Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and immersive technologies offer guests, hoteliers and hotel staff an opportunity to expand their engagement with a property, its services and brand — drawing on a variety of senses, emotions and visuals.

Virtual reality is being utilized for guests to ‘pre-view’ rooms and hotels, to book and pay for rooms, airline tickets and cars. The more detailed a hotel’s understanding of a guest’s preference, the more customized and nuanced the experience of the hotel and its brand can be.

“Anything is possible,” says Keely Colcleugh founder and CEO of Kilograph, a Los Angeles-based creative studio specializing in visual solutions and branding. These technologies “can craft unique stories appropriate to the brand” and create “indelible memories.” For marketing, virtual tours can include smells and sounds, as well as multichannel ambient sound. In training staff “any degree of unknown” can be addressed.

Colcleugh, who is also the new VP of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators, notes some individuals have difficulty visualizing building developments from photos or images. She says immersive technologies “can place the person in the environment,” which facilitates understanding of sightlines, views and rooms. Stakeholders, Colcleugh adds, can experience the flexibility of spaces for hotel events as well. Rooms can also be “augmented” to meet the needs of a business person or a family.

At Hilton Hotels there was a recent move to simplify and modernize its approach to training upper-level and frontline staff. VR programs using Oculus Rift goggles and a VR-compatible laptop were chosen for ease of use and portability. The VR training allows users to experience the “complexity and physicality of operationalized tasks like vacuuming and plating tables,” explains Blaire Bhojwani senior director Learning Innovation, Hilton Hotels. With a voice command, users can also ask a VR robot concierge, named Vic, for help.

An important takeaway for upper-level staff was the importance of sympathy and empathy, as well as an increased understanding of the complex demands made of hotel staff.

Bhojwani stresses that, in implementing VR training, a business case must be made and it’s key to have a champion who has tried it. To implement a VR approach to training, she recommends finding a “learning company that has an understanding of VR and can produce storyboards that are agile and iterative.” Bhojwani also notes that the cost to implement this technology varies, with production and equipment prices ranging from $500 to $50,000.

Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth’s newly redesigned John Lennon/Yoko Ono room — renowned for the couple’s 1969 “bed-in for peace” — offers guests a multi-sensory experience with memorabilia, as well as audio and video from the week-long event.

The design and experiential components were created in collaboration with Quebec-based MassivArt and Sid Lee Architecture. A pair of VR goggles by the suite’s bed enables guests to experience Lennon and Ono’s view of the flow of reporters and guests during that time.

“It took 14 months,” notes Joanne Papineau, regional director, Public Relations, Eastern Canada, Fairmont Hotels, to create the room from concept to opening. “Visitors love the new experience and museum-level quality of the new design.”

Papineau notes the “availability of capital funds to support product development of these signature suites can be a challenge.” However, response from local, national and international markets has been excellent. Thus, investing in the room has paid off in terms of marketing and demand.

Written by J. Lynn Fraser


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