Hugh Riley

“WOW” Your Visitors With Augmented Reality Experiences

For most visitors, the destination experience starts long before the moment of touchdown. The sheer anticipation of the visit can be exciting. The reasons people choose a particular destination  continue to evolve and greater focus is being placed on experiential travel and search for authenticity. It is important that visitors get to experience the destination on their own terms.

There has been a lot of talk in the digital space recently after the launch of the Pokémon Go augmented reality mobile application game, which of course has reached the Caribbean. As this application brings many opportunities and challenges for tourist attractions, tourism leaders are starting to wonder, could augmented reality technology be a valuable asset to develop potential within the tourism industry?  This blog isn’t about Pokémon Go, but it is about using the technology that helped to create it.

Augmented reality (AR) is a fairly new technology. It enables the seamless overlay of digital graphics onto the real world to add more information and improve the perception of reality. The possibilities for the application of this software in tourism are endless. Let’s take a look at a few.

  1. An improved booking experienceSource: http://www.plus-two.com

After some years of development, AR has already started to revolutionize the publishing industry. There are many companies providing AR software experiences for their viewers such as  Aurasma, Layar , and  Augment to name a few. This new form of next-generation advertising could be applied to digital tourism catalogues, brochures, pamphlets, flyers and any other type of promotion materials.

Hotels, attractions,  and special events can come to life to offer an enhanced impression of what the customers are buying before they actually visit the destination. AR systems can convey a strong, persuasive power and create a lucrative opportunity to market services successfully —an approach which is still undeveloped in the tourism and hospitality industry.

A successful example was developed by Plus TwoAurasma, Grenada & British Airways. Instead of using a traditional print advertisement, an augmented reality video advert was utilized to convey the beauty of Grenada.

This advert made the page come to life on the screen of users by displaying a tide washing in over a beach and highlighting additional enticing footage of the island. The content included details on places to stay, mini guides to dining out, and things to do when visiting Grenada. During any point of the video, the user could tap on their screen to be taken to the British Airways landing page and book reduced flights to Grenada.

This was the first tourism campaign to utilize augmented reality in the UK. As a result, the promotion received huge media interest and the results exceeded the targets set by Grenada Tourism and British Airways. To read more about this campaign,  click here.

2. Enhanced visitor encounters with tourist attractions Source: Getty Images

Without a doubt, AR provides a new possibility of attracting visitors to a physical space, to encourage them to participate and truly experience a tourist attraction. The most apparent application is the reconstruction of ruins or historic and heritage sites.

Imagine being in Barbados and standing on the ruins of historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. Here you can admire the site’s  appeal as a whole as it would have looked centuries ago, or even witness a simulation of a classic representation on your mobile phone.  This synergy between past and present, virtual and real, is what best explains the difference between augmented reality and 3D technology.

 3. Better Navigation 

Source: Buhalis & Yovcheva

AR software can work as an ultimate tool to guide visitors through unfamiliar environments. Augmented displays have the capability to decrease the mental effort needed for both pedestrians and vehicle navigation. AR can display virtual paths and directional arrows to simplify both indoor and outdoor pedestrian and vehicle navigation.

One example of this is the smartphone application called “Nearest Tube” (displayed above) which shows the route to underground stations from the current location of the user in London. Imagine the opportunities here to display navigational points and landmarks in the Caribbean that tourists would like to visit but may have difficulty finding. This gives visitors a convenient and enjoyable way to navigate through a Caribbean destination, particularly in places where adequate signposting may be missing!

4. Improved Translation

Source: Quest Visual Inc.

Touring unfamiliar environments can also be difficult with misunderstood foreign language signs and instructions. In addition to interpreting street signs, AR systems can offer real-time instant translation of written text on restaurant menus, bus schedules and newspaper headlines from a foreign to the native language of the user. The smartphone application, “World Lens” (shown above) demonstrates this opportunity. World Lens overlays translated text over the original text in which the device is pointed to.

Bringing it all together

Although AR has been around for a few years, there is still a tremendous opportunity for it to be developed further in the Caribbean to enhance our visitors’ experiences. The above are just a few ways we can use AR to enhance the enjoyment of our destinations and improve the overall image of our industry .

What are some other ways you think AR could be utilized to propel the Caribbean tourism industry forward? Feel free to leave your comments below.

For  more solutions to improve Caribbean tourism and enhance the profitability of your business, don’t miss the CTO’s State of the Tourism Industry Conference (SOTIC). SOTIC is the annual gathering of tourism leaders from across the Caribbean and around the world to tackle issues affecting the travel and tourism industry. Come and add your voice to the debate and be apart of the regional solution: September 14-16, 2016, Hilton Barbados Resort, Barbados. For more information and to register, visit www.OneCaribbean.org.