Commentary

1,000 Reasons To Embrace Augmented Reality

There’s a reason 1,000 Places to See Before You Die was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Weighing in at 992 pages, it sold over 3 million copies and was translated into 25 languages.

Of course, nobody bought this book with the belief they’d actually see all 1,000 places before they die. Most of us will visit only a handful of them if we’re lucky, and they won’t be places like “Robert Louis Stevenson’s home in Western Samoa.” Somehow, the kids will be more interested in Disney World.

But – what if we could visit all 1,000 places? What if we could do it impossibly cheaply, safely, and from the comfort of our living rooms? Such a scenario could soon be possible – and marketable – given the rapid expansion of augmented reality (AR) technology into the travel and tourism industry.

AR is exploding. In 2016 alone, we’ve seen SXSW add its first-ever VR/AR track and $1 billion in investments in AR companies. Virtual reality headsets are hitting the market as fast as they can make them. (Forget Google Glass and Oculus Rift – have you heard of FOVE VR, Zeiss VR One, Avegant Glyph or RAZR OSVR? Me neither.) Brands are using AR in selling tools like L’Oréal’s life-sized product renderings and Hyundai’s virtual owner’s manual.

This technology is improving with blinding speed and, at the same time, our world has become a scary place for travelers. Terror attacks, extreme weather events, and alarming pandemic diseases have dampened our wanderlust. Not to mention the stark financial realities people are facing around the world. These conditions have set the perfect stage for augmented reality to revolutionize how we travel.

When we’re talking about the confluence of AR and the travel/tourism industry, this isn’t one of those “will they, won’t they” scenarios. They most certainly will. AR and vacation travel were made for each other, because it has never been about getting from point A to point B. Tourism travel is all about human desire and our deep yearning to live our lives fully (like the book said – before we die). What happens when AR technology progresses to the point where virtual becomes nearly indistinguishable from real?

That said, I don’t think people will ever accept a virtual visit to Paris as satisfying enough to cross “see the Eiffel Tower” off the bucket list. We’re too romantic for that. So, this isn’t as much about preparing to defend our industry against AR as it is preparing to make the most of its inevitable rise.

In fact, travel and tourism brands are already getting creative:

  • Visitors to the Cluny Abbey in France can visualize the lost areas of the church on three screens distributed along the tour, giving the impression of the complete structure.
  • In select Thomas Cook store locations, would-be travelers can test drive their tour before they buy. Special headsets take them on breathtaking excursions like a helicopter ride above the Manhattan skyline. The added tech increased Thomas Cook’s excursions revenue 190%.
  • Marriott Hotels delighted guests with a 4D travel experience as part of their “Travel Brilliantly” campaign. Guests entered a special Teleporter station with Oculus Rift headsets that whisked them away to a beautiful beach scene – complete with that salty beach smell, warm breezes, and the lulling sounds of crashing waves and seabirds.

Travel and tourism brands have a major opportunity to embrace AR and proactively drive the transformation of the industry. My advice? Don’t drag your feet, folks. This is one tech revolution you won’t want to miss.

1 comment about "1,000 Reasons To Embrace Augmented Reality".
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  1. Eric Brandt from Destination Media Solutions/Tahoe TV, LLC, September 27, 2016 at 3:19 p.m.

    Exciting stuff. The ability to immerse yourself in a destination, before or after a visit, is a huge addition to the marketing toolbox. Some caution and concerns about authenticity and delivering on the visual 'promise' portrayed in the VR world. Where do I find a VR producer?

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