How virtual reality (VR) is changing the hotel industry

Person undertaking VR hotel training

The competitive hotel industry has always been at the forefront of innovation, with hotel brands constantly seeking new ways to enhance guest experience. In the past decade, Virtual Reality (VR) has emerged as a powerful tool for hotels to offer new ways of engaging with their customers.

Now with recent developments across Metaverse and machine learning technologies expanding the possibilities of VR, we can expect to see adoption accelerating in the coming years. According to data, the use of Augmented Reality (AR) and VR solutions in the hospitality industry is expected to grow at a CAGR of 34.2% from now until 2028.

VR technology is currently being used in a number of innovative ways within the hotel industry: in destination marketing, room tours, employee training and recruitment. Plus, hotel brands are just at the forefront of engagement with Metaverse. Let’s start by taking a look at all the applications of VR in hotels in more detail.

Virtual destination marketing and promotion

One of the biggest benefits of VR for hotels is its ability to create immersive marketing experiences. These can be used to entice customers to come and visit a destination, or to offer guests unique samples of local life after they’ve already arrived.

In 2017, Marriott showcased their first ever VR in-room travel guide they named the ‘VR Room Service’. Guests in two Marriott hotels in London and New York were offered in-room headsets, pre-loaded with ‘VR Postcards’ that showcases creative travel experience content from Rwanda, China and Chile.

In addition to allowing guests to sample other Marriott hotel destinations, the VR Postcard experiment enhanced Marriott’s branding as a hotel focused on new innovations and exceptional customer experience.

Using VR, hotels, travel agencies and destination marketers are already showcasing select local attractions, properties or events in a full 360-degree view, offering a sample of the guest experience in a way that’s fun, attractive and memorable. By creating a VR experience that allows guests to ‘try out’ the destination prior to travelling there, brands can capture their attention and potentially increase booking rates and revenue.

UK-based company Visit Wales, for example, has used VR to create accessible and engaging 360 degree videos of dolphins and kingfishers in attractive locations, with the aim of increasing bookings of wildlife attraction tours. After publishing the VR videos, Visit Wales recorded a 60% increase in tour bookings.

Virtual reality hotel tours

Another way that hotels are using VR to good effect is to provide virtual tours in 360 degrees of hotel rooms, facilities and unique locations. Virtual tours allow hotels to showcase their property in a more immersive way than traditional photos or videos, which can help them gain an edge over competitors who don’t use this technology.

There are two main ways hotels can benefit from VR tours. Firstly, VR tours allow customers to explore hotel rooms, event spaces and suites in 3D before booking: giving them a better sense of the space, layout or important features of a room such as wheelchair accessibility. This is a particularly helpful tool for guests who may be booking hotel facilities for events or conferences, and who need to know in advance the room features and capacity.

Secondly, VR hotel tours create an opportunity for hotels to market their unique location, activities, brand or customer service directly to guests. When a VR tour is done correctly, it can be used to speak directly to guests, create a calm, warm or inviting atmosphere and create buzz around a new hotel location, activities or product offering.

For example, one VR tour developed by Vythiri Resort, Wyanad, creates a meditative ‘getaway’ atmosphere to entice guests to visit, while another VR tour of Cape Dara Hotel in Pattaya, Thailand, focuses more on showcasing the stunning location and luxury amenities.

Virtual staff training for hotels

One of the most revolutionary ways in which VR is being used within the hotel industry is to provide a new form of employee training. Employee training programs delivered through VR headsets allow hotels to train new staff or upskill existing staff in some key areas such as customer service, conflict management, safety procedures and emergency response.

VR training is particularly useful in honing and developing soft skills because it allows staff to practise skills such as active listening or conflict resolution in a safe and controlled environment, where their responses to a situation can be assessed and practised. This has been demonstrated ultimately to lead to better results for guests and teams of staff.

Hilton, for example, has adopted Oculus for staff training in empathy and soft skills. According to their own research, they have discovered that after VR empathy training, 87% of staff changed their behaviour.

Similarly, Best Western Hotels recorded a 71% decrease in customer complaints after implementing VR scenario training for front-desk employees, and a 20% rise in customer satisfaction.

Due to the success of VR training in developing soft skills, VR is now moving into hotel management training curriculums. The Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School (BMIHMS), part of Torrens University Australia, has their own cutting-edge VR hotel simulation training program for hotel management students. Check out more details about the VR hotel training program here.

Virtual reality (VR) in hotel recruitment

In addition to training employees, VR can also be a useful tool for attracting and recruiting talent.

Hyatt Hotels, for example, has successfully used a gamified VR app called YouVisit that simulates a working hotel environment to give young people an idea of what a career in hotels might look like and attract new talent.

VR recruiting tools are particularly useful for the hospitality industry, where a big hotel brand may need to hire and onboard hundreds of new employees at one time. Using VR technology, companies can put applicants anywhere in the world through a series of tests that simulate the working environment in the hotel or resort, at a low cost. 

Plus, VR equipment allows for data collection that goes well beyond the information you can gauge about the performance of potential staff in an interview.

For example, a recruitment program delivered through a VR headset can track the time it takes to respond to specific perceptual cues, gaze heat-maps, and emotional states through the use of relevant signals like facial expressions, tone of voice or eyesight focus. Such data can be then interpreted in terms of indicators of performance potential.

Hotels entering the Metaverse

In December 2022, Marriott became the first hotel to open a virtual twin of its flagship Madrid Marriott Auditorium Hotel and Conference Center inside Metaverse. The real-life Madrid hotel is the largest self-contained hotel and meeting facility in Europe, with nearly 900 rooms and an auditorium that seats 2,000 people. In recreating this space online, the object of Marriott was to create a digital event space for virtual meetings.

With the trend towards digital meetups and remote work having accelerated dramatically after the pandemic, hotels have an opportunity to offer digital event spaces and demonstrate brand innovation by entering the Metaverse.

Marriott’s Madrid hotel is the first example so far of a hotel entering the virtual Metaverse, but it will definitely not be the last. The creators of Marriott’s Metaverse hotel, RendeVerse, anticipate another 1000 or more hotels will be using their platform to develop virtual Metaverse ‘twins’ by the end of 2023.

It’s a great time to jump into the Hospitality industry, and if you want a career driving these innovations, studying Hotel Management will accelerate you to a leadership position.

Check our Hotel Management Courses to learn more
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