HONG KONG—Virtual reality (VR), the technology platform with the ability to transport viewers into a simulated 3-D environment, was once the stuff of childhood dreams and science-fiction magazines. According to Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, virtual reality is a visual innovation with the potential to enhance the guest experience and spur global sales—and it is the first luxury brand to integrate it.
“Virtual reality technology has become much more accessible, affordable and portable, and is the perfect platform to immerse our customers, clients, partners and guests in the wide variety of incredible destinations and experiences Shangri-La offers worldwide. We’ve rolled VR headsets out across all global sales offices and expect to implement [them]across all Shangri-La hotels and resorts in 2016,” said Steven Taylor, CMO, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. “A VR experience is the next best thing to being there.”
An extensive knowledge of the brand’s customer base was a significant part of the implementation process, which included an emphasis on adding value and empowering a better overall guest experience, according to Taylor.
“We started with a very clear understanding of who our customers are and identified the trip personas that ultimately we were trying to appeal to. Then, we mapped out the decision-making process, identifying potential value we could deliver or barriers to making a decision to stay with Shangri-La, that we could support with content,” he said.
In the rollout, Shangri-La sales agents were among the first to delve into the 3-D experience with the use of Samsung Gear VR headsets. Being able to explore properties around the globe, from Mauritius to Mongolia, without boarding a plane can help sales agents gain an edge, said the company.
“We have focused our first VR efforts on agents because of the critical role they play in the traveler’s decision-making process. Shangri-La’s immersive VR experiences will enhance their knowledge about our hotels and their ability to sell with confidence to their clients,” he said. “Imagine a travel counselor who will be able to virtually compare Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai’s River Wing and Grand Tower guestrooms to better guide their clients’ choice. Meeting planners could do an online walk-through of a Shangri-La that they’re mulling over with their CEO prior to a big product announcement, or a wedding planner could take a bride-to-be through various wedding setups at Kowloon Shangri-La, Hong Kong. Virtual reality makes it easier for our customers, clients, partners and guests to book Shangri-La,” Taylor said.
Opportunities to capitalize on virtual reality abound, with Shangri-La now setting its sights on the guest experience. “Virtual reality is on the cusp of becoming mainstream. Facebook, which owns Oculus, introduced a 360-degree video platform to match YouTube 360 and, more and more, consumers are expected to adopt the technology in the coming year. Already, our 360-degree videos can be downloaded and watched on any VR headset powered by Oculus. We are also exploring how we can integrate this capability across all Shangri-La hotels and resorts, so our guests can transport themselves to any destination in the world from the comfort of their own guestroom,” he said. “We think the opportunities here are, quite literally, endless.”