10 mn to have in-home virtual reality by Q4 2016

Hoteliers developing tools to ensure they are able to compete in virtual reality space next year

Virtual reality to be in homes first by early next year.
Virtual reality to be in homes first by early next year.

Hotel groups are testing out virtual reality in preparation for the technology being present in homes by quarter one 2016, with 10 million potential guests to have it by the end of next year.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts has partnered with Total Cinema 360 to develop the technology, which is being tested out for use in lobbies and gyms at its lifestyle select brands, Aloft, Element 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.”

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 thefirst 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.

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

Brian King, global brand officer at Marriott International, which showcased its virtual reality ‘Teleporter’ at Arabian Travel Market at the start of the month agreed that virtual reality technology is the future, particularly for booking.

“Our Teleporter serves two purposes. One, we want our customers to know that we’re thinking of travel in a big bold new way. And secondly, I actually believe it’s the future of what it will be like to tour a hotel before you ever step foot in it.

“Let’s say you’re a MICE planner based in London and you need to do a meeting in Shanghai and you don’t have time to travel to do a site inspection. You can sit at your desk, put on your glasses and look up, down, around, and see everything about the hotel…literally walk through it like your attendees.

“If you’re at home, vacation planning with your family, everyone sits down, puts on their goggles and they click on the hotel they want and they look at it as a family – how cool would that be? So I believe that one day that technology will be in every household and we want to be at the forefront.”

Accor HoteLServices vice president sales, marketing & distribution David Henry agreed that virtual reality is firstly going to be useful in the MICE space before being rolled out for B2C, due the cost of the technology.

“Tomorrow augmented reality; why not? It’s all a question of timing, of cost and value for that cost. Today it’s something that’s much more in the B2B aspect. It will come in B2C when the price of the technology comes down,” he said.

The company is not currently experimenting in the virtual reality space, however it is working with TV Trip on its virtual tours, which Henry believes is currently an effective sales tool for potential guests.

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