Virtual reality usage is evolving with many industries leveraging it in creative ways. In fact, it is expected that by the end of 2022, the global market for VR technologies will be worth over US $6 billion. The concept of VR is interesting; I remember doing a roller coaster one with moving seats and had to close my eyes because I thought I was going to be sick it felt so real. From a hospitality standpoint, VR is meant to be much more relaxed as consumers immerse themselves in new places and new adventures.
64% of hotel operators see VR improving guest entertainment. Virtual reality amplifies the consumer experience because they can become immersed in beautiful destinations prior to and during their stays. “The virtual reality experience that we have when people are researching hotels becomes very important… We’ve seen that it’s increased the overall experience ratings significantly by seven or eight points,” says David Kong, CEO of Best Western International. Using VR to spark interest in consumers is not new. However, a company called Navitaire is now creating a way for guests to book their stays, flights and car rentals within virtual reality. Users would put on the VR headset and electronically connected gloves to explore the world and make buying decisions. Users can sit in the plane to pick their seat and also sit in cars to pick their rental after they have explored and chosen their destination. To complete the purchase, users scan a virtual credit card that is connected to a real credit card and make the purchase. This new technology will be unlike anything seen or experienced before.
Restaurants are also starting to invest in virtual reality. “As VR technology is getting cheaper it represents a great way for food service brands to connect with customers in a more profound way,” says Florence Graham-Dixon, Associate Director of JLL’s Foodservice Team. “Some of these new concepts are genuinely innovative and exciting, bringing new ways for people to socialise or learn about what they are consuming.” Starbucks introduced VR in China allowing consumers to tour the coffee roasting process, and several bars are showcasing the backstory of popular drinks through VR.
Virtual Reality is helping improve internal operations too. 68% of hotel operators see VR being used for employee training, which is one of the most useful aspects of VR. Creating a virtual reality video in the back of a restaurant to train new employees about where things are and how to use them is a great new tool. The cost of training and risk of liability is decreased immensely with VR. KFC has taken the lead on VR for training by taking inspiration from their founder, Colonel Sanders, in teaching new employees how to make their famous fried chicken. The training program takes the form of an escape room, where users get clues and hints to complete it.
Finally, 53% of restaurant operators see VR helping with restaurant flow and design optimization. Using VR to test out new floor layouts, new menus or total redesign is a great benefit. Hotels can similarly use this technology to visualize room designs and innovations anywhere on the property. Seeing how these changes would resonate from a consumers’ perspective is very helpful.
Virtual reality spend is expected to double annually over the next five years. As the popularity of virtual reality rises and the price decreases, it is worth investing in. The hospitality industry is aimed at customer satisfaction, so technology improvements, better training and an accessory to change is the way to go today.
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