Augmenting the Hotel of the Future with Augmented Reality

Why the New Virtual World is Much Closer than You Think

By Vanessa Horwell Founder & Chief Visibility Officer, ThinkInk & TravelInk'd | November 10, 2013

Everyone knows predicting the future is difficult. No matter how hard we try, we're bound to misfire. In 1967 the BBC boldly forecast that by 1987 every home – presumably in the UK – would be fitted with computer terminals and bedside teletype machines printing out the days' news.

Misfire? Yes. Total misfire? Not exactly. While

">video footage of the BBC prediction feels a bit silly today, (the typewriter is what kills it) the voiceover narration is accurate in recognizing the eventual home computing and mobile revolutions. People do read news off their smartphones in bed while numerous laptops, screens and tablets populate our homes and businesses, including hotels.

Instead of Predicting the Future, the BBC Perceived What Would Be

For the hotel industry, wearable computers are poised to become the next great electronic transformer. And products like Google Glass, due out in 2014, are helping re-invigorate a subset of that upheaval: augmented reality (AR), which combines computer-generated images and information with physical environments in real time.

Like the BBC, we too can perceive likely advances – even if foreseeing specifics is difficult. At both the 2012 and 2013 Consumer Electronic Shows, malleable and foldable gadgets captured significant attention. Products are getting smaller, lighter, faster and less expensive. Streamlined products – à la Apple – are all the rage and "seamless" has become a watchword of our tech-savvy times. We may not be wearing our smartphones like appendages just yet. But already 90% of older teens and 20-somethings admit to sleeping with their phones and millions more of us walk around with Bluetooth-enabled ear buds.

Based on these trends, AR looks like the dominant outgrowth of the coming wearable computer revolution. The technology has had a few false starts. But, for hoteliers, the latest advances suggest unmatched monetization and customer experience potential. The question is: Are hotel brands ready for this change and are they investing in the staff training, IT and creative talent necessary to capitalize on AR's capabilities and guest engagement reach?

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.