Augmented Reality in Travel: How AR Can Enrich Tourists’ Experiences While on Vacation

Anastasia Morozova
Chief Operating Officer

Let’s imagine the traveler who is only planning a vacation. Before going on a journey, the traveler needs to find out transport routes and timetables, places to stay, local attractions, entertainments, and food.

There is a large amount of reference information for tourists. It is remarkably difficult to distinguish your business from other travel companies publishing tons of marketing texts, photos, animations, and videos.

How do you make the traveler pay attention to you? The augmented reality application can come in handy to highlight your competitive advantages.

With the help of the AR app, you can display useful information in an intuitive, user-friendly interface. Augmented reality in travel is an ideal tool for storytelling, which combines informative content and entertainment.

Augmented reality travel app quickly engages customers with its interactivity and provides a unique user experience.

travel and tourism

People travel because they live exciting experiences. This wish for novelty can be used by travel businesses, who can provide customers with adventure activities and offer them new engaging ways to discover the world using augmented reality.

Pokemon Go shows an example of how you can use modern digital technologies to make travel experience even better.

Pokemon Go became the first mass-popular augmented reality game. But instead of an isolated game at home, this AR application brought players out into the street and made them move and travel a lot.

Thanks to the commercial success of Pokemon Go, it became clear that the market is ready for the mass use of augmented reality.

How does AR technology work?

First, the augmented reality (AR) application captures the image of the surrounding environment. In the Pokemon Go, as well as in most AR applications for a mass user, it is made with the built-in camera of a smartphone or tablet.

The AR application scans the captured image to determine where it should be overlaid with the AR objects. Following that, the app sends a request to the database for obtaining proper information.

In the end, the augmented reality application gathers a comprehensive picture using a captured image of the environment around you and additional information.

For the user, all these processes in the augmented reality applications occur in the blink of an eye. When you play Pokemon Go and find yourself in the Pokemon’s habitat, it instantly appears on the screen. In addition, if you go to another place without catching the Pokemon, it will disappear from your screen.

Moreover, in many augmented reality applications, you can interact with objects. So, you don’t only watch the Pokemon, but catch it. Interactivity is particularly essential for creating a fascinating effect on the augmented reality travel app.

augmented reality in tourism

See also: From Games to Music to Sports: How Augmented Reality is Changing Entertainment

Types of augmented reality applications

Different approaches are used for analyzing the environment in AR applications. Let’s look at some of them.

1. Location-based

AR applications that track locations are called location- or position-based. Location-based apps usually rely on GPS, accelerometer or digital compass data.

Pokemon Go uses GPS data to find out the location of the user and determine whether to show him a Pokemon or not.

The location-based augmented reality approach is suitable for creating city tours or navigation apps.

2. Marker-based

Marker-based AR apps respond to specific predefined triggers. Markers can be codes, printed images or physical objects.

At the moment, marker-based AR technology is the most widespread in different types of AR travel applications.

For instance, Thomas Cook travel company with the marker-based AR app provides digital content in addition to printed materials. And, Jinsha Site Museum in China uses marker-based augmented reality technology to animate artifacts and recreate ancientries.


Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology recognize objects around the user. SLAM technology uses complex algorithms to identify colors, patterns or other features of physical objects.

SLAM technology is the most advanced and requires high-end hardware to run smoothly. Therefore, most augmented reality developers create location-based or marker-based AR travel apps.

ar app for travel

What are the use cases of AR in the travel industry?

Let’s look at how a traveler can get more benefits from the journey by using various possibilities of augmented reality.

AR for travel guides

The interactive AR travel guide can immediately provide up-to-date background information in a convenient form, show the three-dimensional sights or interactive videos.

An example of AR travel guide is the AR City app. Now, this AR app provides the enhanced map content for more than 300 cities. Additional information includes street and building names, relevant points of interest.

AR City also provides a traveler with augmented reality navigation hints. Thus, the traveler gets all the necessary information in one augmented reality travel application.

ar app screenshot

Augmented reality for hotels

The use of augmented reality in the hotel business is impressive with its diversity.

Travelers can use an augmented reality hotel guide when they’re looking for a hotel to stay in. For example, Thomas Cook travel company advertises Sentido hotels with such interactive AR-based tours. With the mobile AR app, customers can receive extra content by scanning printed or online images in Thomas Cook’s brochures.

In order not to get lost in a large hotel, travelers can use the navigation AR application to find a dining room, a swimming pool, a spa or an entertainment area.

A traveler will always get entertained in the augmented hotel environment. Below we can see the example at the Holiday Inn that created an AR hotel experience for visitors. With the AR app, visitors can watch funny, realistic pictures of celebrities in the hotel rooms.

In addition, when tourists get bored with watching celebrities, they can take advantage of the interactive AR map of the neighborhood to find out what places are worth visiting. The Hub Hotel in the United Kingdom provides this opportunity, using the AR app to animate maps on the walls of its hotel rooms.

augmented reality application

AR for city tours

A considerable advantage of augmented reality is that it is capable of enhancing or changing the view of the surrounding world. With the AR apps, tourists can not only learn more and view the existing architectural objects in detail but also make time travel.

Augmented reality applications can show how the area looked in the past, restore historical events or vice versa, transfer the traveler to the future demonstrating buildings that are only planned today.

For example, the augmented reality travel app Paris, Then and Now Guide, transfers a traveler to Paris of the 20th century providing a unique experience and unforgettable impressions.

ar application

Real-time AR directions

Real-time AR directions are especially suitable for traveler in a large city with intensive traffic.

