Starwood testing out virtual reality for lobbies

Virtual reality technology predicted to be in households by Q1 2016

Image for illustration purposes only.
Image for illustration purposes only.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has linked up with software development company Total Cinema 360 to create a virtual reality offering for the lobbies and gyms of its lifestyle select brands, Element, Aloft and Four Points.

During an interview at the Starwood Hotels & Resorts headquarters in Connecticut, senior director, global guest initiatives Jeremy A Cooper said: “ I think what’s interesting is that there are limitless possibilities.

“In the pre-sell, guests can preview the entire space, what the hotel is like, what’s the community is like. Once you’re there you can then look at your next destination or you can just get away completely and have an action adventure or escape to nature.”

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Total Cinema 360 co-founder Craig Gilbert, who has been working with Starwood Hotels & Resorts for one month on developing the technology added: “Starwood is not just saying ‘check out our hotel rooms’ they are trying to give a really premium entertainment experience at the hotels - it’s about elevating your time once you’re already there apart from just selling you when going somewhere in the first place.”

Gilbert revealed that virtual reality headsets will be in homes from quarter one 2016 and 10 million people will own the technology by the end of next year. However, he believes the technology won’t become mainstream until two years’ time.

“There’s still at least a year before people have them in their homes and even then it will be a while before the majority of Starwood guests have them anywhere near their home,” said Gilbert.

“The assumption for now is that you’re probably having your first virtual reality experience at Starwood, which adds premium value to your experience at the hotel and makes you want to come back for more.

“It also just enhances the idea of what it means to be on holiday. You can go to a variety of concerts, you can go skydiving, or you can travel through jungles,” he explained.

Commenting on the potential for commercialising the technology at booking stage, Cooper asserted: “I think that’s the next step.

“We’re looking at it from an in-house hotel perspective currently, so especially in Aloft, in the WXYZ bars in all the hotels – we’re trying to create that energy around the bar piece so that this becomes an immersive place.

“You’re sticking around; you’re having a cocktail instead of going out so you can have a variety of experiences in one place and you’re maybe spending a little more money with us along the way.

“But I also like that notion of commercialising through the booking channel.”

Some of the Virtual Reality experiences being tested out for Starwood’s service select brands at include concerts, skydiving and bungee jumping.

For gyms, virtual reality cycle routes are being tested on cycling machines to create an outdoor experience for guests working out indoors.

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