Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. 

With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Many companies are aware of AR technology, but in its early stages are not quite sure on how best to use it to sell or add value to their products. Here, we take a look at some early adoptions within the business travel sector and what the future may hold for developments within the industry.


Augmented reality will enhance the traveller experience by making elements of the journey more interactive, seamless and easy. This includes everything from planning to booking, in-situ information about the services, destination intel, translation support, and local points of interest such as restaurants and landmarks. Airlines and hoteliers are getting on board with AR and finding more ways to provide added value and promote their services.


On arrival, travellers can take advantage of points of interest apps to search directly from their location. The Wikitude App enables user to input a search term, e.g. ‘Italian restaurant’, raise up their smartphone camera and look around, and the app will create a digital overlay displaying all nearby matches. See more – Click Here

One of the first social reviewing services to adopt AR technology was Yelp in 2009, when they launched Yelp Monacle. The app uses your smartphone’s GPS and compass to show nearby points of interest such as bars and hotels alongside user generated reviews and rating status. Yelp has integrated the accounts so that the traveller can see if any of their colleagues or friends have visited nearby locations and/or made a recommendation.

Hotels are starting to embrace AR as a means of enhancing ‘during your stay’ services. At the Hub Hotel from Premier Inn, they have installed wall maps of the area so that when a guest aims their smartphone at the wall, they can see local points of interest.


From a marketing point of view, AR is a natural progression from brochures, websites and printed collateral – it helps brings the product to life. Guests considering staying at certain properties may make their decision after watching a virtual 360 of the rooms and facilities – getting a true feel for the property. Similarly, a passenger can use AR to walk through the aisle of a first class cabin and experience the extra space of a flat bed, it could mean the difference between an economy ticket and a first class.


Hotels by their nature are welcoming guests from all different cultures and languages, therefore consideration must be taken towards written material and signage across the properties – affecting anything from a breakfast buffet food allergy to an important fire evacuation message. AR could be the answer, with apps that now allow users to point their camera at the sign and see an instant translation into their language.

An example of this is Google translate. Although not really an app, it does contain this AR functionality enabling users to directly translate from anything viewed through the smartphone camera – useful for menus, supermarkets, travel and directions to name a few. Google translate covers a vast number of languages and added a further 13 in a recent update. It is also possible to download a language pack and use the instant translate function offline – a potential game changer for those doing extensive travel.


Hotels are starting to use AR to attract more socially mobile guests such as millennials using apps such as Blippar, that advertises on coasters enabling users to access interactive games, food & beer pairings, selfie templates and interactive trivia games.

Qantas airline has recently teamed up with Samsung Electronics Australia to launch a trial entertainment service that incorporates Samsung’s Gear VR to provide passengers with an in-flight AR experience of interactive 360° cinematic video, 3D demos of Qantas products, hotspots of network destinations as well as the latest Blockbuster movies.

AR can also be used as part of the experience, for example the restaurant chain Inamo have AR images projected onto their tables where guests can select a theme for their table as well as order direct and watch a live video feed from the kitchen.


There is no doubt that Augmented Reality is a truly exciting proposition for travellers and suppliers within the Business Travel industry in terms of helping to promote products as well as enhancing customer experiences. In it’s relative infancy, companies are experimenting with different and exciting ways to use AR and incorporate it into their business mix. Air New Zealand are currently working with Microsoft’s HoloLens AR to trial flight attendant headsets that use facial recognition technology to identify passengers – bringing up displays of their preferences, previous trips and even their present status or emotion. Click Here to read more.

It is clear that AR can take many forms and be applicable to a range of different areas of the business. In future, AR will no doubt evolve to include customisable experiences such as gamification and preferences as well as connect to social apps where users can check in, share, review and recommend – a very powerful took indeed!