A gamechanger in tourism: augmented reality (AR)

Over recent times, augmented reality has become increasingly popular within the travel industry. This is primarily because it enables hotels and other businesses operating in this field to enhance the physical environments they are actually trying to encourage customers to visit, including local sights and hotel rooms. Unlike other purchases, travel tends to be heavily researched, as customers require lots of information before they arrive. In addition, this need for information does not stop when the customer arrives. Augmented reality can serve to ensure much of this information is available to them, 24/7, at times it is most relevant. Furthermore, one of the keys to AR adoption within the travel industry has been the general change in consumer lifestyles over the past decade. Modern customers are already in the habit of using their smartphone a lot, even when they travel, so the step towards using augmented reality apps on those phones is not a big one.

 

 The most common use of AR within the tourism industry has been to introduce more interactive elements into hotels, improving the overall experience. Essentially, this gives hotels, resorts and other similar businesses the ability to provide customers with more information on demand. For example, The Hub Hotel from Premier Inn, a British resort, made augmented reality compatible with the wall maps it places in hotel rooms. When viewed through a smartphone or tablet, the wall maps include extra information about some of the local places of interest, serving as a kind of tourist information tool.

Moreover, Augmented reality provide tourist with Destinations: Away from hotel environments, some companies within the travel industry are developing augmented reality apps, which allow tourists to enhance physical locations and tourist attractions. This may allow a user to point their smartphone at a building or landmark and learn more about it, in real-time.

In addition, a user may point their phone at a restaurant and instantly be provided with reviews or menus, or aim their tablet at a historic landmark and be presented with information about its history. This has the ability to greatly enhance the entire travel experience and allows tourists to take in information on the go.

In addition, another interesting use of augmented reality relates to beacons technology, which works through Bluetooth. This particular technology is useful within the travel and tourism industry, because it allows businesses and marketers to send push notifications or enable certain functions when people enter a specific location. Within hotels, one of the best examples of this has been Starwood Hotels using beacon technology to allow customers to unlock their hotel room when they are within close proximity to the door. However, it can also be used to send maps, reviews, menus, special offers or discount vouchers to users at the point they are most relevant.

Finally, augmented reality has a strong link to the world of gaming and the travel industry is starting to take advantage of this too. With the use of an augmented reality app, a hotel or hospitality business can improve the customer experience by introducing an element of fun to their physical environment.

Gaming apps using augmented reality have been used to introduce treasure hunt-style elements to hotel buildings, while Best Western have used AR to allow children to see Disney characters in their premises. For adults, examples have included AR apps which allow users to redecorate rooms, and apps which place virtual celebrities in the hotel.