR and AR to enhance guest experiences.

Millennials

Las Vegas’ MGM Grand is one of the most iconic casino resorts on the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip. With a 24/7 casino floor, live entertainment and exclusive nightclubs, four swimming pools, multiple fine dining restaurants and much more, it’s a great place to let your hair down in Sin City. The MGM Grand is one of the first resorts in Nevada to embrace VR, adding another string to its entertainment bow. VIRTUAL REALITY, powered by Zero Latency, is an exciting new VR arena, where up to eight players can enter to compete and battle together wirelessly. It appeals brilliantly to the millennial generation that craves immersive experiences and adventures. Land-based casinos in Vegas – and iGaming brands – have always been ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Betway says that Vegas blazed a trail for color video displays on slot machines back in 1976, revolutionizing the old-school spinning reels or drums. Online casinos have also strived to bring land-based casino experiences to their online customers through live-streamed dealer games, managed by professionally-trained dealers and croupiers. It was essential for the iGaming industry to adopt live streaming as the millennial generation has embraced it fully, with Markets and Markets anticipating the live video industry will be worth $7.5 billion by 2022.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts have recently been named as one of the ten most innovative companies in AR and VR, according to a recent report by Fast Company. The brand, which operates a global chain of hotel resorts around the world, was recognized for its VR initiatives. The Best Western Virtual Reality Experience (BWVRE) utilizes VR to redesign the way in which prospective guests view and shop around for their hotels. Potential travellers can discover all aspects of hotel areas well in advance of their stay, with 3D 360-degree videos providing interactive tours of every resort. Best Western is also adopting VR simulators to help improve the expertise of its staff, with front-of-house, maintenance, housekeeping and hospitality staff encouraged to use the ‘I Care Every Guest Every Time’ initiative to help them improve their interpersonal and guest communication skills.

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VR Postcards

Best Western’s competitors, Marriott Hotels & Resorts were one of the first to adopt VR-based guest services way back in 2015 – which seems like a long time ago in the context of the VR industry. Marriott’s own VRoom Service allowed hotel guests to order VR experiences directly to their hotel rooms. Guests were provided with a Samsung Gear VR headset, along with a set of headphones, to enjoy inspiring VR experiences that pushed the boundaries of their imagination. Marriott then launched an alternative VR travel content platform, VR Postcards. These have proved particularly effective at painting a picture of specific destinations, with immersive travel stories of everywhere from the Andes Mountains to the 100-mile-an-hour streets of Beijing that stir the senses. Marriott successfully trialled the VR Postcards software in New York and London for its Marquis and Park Lane hotels.

Recent figures from Aardvark360 suggest that 92% of internet users believe a 360-degree view of prospective hotels and resorts is ‘essential’ before booking online. VR technology not only provides a desirable ‘wow factor’ for hoteliers, it puts the power in the hands of consumers that increasingly use mobile devices as a vacation essential. By making their businesses more accessible online, potential guests have the ability to experience every angle and aspect of a resort without having to commit their hard-earned cash first. Hotels that can fuse this with a VR Postcard-style service will help sell their destination and the benefits of the surrounding area to more tourists. As we’ve already touched upon, the millennial generation – which is now the biggest consumer base for brands to target – is obsessed with experiences. They prefer to spend their money on a trip that stirs their cultural senses rather than fork out on lavish goods. It’s a sign of the times that we’re heading towards a service/experience-based tourism industry.