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Augmented Reality Enhances the Experience for Travelers … Every Leg of Their Journey

According to Gartner, by 2020, 100 million consumers will use augmented reality (AR) to shop. “The popularity of augmented reality (AR) applications, such as Pokémon GO, will help bring AR into the mainstream, prompting more retailers to incorporate it into the shopping experience.”

What makes AR unique is its ability to add deeper information to items that your mobile device can recognize. These can be buildings or other objects within your view, as well as non-visible items that are enclosed or too far away.

And AR is already starting to make significant inroads into other areas besides retail. We are seeing retail-like ancillary services in the travel industry, such as upselling onboard drinks or cross-selling car rental with a flight booking. With the growth of ancillary revenue, travel companies are looking for more personalized and creative ways to enhance the customer experience.

AR is already making the lives of travelers easier while promoting e-commerce. Wayfinding apps, such as the London Tube, augment your view with locations of metro stops, bicycle rentals and other attractions. For travelers looking for a place to eat in an unfamiliar town, Yelp superimposes cards (labels) on nearby restaurants and bars merely by pointing one’s phone in a certain direction. This lets you know that you are headed the right way.

For air travelers, the Fly Delta “Glass Bottom Jet” app shows passengers a map, pictures and information about what they are flying over – something I have long wanted. New AR apps could allow travelers to “peek outside” any enclosed space; for instance a subway app could “periscope” upwards and show riders what is going on above ground. A virtual glass-bottom boat app could enhance a cruise passenger’s experience. And imagine if you could see what’s happening on each floor as you ride up in an elevator? Well, maybe we don’t need an app for that – people are waiting for the elevator!

AR truly shines by providing aid in little-used situations. In the case of a real emergency, how confident are you about remembering the pre-flight emergency instructions? More than 50 survivors of a China Air flight were later questioned by safety personnel; only 14% of them thought that the pre-flight safety demonstration was helpful for evacuation.

An AR-equipped headset or glasses could provide you step-by-step virtual instructions to guide you through an emergency. Patrick Johnson of Osterhout Design Group says that such devices could play a key safety role, and he also suggests that flight personnel “equipped with smart glasses and Wi-Fi could instantly video conference doctors while remaining hands-free.”

Another difficult and murky area for travelers is getting to their gate within an airport. Inside wayfinding requires special hardware, but the Chicago O’Hare, San Jose, Phoenix and Frankfurt airports already support apps that offer turn-by-turn directions. By learning from travelers, these apps will be able to estimate a passenger’s walking time to your gate (think Waze for an airport), allowing travelers to gain control over what has traditionally been an anxious situation. And of course, they will be able to offer targeted discounts for restaurant and shopping opportunities along your journey.

AR offers great advantages for many interactive travel experiences – ancillary revenue for providers, personalized recommendations for travelers, and help for all in the most difficult and critical situations.

Disruption management is critical for the customer-centric travel industry. AR adds another touchpoint to reach customers. Companies in the travel industry can use this technology to increase the level of personalization and, if quickly implemented, exceed to the evolving requirements of customers.


NIIT Technologies’ solutions help our customers to expand revenue streams and increase customer loyalty by delivering personalized services to passengers. Learn how you can increase your revenue per passenger with ancillary services.

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