Forget trying to find and get to the remote Shangri-La first depicted in Lost Horizon, the 1937 drama-fantasy film directed by Frank Capra and based on the 1933 novel of the same title by James Hilton.
The Shangri-La Hotel group is equipping its 17 global sales offices and 94 individual hotel sales teams with Samsung Gear Virtual Reality (VR) headsets.
It’s the first international hospitality brand to do so, and by the end of January 2016, Shangri-La plans to produce two-minute VR videos for half of its hotel inventory, and complete the rest for all its hotels by mid-2016. The tours are being uploaded at shangri-la.com/vr at the rate of one a week.
So as part of the brand’s VR investment—joining the likes of Apple and MINI, for example—there’s a virtual tour of Tibet and a “walk” around the new Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa near the Potala Palace monastery, and a virtual site inspection of Shangri-La Hotel Kowloon’s main ballroom in Hong Kong.
“Virtual reality is really on the cusp of transforming the way we do business today,” said Shangri-La CMO Steven Taylor to Skift. “A lot of research and experts are indicating that within the next year, there’s going to be mass adoption of VR technology.
“There’s certainly been a degree of experimentation by other travel and retail companies, but I think this is an industry first for Shangri-La, because we are the first to really take that leap forward and fully integrate virtual reality technology deeply into the sales process, and across the global sales organization worldwide.”
Taylor said the company’s full commitment “is about accepting virtual reality for the revolutionary new sales tool that it is, and integrating it across an entire global sales organization.” The potential in cross-selling Shangri-La properties through VR is robust.
“One of the great opportunities is that in our sales team at The Shard in England, or Paris or Sydney, when they meet with clients with the virtual reality headsets, they don’t just have access to videos for their specific hotel,” explained Taylor. “They can actually showcase the videos through these headsets for almost all of the properties for Shangri-La worldwide.”
Taylor believes the greatest challenge for his industry today is “too much choice for travel brands today. I see many hotels bewildered by the array of social media channels, different mechanisms for customers, and sometimes they get lost trying to be all things to all people. Customer segmentation, putting the customer at the center of your organization, and building your value proposition across the customer journey is the path that we’re focused on taking at Shangri-La.”
Shangri-La is described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Synonymous with paradise on earth, those living in Shangri-La are nearly immortal.
And now thanks to VR, that utopian aspiration can be fulfilled in the lobby of a hotel.
— Shangri-La Hotels (@ShangriLaHotels) October 28, 2015