How virtual reality is pushing the travel market to evolve

It’s the moment that you walk into the door. Smell the freshly cleaned sheets, towels and the air of the city. Right when you’re about to enter the room, you remember the beautiful wallpaper, the ornate decorations and a feng shui that you felt through the picture. Still, as you’re opening the door, you realise that this isn’t that room. Those small decorations weren’t the same as the picture. Rather than a glamorous room overlooking the beach, you’ve got a room overlooking the highway with the sounds of traffic replacing those of the ocean.

Unfortunately, this is the reality of online hotel booking. Without a trusted brand to bring you the same quality each and every time, you’re stuck with the hope that those online Airbnb reviews are correct, even if it means paying a bit extra to avoid the new listings.

Even with the reviews, there is a chance what you get might be something entirely different, which is why companies are thinking twice about how they create digital room experiences. One of the most innovative ways is through virtual reality.

This is the reality of online bookings without transparency. What the pictures look like and what you get might be the same thing, but look entirely different depending on the angle, the colour of the walls and furniture layout. Still, businesses that operate on this model might want to rethink their strategy -- not only because it raises guest expectations and lowers reviews, but also, as we have already seen, VR booking is already here.

Virtual reality has been growing over the past few years, with a large spike in usage after Oculus and PSVR began making the technology accessible to average consumers. There is even a field of art installations for paintings made in virtual reality.

This technology has the power to bring a higher level of transparency to consumers, and with many purchasing VR headsets for entertainment purposes, the potential for expansion into other industries is becoming evident.

In the architecture space, companies like ALL VR use this technology to design architectural models before building construction to reduce error, increase confidence in unconventional designs and improve investor confidence in projects.

Even with the reviews, there is a chance what you get might be something entirely different, which is why companies are thinking twice about how they create digital room experiences. One of the most innovative ways is through virtual reality.

For buildings undergoing remodelling, companies like NAVVIS or Laan Labs can take 3D images of a structure and render it in virtual reality. For manufacturing this could mean placing a machine in their virtual factory and rearranging everything before shutting down production, only to find that there is a small overlap in machine sizes. The same concept goes for hotels looking to remove their receptions.

Even with the reviews, there is a chance what you get might be something entirely different, which is why companies are thinking twice about how they create digital room experiences. One of the most innovative ways is through virtual reality.

For travellers looking for the perfect destination, companies like VResorts are offering VR as a “try it before you buy it model”, where you can take virtual tours before visiting the real thing. This opens up a new level of responsibility for companies offering stays in their properties or tours to meet the expectations of the guests they generate online.

Currently, the technology for VR booking--as well as the consumer base--is still relatively new, making it a smaller market that wouldn’t contribute to a large percentage of the overall bookings. To compensate for this, many companies, especially in residential real estate, have been using something similar to VR: the 360-degree tour.

Using a similar concept to Google Maps, potential buyers can place themselves in a room and move from one 360 degree photo to the next while looking around.

Augmented reality is another popular alternative to VR that is being implemented in multiple industries. Businesses like furniture stores allow customers to download an app and place furniture virtually in their home before buying it.

There are also augmented reality-based travel tours from Smartech Group, where tourists can take a card and collect landmarks, unlocking new information about each place and seeing miniature replicas on their phone screens.

The future of technology in travel is exciting, although it’s not exactly clear how or how much VR will disrupt the market. One thing, however, is for sure: VR is coming to travel, and it will force businesses to think about their online presence in a competitive virtual environment. Whether through bookings or virtual tours, augmented reality in museums for an enchanting experience, it’s time to start looking to the future when it comes to technology in hospitality.