What are the emerging technologies that pique the curiosity of a group as large as Accor? How can virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain and NFTs be used in hospitality? We interviewed Myriam El Harraq, VP Design, Voice of the Customer & Innovation within Accor’s Digital Factory to learn more.
Before we get to the heart of the matter, can you explain to us what the role of Accor’s Digital Factory is?
The Digital Factory brings together 700 talents with product, design, technology and data expertise. Its objective is to build the innovative products and services of tomorrow for our customers and our hoteliers. We want to provide a seamless experience, as personalized as possible, delivering the right message at the right time and place. The Innovation Cell within this Digital Factory is more specifically interested in the uses of our customers in hotel consumption, but also in their daily lives. We develop tests to explore current trends in order to find added value in the medium/long term. This then allows us to create an economic model and think about its scalability.
What do you see as the most exciting emerging technologies in the hospitality industry?
If I had to rank them by age, I would say augmented reality, virtual reality – the investment costs of which are just starting to fall – and the Web3 wave that includes blockchain, cryptocurrencies and metaverses. Most are in the “Hype Cycle” illustrated by Gartner. These technologies are very visible, but they still need to advance. At Accor, we closely follow what is happening, but their growth remains linked to our customers’ adoption and their uses.
What experiments are being carried out at Accor?
On the subject of virtual and augmented reality, we have been working on use cases with our customers. We are thinking about how they can be a differentiator to encourage people to choose us on their travel path. Virtual reality can be interesting to prepare for your trip, visiting the hotel, but also the surroundings, upstream. In particular, we are discussing these topics with Google, around its Immersive View tool. Augmented reality can be used during the stay. Through our ALL mobile app and smartphone camera, the guest can get information about the room facilities. We can show him the location of the plugs – one of the first things you look for when you arrive in a room – and why not give him information on how the TV works.
We ran experiments in Meta’s Workplace metaverse. Accor’s COMEX practically met this way. MICE is an important market for us, so we are exploring how meetings can take place in this format. We have also developed a new hybrid meeting concept based on Microsoft Teams. Overall, we are thinking of ways to bring hospitality – our core business – into these new interfaces. How to create emotions? How do we welcome people into the metaverse? We expect progress to be made to enable the creation of real experiences involving sense, for example through haptics.
On blockchain topics, we are very interested in smart contracts, especially to create a relationship of trust with suppliers. They would also add an extra layer of security to our loyalty program by preventing fraud. Blockchain is interesting wherever we can create reinsurance.
Finally, we run tests around cryptocurrencies and NFTs, but it is not easy to find use cases that bring real added value to our customers. As part of the #OpenToCreators campaign, two ibis Styles hotels in Bangkok and Seville have collaborated with artists to create NFT versions of their works that can be admired from the Space platform. We are also thinking about how we can reward our most loyal customers by giving them access to exclusive events and offers through NFTs. Without falling into speculation, it can be imagined that the purchase of an NFT can give the opportunity to participate in exclusive events and VIP meetings in the field of sports or music for example in the Accor Arena.
Are you planning to create digital twins of your hotels?
What we do know is that it would be nice to create just one that would be the best of the 5,300 hotels we have, but there is no point in creating thousands of digital twins. If we do, it will be to offer to live a specific experience. We can imagine virtual concerts, artistic events, etc. Accor has significantly transformed recently to become a lifestyle player and enter the experience market, not just the traditional tourism market. This type of technology can help us continue in this direction.