Published on November 19th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
How Trick 3D and Holiday Inn Owner Used Virtual Reality to Design a New Hotel Brand
Walking into a hotel lobby is a powerful branding experience. The layout, every design choice, the flow of the room is designed to elicit a particular customer response. At VentureBeat, Dean Takahashi interviews the Brand Manager at IHG who designed the two most recent brands with the help of virtual reality. By creating a VR rendition of the new hotel, designers were able to make more informed choices and decisions as compared to creating a physical prototype which is much more expensive and takes longer. Revisions, tests and new ideas in VR are easier. Don’t like a color? Change it on the fly. Maybe the stairway should go on the other side of the lobby? Move it easily. VR allows you to walk in a world (or a hotel room) before it actually exists.
IHG has been around since the 1700s, but most people might know the company as the owner of the Holiday Inn and InterContinental Hotel brands. It is a huge conglomerate with more than 16 hotel brands, including a couple that were architected and market tested using virtual reality headsets.
Trick 3D, a 3D visualization studio, worked with IHG to use VR to design the Avid Hotels and Atwell Suites hotel brands for IHG. I moderated a panel at Greenlight Insights‘ recent VR/AR/XR strategy conference in San Francisco with IHG’s brand manager Anna Karwata and Chad Eikhoff, CEO of Trick 3D. We talked about how the teams created the design of their hotel in VR first to test the idea and visualize it internally for all of the stakeholders.
After all, launching each individual hotel in a chain could cost $12 million each. If you don’t love the design and find out only when the hotel is built, that’s a disaster. But VR is a way to get a feel for the hotel and understand it in a more tactile, intimate way than you can through other kinds of visualizations, Karwata said.
It is an unexpected, fascinating, and very cost effective use of VR that can save a lot of money and speed up the process of designing a hotel by 30% to 40%, Karwata said. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
Anna Karwata: I’m a brand manager for Intercontinental Hotels Group. I’m originally Polish. I moved to London to pursue business studies, and that’s where I really fell in love with the hospitality industry. Since then I’ve worked on multiple IHG brands globally — Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express.
Three years ago I moved to Atlanta, where I launched two brand new hotel brands to the market with IHG. We launched Avid Hotels, which is the fastest hotel brand launch ever for the company, and we also launched Atwell Suites, which we just launched a few months ago. These are the two brands that Chad and IHG and I worked on, where we used VR to get to market more quickly.
Chad Eikhoff: Anna builds real things — real hotels, real brands, internationally. At Tricke 3D, what I’ve done–I come from an entertainment background. I’ve applied the expertise and the knowledge and creative vision setting that entertainment has to the enterprise space.
I’ve found there’s a great cycle starting to happen, where the creative and the vision is brought from entertainment to enterprise. But enterprise starts to bring the technology and the execution back to entertainment. In VR, AR, mixed reality, this whole evolving space, the verticals are all blending together, and have been for a while. This was a great opportunity to showcase how we apply those tech solutions, creative vision setting, to an industry that really isn’t known for forward thinking and innovation. Now, because of the way technology is, it’s changing the way an industry designs new hotel brands.
VentureBeat: Anna, can you explain some of the things we saw in the video earlier, things that weren’t particularly obvious?
Karwata: You saw a mixture of established brands where we use VR for different reasons. You saw research, marketing, and updating and refreshing design. Also, you saw Avid Hotels and Atwell Suites. These are the brands where we really took VR to another level. Avid didn’t exist three years ago. We created a brand in VR first and ultimately opened a real hotel. Avid, from launching the brand to franchisees opening a hotel, was 199 days.
VentureBeat: How big is IHG, by the way?
Karwata: We’re a pretty big company. We have nearly 7,000 hotels across the globe. We have a huge presence in the U.S., where 90 percent of our hotels are franchised. It’s a decent size.
Eikhoff: One thing that’s interesting for us in creating VR for IHG–in the video you see the concept of a virtual world, creating one inherent asset that gets repurposed across an industry or across an organization. When you start with that, which we’ve now done for a number of companies, this is a great example of not applying it to just one part of a process, but looking holistically at how you improve a process.