At Horizon Display, we like to keep our readers updated on trends and relevant topics as much as possible. Recently, we’ve written about surprising industries that are impacted by interactive technology, including medical marijuana, craft beer, and real estate. And now, as of last week, we can now add luxury travel to the list.On April 18, 2017, Disney announced that it was creating an immersive luxury resort based on George Lucas’s beloved Star Wars world. This all-inclusive, two-night resort experience would provide guests the opportunity to experience a story set in the Star Wars universe, complete with live performances; personal interactions with characters; and programs such as flight and lightsaber training, ship exploration, and personalized story lines.
Fast-forward to July 2017 and Disney has confirmed this concept, offering even more details on its immersive hotel experience. “We are working on our most experiential concept ever,” said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek. “It combines a luxury resort with immersion in an authentic environment.”
The hotel, which will be designed to look like a starship, will provide virtual views of outer space from every vantage point. As rumored, the hotel will provide an interactive experience as part of a narrative storyline. Rather than be greeted by front-desk employees and concierges, guests will interact with Star Wars characters. Guests will even be provided with themed costumes. “It will invite you to live your own dedicated, multi-day adventure in a galaxy far, far away,” said Chapek.
The hotel was announced in conjunction with the forthcoming Star Wars–themed expansion of Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, called Galaxy’s Edge. As can be assumed, the hotel will act as an extension of the theme park, which makes complete sense, considering the resort’s current ecosystem, which already provides inclusive experiences. In addition to the RFID-powered MagicBand room key, park ticket, ID, and credit card, the new hotel experience will provide guests with a completely frictionless interactive experience in a fictional world.
Fans of the HBO show Westworld may make some connections to this virtual world. And while we’re not expecting a robot uprising, the possibilities are promising. In fact, immersive environments are central to Disney’s recent park and resort strategy. Much like Disney’s latest park, Pandora—modeled on the 2009 blockbuster Avatar—and its Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Galaxy’s Edge will allow guests to enter a fictional world.
If the rumored personal narratives are indeed true, the hotel will provide fully immersive, customized experiences, unlike anything we’ve seen before.
The Marketing Implications of Immersive Hotel Experiences
So, what are the marketing implications behind these interactive hotel experiences? It may be too soon to say, but the future is looking pretty bright, to say the least.
For starters, consider gamification. Perhaps you remember the 2016 phenomenon Pokémon Go, which peaked at 28.5 million daily unique U.S. users on July 13, 2016. Not only was this proof that gamification—the concept of leveraging gaming techniques to encourage certain types of behavior—works, but it also made its mark on experiential marketing. In hopes of attracting customers, businesses paid for in-game advertisements and sponsored content. These omnichannel offerings undoubtedly create the potential for specific promotions and partnerships, which advertisers could leverage to promote their brand.
While Disney most likely won’t feature advertisements or sponsored content, we can only imagine what might happen if large hotel chains embrace similar interactivity. As we’ve mentioned, hotel lobbies are the main artery for many travelers, as people are constantly gathering and waiting in these high-traffic areas. In other words, they’re perfect places for eye-catching, engaging interactive technology. While digital signage in the hotel industry is by no means a new concept, imagine the potential of augmented reality and other technologies.
Surprisingly, we’re not too far from making immersive, augmented hotel experiences a reality. In fact, in April 2017, the Overlook Film Festival—a four-day film festival, held at the Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood, Oregon, most famously known as the setting for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 thriller The Shining—offered guests an interactive gamification experience. The horror-themed mystery game combined planted actors, hidden clues, and other physical elements with immersive entertainment such as virtual reality installations.
As the Overlook Film Festival shows, the future of immersive, tech-enabled hotel experiences is here. Perhaps it’s just a matter of implementation and execution. Regardless, we’ll be sure to keep you updated as we eagerly await more details of this interactive Star Wars interactive experience.