5 Benefits of Implementing AR in the Tourism Industry

5 Benefits of Implementing AR in the Tourism Industry
By: Jason LaBaw, Founder of Social Bee 
Due to technological advancements, especially in everyday gadgets such as our smartphones, augmented reality (AR) has experienced a substantial breakthrough in the past years. AR opens up a whole new world of possibilities to immerse curious users in new experiences applicable to multiple industries—travel and tourism are no exception. As we dive deeper into what AR travel experiences entail and how the industry can significantly benefit from these innovations, let’s take a look at how the travel experience, in general, has been transformed into what it is today. 
Since the technological boom, many visitors have been able to browse through multiple vendors and tours available online, and tour guides have received payments in their preferred currency. Finding and buying experiences became more efficient and less costly. 
Shifting from on-premise information management to “the cloud” has allowed travel agencies and providers to massively share information, almost instantly providing easy access to schedules, inventories, and booking options for both consumers and vendors. The possibility of maximizing profit grew, and little did we know that this was only the beginning.  

AR-Assisted Tours

Augmented Reality is all about enhancing your natural environment while offering enriched experiences. To do so, technology gives machines vision through the device’s camera so that the computers can see what it is that users are looking at and ultimately augment it. This new vision offers users additional information, larger images, and brings objects and information into their physical space, digitally. Vision technology is progressing at blinding speeds, forecasting the use of greater technologies and gadgets such as AR glasses, which already aren’t too far into the future as you might think. 
AR-assisted tours are a game-changer for tour guides, think about it, there’s only a one-time operational cost and guides make a passive income each time the self-guided tour is purchased- which is all profit after the initial cost to create the tour is covered. And even better, self-guided AR tours are easy to monetize and maintain. On the other hand, in-person tours often require insurance, transportation, not to mention the cost of the guide’s time, and more—those costs are incurred every single time.
For tourists, AR technology-assisted tours represent greater flexibility, as the experience can be consumed whenever it’s convenient for them. Because the barrier to entry for tour creates is much lower, there will be a greater variety of activities to choose from, giving the consumers the power to enjoy unique and niche experiences based on their individual interests. But how exactly does AR help revolutionize the travel experience? 
Let’s take a look at five main benefits of implementing AR in tours and travel experiences. 

1. More to Choose From

With a one-time operational cost that comes with a self-guided AR tour, brands can improve and enhance their customer experience, resulting in greater variety and increasing demand, opening doors to new audiences and markets. For example, your favorite clothing store can adopt AR, enabling users to try on the item in an immersive augmented reality (think filters) format. This will certainly attract younger audiences initially, but the mass market will quickly follow as the economics (cost vs value and benefit) of living in an AR world are worked out as the technology and applications grow.
A clear example of how large renowned brands focus on the experience economy is Airbnb. Their hosts put together a list of activities that their guests can enjoy while visiting. The transaction goes beyond just renting a space and creates an experience that “made the trip.”. Now imagine this same scenario but with AR glasses, where consumers can browse through activities, complete a purchase on the spot, and head to their next adventure. This represents a differentiated and next-level customer experience that brands can explore. 

2. Computer Vision: Unsung Hero of AR 

At the end of the day, augmented reality is made possible by computers that are given the power of vision. Cameras on devices, for example, are used to run AR, which now has the ability to identify objects and offer a great deal of information and detail to the users instantly.
Through machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), computers and machines are shaping the future of exploration for mankind. One example of how this can be used is to stand in the Taj Mahal and use augmented reality to view 3D animations overlays showing how the wonder was built. These technologies allow digital objects and information into a person’s vision, providing context to their physical surroundings, giving users a new perception of reality. 
This new digital approach offers businesses a creative and engaging way to attract new audiences, ensuring an optimal and unique experience. 

3. Enhanced Hotel Experiences for Visitors 

Just like with many other industries, the customer’s experience is integral to the success of an elite business. According to a recent study, 35% of business executives surveyed have adopted AR or VR technology in at least one business unit, with at least 13% adopting this technology in multiple units. Hotels are no exception and can truly leverage AR to enhance their customer’s experience. 
AR self-guided tours extend services and ease to find amenities across the hotel’s facilities. It also helps promote establishments, activities, and locations worth visiting. Users and businesses alike can leverage AR to animate maps, for example, saving time and often money when exploring. Imagine walking up to the front desk after checking in, and the clerk hands over either AR glasses, or you can scan a QR code that opens up a library of activities to truly make the best of your visit—all without having to wait for a tour guide.  

4. Giving History a Place in Modern-Day Life

Tour guides are constantly innovating experiences, but none of them have completely transferred the traveler to the future or the past by restoring or enhancing historical sights. AR-enhanced services can completely transform your view of the surrounding world. 
Companies such as Social Bee, are already beginning to offer immersive AR tourism experiences in different cities around the world, bringing to life a series of interactive elements and gamification options to enhance tourists’ adventures. 

5. AR Helps Break Down Language Barriers 

Written or printed notes or instructions can only ever be delivered in one language—the originally printed language. However, the same is not true for digital words. New machine learning language translation technologies can allow content created in one language to be converted to a plethora of languages in a matter of seconds. 
While these translation technologies are not directly tied to augmented reality, when you think about the benefits stated above and bring in the multilingual capabilities, you can see that flexibility enables content creators and tour guides to build more accessible tours to nearly anyone worldwide. This AR-assisted translation fosters the ability to guide, help, and expand the user’s journey in otherwise inaccessible or difficult places and hard-to-grasp concepts. 
Given the pandemic, today’s tourism industry is experiencing an appetite for innovation. Emerging technologies such as AR create a more accessible and engaging experience, keeping the industry up-to-date with the digital transformation surrounding us. The tourism industry allows consumers to have complete control over their travel plans, building on resilience for the future. 

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