Virtual reality (and augmented reality) is regarded as one of the most world-changing technologies of the 21st century. While many of the applications of VR are entertainment-based, it’s also businesses that can benefit from stimulating people’s senses with computer-generated images. And the hospitality industry is no different; interactive visual experiences that showcase tourist destinations and attractions creating immersive VR experiences for clients – these aren’t the future, they’re now. So, how can virtual reality be used to enrich your hospitality business? Keep reading for a deep dive into the subject.
What is virtual reality?
Let’s start with a short introduction to virtual reality. VR is a computer technology that uses sounds, images, and physical sensations to immerse a user in a real-like, yet virtual environment. The user feels as if they are physically present in the world they can see at that moment. Most often, the virtual reality experience requires a VR headset that enables users to look around and immerse themselves in the virtual world. With augmented reality, however, something a bit different happens – instead of replacing the real-world environment with a virtual one, it enhances the real-world environment in real-time. Information is overlayed onto a live picture of a physical environment. The virtual and augmented reality industry is expected to reach almost $700 billion market value by 2025 and to further expand into numerous fields – education, healthcare, sport, movies, architecture etc.
Why is virtual reality becoming important in the hospitality industry?
The hospitality industry has been increasingly getting to grips with the potential of virtual reality as a marketing tool that provides customers with a unique experience that stimulates multiple senses. This is especially true now, during the pandemic, when restrictions are still a real nightmare in many countries. Rather than reading through descriptions, customers have a unique opportunity to experience things for themselves through virtual tours of hotel rooms or local attractions. Even when they have already booked a room, they can still receive information through virtual reality, which adds to the general experience of the hotel itself. Technology has the powerful effect of fooling the senses into believing one is present in a virtual world, and today’s consumers are starting to appreciate the possibilities virtual technology offers for their traveling experiences. Virtual reality allows hotels and related businesses to enhance the physical environment they are selling and even create a totally new one to make sure their consumers remain more loyal than ever. There has also been a shift in target demographics in the hospitality industry which has led to virtual reality becoming much more important. The dominant consumer generation is now millennials, most of whom cannot imagine the world without digital technology. All these advancements in virtual reality technology and its increased implementation will continue to impress customers both old and young, as well as being more and more crucial to the hospitality industry.
Examples of how virtual reality can be used within the hospitality industry
It’s probably fair to say that we haven’t discovered the full potential of VR within the hospitality industry yet, but this is sure to change in the coming years. Below you will find some amazing examples of how virtual reality can revolutionize the industry.
Virtual travel experiences
Interactive dining experiences and tours of local attractions – these are the primary focus for travelers planning a trip from home. The use of 360-degree video technology in virtual travel experiences makes it possible for travelers to experience a recreation of various aspects of travel. Flights, arrivals, virtual menus for planning dining experiences, detailed video overviews of your destination and cultural experiences of nearby attractions – these are just a few examples of the experiences you could have with VR. To enjoy such an immersive experience, you only need a VR headset, and you can view 360-degree videos. Swimming with sharks around a coral reef, climbing Mount Everest, a virtual honeymoon in Hawaii or bungee jumping from the Eiffel Tower – which one would you try first? From the perspective of a VR tools provider, don’t you think that being able to capture tourist destinations in such a memorable and immersive way is an extremely powerful marketing tool?
Virtual hotel tours
Thanks to virtual reality, customers have a great opportunity to explore the property they are about to stay at. They do not need to imagine the hotel, browse the internet or search for website images and paper brochures. They can easily (yet virtually) visit the hotels they are thinking of staying at and discover what the hotel restaurant looks like or how well the hotel fitness center is equipped. Virtual hotel tours allow potential guests to take a look at their exact hotel room or other parts of the property before they arrive or even make a reservation. Doesn’t a virtual tour of a hotel rooftop bar or garden sound amazing? Of course it does! Such tours can be experienced with ease using a VR headset or on social media sites like Facebook, using 360-video technology.
Virtual booking processes
Many hotels have already demonstrated the potential virtual reality has to improve booking processes in the hospitality industry. As already mentioned, you can make it possible for potential guests to virtually visit rooms and consider offers or to show them local attractions and give them insights into prospective destinations. On top of that, virtual reality makes the booking process much easier, more effective, and cheaper. With VR solutions, customers can look for flights, compare hotel prices and book rooms through a virtual reality headset. Everything is seamless, costs are reduced, and the customer is more aware of the entire process.
Planning and management made easy
From a guest’s perspective, virtual reality might be a real relief when it comes to planning and management. They can navigate tourist attractions and destinations as if they were actually there, making planning a trip much easier and more convenient – the traveler even has an opportunity to experience a bird’s-eye view of their destination. They don’t have to waste time searching for must-see places online. The VR headset might also be an effective tool for planning activities with other travelers who have VR hardware and apps as they can connect with each other and exchange feedback regarding their previous experiences.
How can hotel business owners benefit from virtual reality?
So far, we have explained the uses of VR for tourists and potential hotel guests. But what about hotel owners? First of all, incorporating virtual reality solutions (interactive media, virtual tours) into your marketing campaign will definitely increase bookings. Your hotel will be more appealing, which helps increase traffic on your website and social media channels. With a high-quality virtual tour, more customers will be motivated to make direct bookings with your hotel – adding direct booking functionality to your virtual tours can really capitalize on this, resulting in faster conversions. You can increase upselling and cross-selling by influencing guests to upgrade or purchase complementary products and services, for example, by offering an upgrade to a client who has just booked a standard room by virtually showing them a deluxe room and demonstrating the difference. Moreover, VR creates a lasting impression! Customers love having the freedom to choose what to view, so if you give them the chance to control their virtual experience, their unique needs will be met. And this is how you win their loyalty, by offering priceless value – not only can potential guests see the unique qualities of your hotel first-hand, but they can also interact with the technology you provide them. So, as you can see, VR can be extremely beneficial in what is a highly competitive industry where customers have a wide variety of options to choose from.