Virtual hospitality

Whether it's a question of marketing or personalised entertainment, virtual reality has also conquered the hotel industry market: thanks to this cutting-edge technology, you can visit hotels of the most renowned chains without moving from your sofa, or experience unexpected adventures while sitting comfortably in the lobby.
For some years now the tourism sector has been making use, with a certain success and increasingly interesting results, of virtual reality technology: from marketing of preventive visits to destinations and hotel structures, to integrative videos of places that can be physically visited, to personalised in-room entertainment, the risk of disappointing or boring travel now seems very remote.
This particular information technology, on which companies such as Sony, HTC, Samsung and Facebook are investing considerable resources - official estimates speak of investments in the magnitude of 120 billion dollars by 2020 - combines specific hardware and software capable of generating images and sounds so realistic as to immerse the user in a real 3D simulated environment: thanks to the viewer projecting the image, built-in headphones and often a joystick with which to manipulate what you are looking at, it is possible to interact virtually with this alternative reality, even only through vibrations and other auxiliary feedback provided by some control boxes.

Therefore, Not only functional to education, video games and other entertainment products such as movies, but used more and more frequently as a marketing tool much more useful than photographs and feedback: in recent years renowned chains such as Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts and Airbnb have each incorporated VR technology in their own way among the services offered to customers.

In 2015, for example, Shangri-La launched the production of a 360° video, initially in 17 sales offices and 94 individual teams and now directly from the chain's website, allowing a close up visit to the facilities. If a couple of years ago the hotel chain used to appeal to wholesalers, tour operators and professionals in the sector, it currently allows anyone from their own couch to immerse themselves in the hotel swimming pools, to choose a room based on the view or comfort of the bathrooms, to get a concrete idea of the actual size of the lobbies and conference halls.

To enjoy an even more immersive and realistic virtual experience, it is recommended to download videos and watch them using any VR headset that supports the Oculus platform.

Similar to the initial strategy of Shangri-La, more to provide useful information for the sale than anything else, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has dealt with the market debut of BluPrint, a VR-enhanced application aimed primarily at investors, to help them fully enter the design process of the Radisson Blu brand.
Also in 2015, this time focusing more on entertainment, Marriott Hotel launched in two of its New York and London offices the VRoom Service, developed in collaboration with Samsung, thanks to which guests are offered the opportunity to order virtual experiences directly in their rooms: With the Samsung Gear VR viewer and related accompanying earphones, you can indulge in a trip to China, Chile or Rwanda with the VR Postcards, a series of virtual travel stories that combines storytelling and cutting-edge technology, two fundamental elements for the latest generation travellers.

"The journey expands our minds and pushes our imaginative capacity",said Matthew Carroll, vice president of Marriott's Global Brand Management, "and our guests want to enter original spaces that help stimulate their skills and thinking".

In May of this year, however, Best Western started a brand rejuvenation in the name of VR experience (which Dorothy Dowling, CMO of Best Western considers a real "re-architecting"), which involved the 2200 North American structures of the chain. With the help of Google's Street View technology, the Best Western in Phoenix has collected images and videos of the rooms offered, down to the smallest facilities: more than 1.7 million photographs to which personalized narrations and music were added, so to create 360° videos convertible into VR via headset such as Google Card, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and all the like.
In addition to the possibility of visiting existing hotels from their own homes, the multimedia production studio Gentleman Scholar, founded in Los Angeles in 2010 by William Campbell and Will Johnson and known for its "compelling contents with a strong narrative component", as they boast at the beginning of the site, has created Space Hotel 360°, a true futuristic and hyper-realistic space hotel, created thanks to a close-knit team of interior designers: a visual product capable of showing what would be the actual appearance and functionalities of such a hotel, if it really existed.

Travel over time with virtual reality

Nonetheless, as we have mentioned, it is not just a question of marketing. In the very elegant Lobby Bar at Aldwych in London for example, you can enjoy an excellent cocktail of Scottish whisky with an orange curl and a pleasant trip out of the door between the barley fields, bridges and springs of Cromarty Firth in the Highlands to Dalmore Whisky, the distillery responsible for aging liquor.
There's no mention of the virtual reality experience on the menu, but the advice is to order an Origin and give yourself a nice tour of the Highlands:"When someone orders it, we serve it directly with a viewer and headphones, inviting him to a trip to the origins of what he's about to taste," said Pedro Paulo, the drink bar manager and author of the video. In a well made drink there are barrels, fields and places that have helped to make it such," says Paulo," and offering the opportunity to understand it was my main motivation.

After flying over plateaus and watercourses, the virtual experience ends with a descent into the Lobby Bar, where the barman prepares the same drink you'll find in front of you as soon as you remove the viewer: a highly studied blend of Dalmore 12-year-old whisky, Merlet Soeurs Cerises cherry, cherry puree and grapefruit juice, with a sprinkling of chocolate bitter and Champagne Lallier, which we have time to taste until spring 2018, at the price of £18, travel included.

The Viceroy group's Hotel Zetta in San Francisco is also experimenting with the use of VR in personalized entertainment: Exit Reality Mobile VR Cube is an innovative cubicle in which to dedicate to virtual activities. Prepared directly in the hotel's unusual and somewhat elegant mobile and transportable lobby, visible from the outside through the large front window, it is an extremely practical solution to allow the general public to approach virtual reality according to their personal tastes, from underwater adventures to classic shooting games.
And, entertainment par excellence, there could not have been a lack of porn declination among the VR experiences offered by the hotel industry: now that Wi-Fi has made any adult pay-TV service obsolete, pushing many renowned chains to eliminate the offer directly, that of VR porn could at least replace the revenues.

Andy Alvarez, owner of VR3000. com and CEO of Webmaster Central, told how hotel chains were immediately receptive to the idea of showing VR erotic content in their hotel rooms as part of a wider package of virtual reality offers: he is convinced that it's very easy to sell his product once the guest has had a taste of it. Unsurprisingly, it seems there are already agreements in place to disseminate the experience in 85% of hotel rooms within the EU alone.

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