Travelers are increasingly demanding curated experiences that are personalized and authentic. How can the travel industry leverage the power of  immersive technologies  to offer hyper-relevant experiences that deliver  increased revenue and loyalty per customer?

Picture this. A travel company giving its potential customers a virtual yet immersive tour of their next vacation destination ahead of the journey. An airline company where the cabin crew can access information on the past experience and preferences of the passenger they’re serving- - to enhance their journey, by accessing information on a headset display. A hotel that offers guests the convenience of personalized information on local places and activities of interest in the comfort of their room by pointing a phone to a map.

As per Accenture Tech Vision 2019, it may not be very far that movies in the future will have audiences live inside of stories, fully immersed in fictional worlds through virtual reality (VR). Human-like artificial intelligence characters will respond, anticipate, and react to each audience member’s choices, and payments and access will be facilitated seamlessly by distributed ledger technology. About 86% of businesses have either have already adopted or are piloting or evaluating Extended Reality solutions.

With today’s consumers increasingly demanding hyper-personalization and authentic experiences in real-time, travel companies need to go beyond selling seats and rooms and offer experiences. Extended Reality (XR)—augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR)–is making it possible by pushing the boundaries of the physical world into the digital world. Travel companies need to be agile to maximize value from the immense opportunities presented by these technologies—enhancing in-flight experience, designing personalized vacation experiences, corporate events, or offering the perfect virtual guide–companies need the XR advantage today.  

Industries are increasingly onboarding the XR flight

Let’s look at what’s happening beyond the travel industry, to better understand the impact of XR. AR and VR are rapidly becoming the wonder kids driving enhanced experiences for consumers across industries. IDC predicts the worldwide spending on Augmented & Virtual Reality to surpass $20 billion in 2019 and grow at 69.9% CAGR through 2022.

It’s interesting to see what seemed to be a consumers’ market is now taking the turn toward enterprise use. The retail sector is already driving hyper-personalized experiences and services with immersive technologies. Accenture, Qualcomm and Kellogg Company have collaborated to develop a solution that embeds eye tracking technology in a mobile virtual reality (VR) headset to reinvent how brands and retailers gather critical consumer data and perform market research.

The automotive sector is also set to become one of the active adopters of XR technologies – in fact, Accenture is closely collaborating with BMW to help the company revolutionize its car-buying experience. i Visualiser—an AR solution is helping BMW sell more cars, enthuse new tech-savvy customer groups, and bring dealerships to customers digitally.

XR is also quite a boon to the healthcare industry with newer ways of providing better care. Accenture has built a VR Game with SAP Leonardo to provide more therapy options for people with amputations in treatment of phantom limb pain.

Travel industry is no stranger to innovative leveraging of XR

It’s only fair to visualize the magic that the travel industry can deliver with the XR wand. XR technologies can deliver immersive experiences that change how we connect with people, information and experiences.

The industry is seeing early adopters across the airlines, hospitality and travel services sectors. Marriott Hotels launched XR tech-based services such as the VRoom Service and VR Postcards that allows guests to experience exotic locations in the comfort and convenience of their hotel rooms. Air New Zealand ran a test on a flight where they used Microsoft’s HoloLens to enhance passengers’ in-flight experience. Using the HoloLens headset, the cabin crew could access key customer information  – such as a passenger’s choice of meal, drinks, onward travel plans, and even their emotions! More recently, New York City’s JFK Airport launched a limited-period VR and AR experience center that offers entertainment to the passengers waiting at the airport – a thoughtful step toward addressing airport boredom. 

With high attrition levels in the travel industry and a significant portion of the workforce being temporary or associated for only a short period, recruitment and training becomes significantly important. Accenture has built AR & VR based solution to attract more diverse talent and develop more inclusive hiring processes. Despite the fact that diversity makes businesses more successful, there are still a number of barriers preventing women and people from different backgrounds, such as hiring bias and social exclusion. Could this possibly be helpful in hiring hotel staff or customer care reps for airlines / airports?

It’s fight or flight for travel incumbents 

It’s clear that with the explosion of immersive technologies across industries and disruptors defining new frontiers of customer experience every day, the early adopters in the travel space will have the edge. According to the World Economic Forum, more than US$100 billion is set to migrate from established players to new entrants in aviation, travel, and tourism in the next decade. It is fight or flight for travel incumbents.

Travel companies need to consider key areas of focus to catch-up on customer experience:

  • Hyper-relevance is key, and travel companies should embrace innovation as a continuous process without a finish line. Investing in XR technologies can give them that advantage.
  • Develop and scale innovative, frictionless and tailored experiences, by building an ecosystem that will collaborate to provide seamless travel products and services.

It’s time for travel companies to re-imagine their service, working to delight the customer in an end-to-end experience that captures the imagination, while increasing loyalty. They need to ride the XR wave to woo customers, enhance their brand image and stay ahead of the curve. 

Our Travel Innovation Hub in Bengaluru leverages Accenture’s innovation architecture to help clients address specific challenges & accelerate innovation prototyping. Visit our page to learn more.

Sunil Rao

Managing Director​

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