Travel companies are re-imagining business by adopting immersive technologies.

I see immersive technologies as a key catalyst for the travel industry. Providing a whole new dimension to the travel experience while boosting sales, driving efficiency, they have the ability to shape the future of travel.

In my last blog, I wrote about Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) as a key solution to hyper-personalization and amplifying the customer experience. Now, let’s look at it from a different lens by assessing how these transformative technologies power what goes on behind the scene. That’s right, AR and VR, or extended reality solutions (XR) as we call it, can significantly augment business processes and improve operational efficiency.

In the past few years, we have seen rapid innovation in the technology supporting extended reality. XR is closing the distance between people, information and experiences.  

AR/VR enterprise applications have scaled across industries, from automotive to retail.

While enterprises across industries are focused on investing in immersive technologies, the Travel industry is still catching up. Accenture Travel Technology Vision 2018 report revealed only 31 percent of Travel executives say it’s very important for their organizations to be a pioneer in XR solutions.

Things have encouragingly moved faster for XR in the last year. As per Accenture Tech Vision 2019, about 86% of businesses have either have already adopted or are piloting or evaluating Extended Reality solutions. Also, businesses have identified numerous potential applications of XR—like virtual training, “hands-on” education, or even realistic online shopping. With the rapidly maturing hardware capabilities and the combined power of XR with Industry X.0, the adoption of XR is bound to increaserapidly, and I am excited about the possibilities it can create for Travel.

Onboarding the XR bandwagon

XR’s potential goes way beyond customer experience - being digitally powered, they connect customers, employees, and processes to boost operations for Travel companies like never before.

Leading travel companies are beginning to adopt XR and in the process  improve training,  enhance employee’s interaction  with customers, improve operational efficiency and accuracy.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Enhancing employee training experience: XR, when deployed in learning environments, can provide a better simulation of work conditions, allowing trainees to experience different and critical scenarios.

ABI Research forecasts that the VR enterprise training market will  generate US$6.3 billion by 2022.

VR can be used in aviation as an advanced training alternative along with flight simulators at a lower cost. Thereby helping to provide improved safety, training effectiveness, and job performance for the entire crew. It’s a virtually risk-free way of learning new skills without damaging actual components.

Imagine flight attendants learning  to operate new equipment using VR training, and ground staff simulating the correct way to manoeuvre ground service equipment through immersive VR training. Such immersive learning experience significantly reduces costs and the risk associated with training in complex environment. This also saves the airlines millions of dollars in annual damage repairs and delay costs.

XR provides a new level of experiential learning to help businesses create the future workforce by combining the power of Human + Machine.

Turbocharging customer interactions: VR can also be used to train hospitality staff for guest interactions, boosting customer experience and reducing the time taken to train new employees.

Accenture has built a solution to provide cruise muster drill for emergency preparedness using VR that can familiarize first-time cruisers on emergency processes.

Augmented Reality is also enabling hyper-personalizing  the interactions between the staff and  travellers. As a guest arrives at the hotel front desk or a flyer walks in to the airport, they’re identified through face recognition and their profile, preferences,  service requests, and more are immediately made available on the staff apps. Thus, delivering personalized services that makes the guests feel special through their   journey or stay by leveraging augmented reality solutions in real time.

Establishing deeper business insights: Eye-tracking technology is projected to grow exponentially over the next few years as the main players begin to put an increasing amount of investment dollars behind it. According to a Forbes article  forecast the global eye-tracking devices market to grow at a CAGR of 37.1 percent during the period 2018-2024, reaching  $1.75 billion by 2025. This could be leveraged for simulating passenger dwell times and designing terminals. Especially, the dwell time will reveal the strategic as well as operational importance of an airport space where travellers are spending more time, like duty free or baggage claim, versus other areas like spa or auto expo zone.

Another interesting avenue is the digital twin concept that can be applied to the airport baggage belt carousel, hotel energy management, airport passenger flow management, or casino footfall management. The digital twin of any system helps visualize the complex data processing & analytics associated to that system to assist in real-time monitoring and operational decision making. 

Revving-up operational accuracy: Using wearable AR, airlines ramp handling staff can achieve unprecedented accuracies in business processes. Operators can scan visual markers found on baggage and cargo containers providing details such as weight, unit number, loading sequence and the allocated position within the aircraft.

This hands-free process improves safety and increases the accuracy and efficiency of baggage and cargo loading.

Accenture collaborated with Airbus to implement wearable technology to optimize aircraft assembly and strengthen its competitive advantage. We developed a state-of-the-art application for wearables to improve accuracy and reduce the complexity of cabin furnishing. This resulted in increasing the productivity for the cabin seat marking process per aircraft by 500%, and reducing the error rate to zero.

Augmenting the maintenance crew : In the airline industry, time spent on the ground by an aircraft can cost a lot of money. Depending on the operator and age of an aircraft, grounding for one or two hours can cost anywhere between $US10, 000 and $US150, 000.

AR-guided maintenance crew can significantly reduce the number of hours an aircraft spends on the ground with faster repairs.

Technicians can leverage AR to overlay digital content onto the workspace and get valuable guidance on the fastest way to complete repairs, access reference documents over voice commands and receive over-the-shoulder guidance from a remote expert.  Employees can connect with team members across the world, using an augmented reality solution, making idea dissemination easy, expert collaboration seamless and visual using holographic imagery.

 Smoother ride to success

XR has huge potential to drive efficiencies, improve profitability and become a competitive advantage for the Travel industry. The key however is to start small, with a specific area or workflow. For more on the immersive technologies, visit Accenture XR capability space.

Immersive learning is a good way to experiment with XR to demonstrate business ROI. A focused and successful pilot will help create the right blueprint to scale XR across wider areas of the enterprise and create new paradigms for the travel industry.

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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