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St Giles hotel guests to get first crack at the Samsung Gear 360 camera

The hospitality industry sees potential in virtual reality as a marketing tool. While the technology is still young, that hasn’t stopped companies from diving in. Marriott has been exploring the concept of virtual travel through hardware like the Oculus Rift and Samsung’s Gear VR. The latest hotel brand to jump on the VR bandwagon is St Giles Hotels, which is running a campaign that turns guests into VR content creators.

The St Giles 360 program works like this: Between June 20 and July 15, 30 hotel guests, or anyone who plans to be in select cities where St Giles operates (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London, England; Makati, the Philippines; New York; and Penang, Malaysia) will have the opportunity to use a Samsung Gear 360 camera to capture their travel experiences in those cities. The videos will then be collected and converted into VR streams, which will be available to view on September 12, 2016.

Related: Marriott Hotels is testing a new virtual reality room service program for guests

According to St Giles, this is the first brand campaign where guests are the content creators (the final VR streams won’t be solely guest-created, however, as custom content will be mixed in). To execute the project, St Giles tapped the content team at its agency, Piranha, a New York City-based creative firm.

To pick the camera participants will use, Piranha spent three days testing five prosumer 360-degree cameras with focus groups, before settling on the Samsung Gear 360. The cameras, which isn’t available until the fall, were shipped directly from South Korea to the five properties; the selected users won’t just get to create content, but they would be one of the first to use a brand-new product (check out our first impressions).

The project would not only enhance St Giles’ brand experience, but also introduce consumers to VR – the next big thing in content consumption. “By embracing emerging VR technology and placing the power of a 360 camera in the hands of their guests, this campaign will highlight the same immersive feeling of a stay at a St Giles property and show just how accessible these new platforms can be,” said Rob Sabatini, co-founder of Piranha, in a release.

How will the participants get selected? If you’re a guest staying at one of the participating St Giles property within the aforementioned dates, or visiting those cities, you can enter via the St Giles 360 website, where you’d fill out a short survey that asks about travel preferences, social media habits, and experiences with photography and cameras, including a GoPro. Five winners will be chosen in each city, and get a free night’s stay at one of the hotels.

While the campaign is designed to promote the St Giles brand and properties, it’s also another demonstration of how the travel sector is using VR and 360-degree content for marketing purposes. As more hardware and services start to roll out, VR would continue to play an increasing role in this area, where a virtual experience could lead to actual real travel – look at it as the new travel brochure. From hotels to airlines, travel-related industries believe millennial travelers value great experiences above everything else, and see technologies like VR as one key to their pockets.