The Immediate Potential of AR for the Travel Sector

There are certain sectors that should be particularly interested in mobile AR's sudden surge towards being a mainstream engagement tool. Travel & tourism (T&T), and by association the tourist aspect of place-marketing, arguably being one of those for which AR holds the most potential.

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The structure, cycle, and customer behavioral characteristics unique to the T&T sector, collectively establish compelling conditions for the use of AR, as a means of driving performance across several key parts of the industry.

Here are some highlights:

1. Customer accessibility and familiarity

You could argue that this first point is relevant to every business across every sector, so a good one to kick-off with. In case you hadn't heard, over the next 6 months, Apple and Google are going to open up a billion + user-base for mobile AR.

Without getting into the specifics of this, what this means for T&T businesses (and every other business for that matter) is that a very large percentage of your guests will have access to Augmented Reality on their devices, and will quickly become familiar with it as a means of engaging with brands, content, comms etc. 

I remember the very early days of social media and trying to persuade T&T brands in the UAE to begin taking a serious position on its strategic and tactical potential. It wasn't until Facebook, Twitter etc..begin dominating mobile that that happened.

AR is not an isolated,  shiny new engagement tool, suited for what's left of the innovation budget.  It will very quickly become part of the mobile channel and your guest's mobile behavior. 

2. Innovation is mission-critical

A wise man once said; "those that innovate to be heard will thrive". In AR's case, those that innovate to engage, help, delight and empower, will most definitely thrive. 

Disruption over the past decade across T&T has rendered innovation a critical factor for the sector. Given the forthcoming penetration of AR across mobile, T&T can use the unique benefits of AR to innovate across their entire experience cycle, and most importantly, at scale!

For luxury brands, think about attaching an incredible AR portal experience (see below) to your off-line assets. Reveal stunning resort assets in 3D off the page, or give your guests an intimate tool to pull back the layers of the design narrative; the art that has been invested to support the aesthetic, or a deeper understanding of the architectural story. 

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For more family orientated resorts with characters or branded entertainment,  AR allows these assets to be packaged into mobile, and taken home after the holiday so kids can continue to enjoy the experience. Whilst you compound your emotional interest!

3. Seasonality supports longevity

The seasonal nature of T&T supports a long-term strategic vision for the application of AR across the mobile channel, versus a short-term tactical 'suck it and see' approach (=the danger).

Contrary to the media's current default demo choice, AR is not just beautiful 3D content and 3D experiences. Current video and 2D photographic assets across your seasonal portfolio can also be brought into the experience, particularly when using AR as a conduit between printed media and mobile.

Using AR to connect printed collateral (ads, brochures, posters etc..) to mobile by triggering relevant video content (or other assets) is an excellent way of taking friction out of the Dream/Search stage of the cycle. Technology has made us impatient, demanding beings! Simple tools that make our lives more efficient - in a relevant way - always win.  

Christoph Niemann’s stunning Augmented Reality Cover for The New Yorker, offers a very compelling example of what can be done to augment print. 

4. Amplify The Service and Experience  

Excellent service and experience are the sine qua non to long-term, retained business, positive word of mouth and compelling, earned-media value. By taking a forensic look at your customer's buying and experience cycle, and identifying points at which the unique benefits of AR can assist in making certain point easier, most interesting, empowering etc. will help amplify your overall service and experience proposition.

An example of this might be to collaborate with the local tourism authority to develop a destination discovery product; helping your guests more easily navigate cities; explore history, culture and local traditions. Or borrow the genius of Google World Lens to help with the vulnerability of not understanding local languages or signage.

Sure, these tools could be developed by a third-party, saving you the investment and operational pressure, but the payoff is who then own's that part of your customer journey? The value baked into the usage data? The emotional franchise etc. 


So, a birds-eye view of just some the conditions that make AR such an important tool for T&T. The 5 critical take-outs:

  1. Your guests will rarely be without their mobiles whilst under your umbrella.
  2. AR will shortly be a standard feature on all the main mobile OEM's.
  3. Which means shortly, AR will be a familiar and expected way of engaging.
  4. Those that innovate to engage, be seen, experienced and of assistance will thrive.
  5. AR's unique benefits can add measurable value to every stage of the T&T buying and experience journey.

If you're involved in marketing or customer experience for a T&T based brand or business, and would like to talk to me more about the exciting AR opportunity, please call me on 07724521787, or email me christianhburne@gmail.com


Don't Look Down is an independent consultancy, advising and helping brands to unlock the creative and commercial potential of immersive technology.  For more information on our consulting services, writing or speaking requests, please drop me a quick note here, or call me 07724521787