This is the first of a series of 4 articles where we’ll discuss how Augmented Reality can be applied to the Hotel Business in order to add value and create new and unique services and experiences that happen before, during and after the guest’s stay.
In recent years, the competitive advantages held by organizations have been shifting, from their products’ quality and value to the experiences that can be provided to their consumers. This new marketing trend can be defined as the “experience economy”, in which consumers value extraordinary and memorable experiences above everything else. Thus, the customer experience has become one of the decisive factors in the business’ value chain.

The way consumers perceive the offered experiences leads not only to an unique services offer but also a value-added one, promoting brand loyalty and a positive word of mouth. There is an increasing discussion of the way in which quality of experience and brand equity are developed in the Hotel Industry. Hotels often use advertising, referral marketing and services marketing to help guests acquire brand‐related information. Hotel guests, in turn, establish their brand knowledge through direct and indirect experiences.

The emergence of new interactive and adaptive technologies, in the beginning of the 21st Century, caused several deep changes in the Tourism Industry and in its subsectors, offering a new array of experiences to consumers. The constant advances in ICTs and computing technologies act as the main drivers in creating new opportunities and changes in several procedures, methods and applications. One of the ways tourist destinations obtain competitive advantages is by investing and implementing new technologies. Augmented Reality (AR) presents itself as of the most promising technologies for modern times’ tourism and its development and implementation can increase a destination’s value and competitiveness.

The Tourism and Hospitality Industry needs to implement added value services based on dynamic, integrated and entertaining technologies as a part of their offer. AR has been able to provide tourists and locals a greater range of personalized services and contents. These technologies allow tourist to access real-time content while visiting a destination, just by adding new visual layers of information to the real world, offering new and highly interactive and dynamic experiences.

Much like the Tourism Industry, the Hotel and Hospitality sectors technological panorama is constantly evolving, providing the need for Hotels and Hospitality organizations to adopt new technologies and keep up with this evolving market and its tech-driven consumers. AR stands as an example of cutting edge technologies that hoteliers should and must consider adopting. Let’s not forget that, not so long ago, hotels or hotel brands that had their own web site were considered revolutionary. With Millennials set to change the customer-makeup in the hospitality industry, adopting AR technologies could set hotels apart from less forward-thinking competitors.

AR applications and solutions enable the addition and overlaying of new digital information layers onto the real world. This capability of augmenting real environments can be used and applied in different ways, for instance, increasing a users’ knowledge about the surrounding environment, assisting in a specific task or assembly process or making static contents become dynamic and interactive.

The use and implementation of AR on the hotel setting has a tendency of becoming more common as guests’ technological skills increase and their expectations rise during the decision making and booking process and the experiential value and component of the hotel business becomes more relevant, directly affecting guests’ satisfaction and future intentions. The recent popularity of AR technologies and use cases has illustrated consumers’ willingness to embrace this new trend, if it delivers real value. Done well, AR could shape up to become among the top hotel technology trends over the next few years.

Integrating AR features, either as a way of promoting services, displaying information or entertaining guests, in the hotels’ native mobile applications can help promote the app itself and increase its usage. This increases the hotel’s opportunity to deliver marketing content to a greater number of individuals and makes guests more likely to share their experiences through their own social media, constituting an additional way of promoting the hotel and its concept and branding. The increase in the hotel’s mobile app usage can also help the hotel building a more complete and detailed guest profile, analysing the guest’s interactions, their needs, accessed content or consumer habits to customize the  offer according to each individual guest’s preferences.

Once hoteliers place AR in their guests’ hands, the technology is only limited by their creativity. Imagine a hotel guest pointing their smartphone in any direction to access information that makes their stay both more convenient and more enjoyable. AR could be used to direct guests to their room or show them where various amenities are located. IT can also be used to create branded experiences, offering an integrated experience that seamlessly combines the physical characteristics of the hotel property with the intangible aspects of the hotel’s concept or brand.

Therefore, AR features can be used by hoteliers in order to engage with their guests before, during and after their stay. An appealing and interactive AR experience can get users to download the hotel’s app, allowing the hotel to make a first impression and create a direct communication channel with its potential and future guests. During their stay, AR can be leveraged to keep guests logged on and use the app on a regular base, building a more detailed guest profile and enhancing the guest’s experience and satisfaction. AR can also be used to maintain guests’ engagement even after they leave the hotel, keeping in touch, updating them on special offers and building guest loyalty.

Today’s guests crave increased convenience and increased innovation. Hotels that do not move forward in these two areas risk being left behind. AR has the ability to transform how guests interact with hotels, both on and off propriety. Dimitrios Buhalis, director of the e-tourism Lab daat Bournemouth University, has declared that augmented reality is where the real future of the hospitality business lies. While its influence is not yet widely visible in many hotels around the world, AR is about to ‘augment’ the hospitality industry in a huge way. So, let’s make it happen!

Over the coming parts of this article we will discuss ways can AR can be applied to enhance guests’ engagement and increase their satisfaction before, during and after their stay.