Virtual Reality - What You Need to Know and How it Relates to Mobile Booking

By Henry Woodman Founder & President, ICE Portal | June 04, 2017

The booking shift to mobile in the travel industry raises questions on how marketers can adjust their strategies to reach a mobile audience. This in conjunction with quickly evolving virtual reality technology opens doors for travel marketers to make an impact and get ahead of their competition. Using VR to enhance mobile websites, apps and advertising can increase mobile bookings and raise brand awareness and credibility.

From Q2 2015 to Q2 2016 alone, travel bookings via mobile devices saw a 13% increase (Skift.) As this number is expected to keep increasing, travel marketers are shifting their strategies in order to reach the mobile audience. Also seeing tremendous growth in recent years is virtual reality (VR.) In fact, the worldwide revenues for the VR market are expected to hit $162 billion in 2020. The capabilities of our mobile devices and the potential for virtual reality in the travel industry present a great opportunity for companies to take their marketing to the next level.

VR as we know it has been experimented with dating all the way back to the 1800s with the use of stereoscopic photos and viewers. This allowed two images to be viewed side by side to show depth and immersion to the user. In 1939, the View-Master stereoscope was patented and used for “virtual tourism ”. VR has evolved tremendously since then in the form of flight simulators, immersive films, head-mounted displays, arcade games and gaming consoles. Not until recently has it taken off and seen potential to become a major sales tool, enabling marketers to step up their game and increase bookings and engagement with their brand.

The VR umbrella also includes augmented reality and mixed reality. The most widely known, **virtual reality**, is described as something you wear on your head (like goggles or a helmet) that holds a screen in front of your eyes. It is powered by a computer, gaming console or mobile phone. When VR users look or walk around, their view moves as it would in real life although they are immersed in a virtual world. Recent developments have reduced the time between the users’ movements and when the virtual picture moves, making the experience more realistic. Some of the most well-known VR headsets are the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR and Samsung Gear VR. Google also offers a cardboard version Google Cardboard for $15, making VR accessible for nearly everyone.

- Augmented Reality (AR) is also typically used through a wearable device, just as VR. The difference is that AR takes the user’s view of real life and puts digital images or information on top of it – it augments their real world. A great example of AR is Pokemon Go, the mobile game that took the world by storm last summer. Pokemon Go took the users’ real view and augmented it with virtual images via their mobile device. Another example is Google Glass, technology that allows users to communicate with the internet by wearing glasses that understand voice commands. This enables them to access digital information without looking at another device and while leaving their hands free.

- Mixed Reality (MR) combines the strengths of VR and AR. More specifically, MR shows a view of the real world like AR does, but adds virtual objects like VR. These virtual objects are connected with a point in the user’s real vision, allowing the user to interact with them. For example, if someone wanted to picture how a new furniture item would look/fit with the rest of their existing furniture, they would see a real life view of the room with the furniture in question virtually sitting over top. As they moved, the image would stay in place while adjusting to their position.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: The Greening of Your Bottom Line

There are strong moral and ethical reasons why a hotel should incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business but it is also becoming abundantly clear that “going green” can dramatically improve a hotel's bottom line. When energy-saving measures are introduced - fluorescent bulbs, ceiling fans, linen cards, lights out cards, motion sensors for all public spaces, and energy management systems - energy bills are substantially reduced. When water-saving equipment is introduced - low-flow showerheads, low-flow toilets, waterless urinals, and serving water only on request in restaurants - water bills are also considerably reduced. Waste hauling is another major expense which can be lowered through recycling efforts and by avoiding wastefully-packaged products. Vendors can be asked to deliver products in minimal wrapping, and to deliver products one day, and pick up the packaging materials the next day - generating substantial savings. In addition, renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have substantially improved the economics of using alternative energies at the property level. There are other compelling reasons to initiate sustainability practices in their operation. Being green means guests and staff are healthier, which can lead to an increase in staff retention, as well as increased business from health conscious guests. Also, sooner or later, all properties will be sold, and green hotels will command a higher price due to its energy efficiencies. Finally, some hotels qualify for tax credits, subsidies and rebates from local, regional and federal governments for the eco-friendly investments they've made in their hotels. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document how some hotels are integrating sustainable practices into their operations and how their hotels are benefiting from them.