Passengers of the New York subway can use the AR application Tunnel Vision, which shows the location of trains, the load of stations and other useful information in real time.

The user only needs to download a free AR travel application and point a smartphone at the wall map in the subway.

An unconditional leader in the provision of real-time directions is Google Maps. In April 2018, Google Maps shared their new development using augmented reality to facilitate orientation in space.

This augmented reality application combines real-time street view with navigation tips and additional information that the traveler might need.

augmented reality applications

AR for parks and zoos

Augmented reality applications in parks and zoos are especially relevant for families with children.

Children quickly get tired and become irritable if you need to stand in a queue or walk for a long time. An entertaining application similar to Pokemon Go or a fun quiz will captivate the child and the time will fly by for both child and parents.

The AR application can also help navigate the park or the zoo easier. Travelers can visit places of interest without worrying to get lost.

Some zoos create comprehensive edutainment AR applications. One such example is the Antarctic Journey in Phillip Island Nature Parks (Australia).

This augmented reality app deserves the highest ratings of visitors thanks to the feeling of a real walking along the ice with penguins.

Augmented reality for museums

With the use of augmented reality, museums have ceased to be a boring place.

For example, the National Museum of Singapore created the application Story of the Forest, similar to Pokemon Go. With the help of the AR application, visitors hunt for different plants and animals. At the same time, they not just get entertained but also learn about where plants grow and where the animals live.

Augmented reality has a limitless use in museums. It gives an opportunity to learn how different technical devices work, see how the prehistoric animals looked, observe how the art masterpieces were created, track the development of historical events and much more.

What are the top AR apps in travel?

At the moment, you can find a large number of applications using augmented reality in travel and tourism. But among them, there are AR travel apps that stand out with their unique ideas, the ideal technical embodiment and an extraordinary interest for travelers.

Google Translate Word Lens

In May 2014, Google acquired Quest Visual – the augmented reality app development company, which produced Word Lens. From that moment, Word Lens became one of the functions of Google Translate.

With the help of augmented reality technology, Word Lens recognizes printed texts in 30 different languages and instantly shows the translation on the screen of your mobile device. Word Lens identifies different fonts and is highly accurate in translation.

Word Lens is available to all users for free. At the same time, the AR application has a powerful global message, making a huge step towards eliminating language barriers.


Scadi is a unique augmented reality application for visitors of Alpine ski resorts. The Times, Forbes, National Geographic and other major media have covered this application.

Scadi uses advanced algorithms to create the most comfortable, safe and exciting routes for skiers and snowboarders. For this purpose, Scadi combines several technologies: the collection of geodata, analysis of the movements and behavior of the user during the ride, and augmented reality.

Scadi is not only an offline map of about all ski slopes in the Alps and a personal guide which takes into account the skill level of the skier. This AR app is also an exciting game with the collection of gems, which turns the ride into a real adventure.

Augmented reality travel app Scadi is free of charge. But some exclusive features are only available in the premium version.

SmartGuide for Casa Batllo museum in Barcelona, Spain

The famous house-museum Casa Batllo designed by Gaudi in 2014 released a premium guide using augmented reality technology.

SmartGuide is a sophisticated high-tech AR application that provides the perfect image quality.

SmartGuide highlights unique features of Casa Batllo with the help of interactive videos. When the user points the tablet camera to certain interior objects, they come to life on the screen.

SmartGuide is now available in 11 languages. Despite the high cost, thousands of travelers used this premium guide. Still, most users say that SmartGuide provides a unique experience worth its money.

What value does AR bring to travel businesses?

Aside from the clear benefits for tourists, the use of augmented reality has exceptional advantages for travel businesses.

Let’s look at the benefits of augmented reality in the travel and tourism industry in more detail:

  • The AR app can become a unique promotion and marketing tool, differentiating your business from the competitors.
  • Augmented reality travel applications create a wow effect on your customers. Thus, clients advise your product to their friends, share their pleasant experience on social networks and can even start marketing buzz around your travel business.
  • With the free AR travel app, you can increase customer loyalty. You can provide users with free additional services, for example, an interactive map of the area or fun AR applications.
  • Augmented reality is well suited to increase the popularity of tourist destinations. In the augmented reality application, you can introduce local attractions in an entertaining interactive form and make travelers want to visit them in reality.
  • Augmented reality can animate those areas that are usually considered to be boring, for example, visiting museums and exhibitions. You can send your customers on a journey through times, show how a masterpiece was created, or explain how something works.
  • Augmented reality apps are useful for creating comfortable conditions for a family vacation. With the help of augmented reality travel applications, you can entertain children while standing in a queue, during long walks or educational events.
  • With the help of AR travel app, you can significantly increase the cost of your services. For instance, you can sell premium AR tours or other offers for high-end clients.
  • Augmented reality applications are well suited for upselling some products and services. For example, you can give users discounts for completing the AR quiz. Thus, you introduce your products and also increase revenue.

Augmented reality allows you to choose the most suitable option for your travel business and highlight your strengths for the customers.

augmented reality app development

Final thoughts

In the past few years, you can observe many examples of using augmented reality in travel and tourism.

Augmented reality perfectly accomplishes the reference function for travel guides, translation services or for providing real-time AR directions.

AR can also serve for entertainment purposes, for example, enhancing the reality with funny three-dimensional images or game-like applications.

Today, augmented reality application development is very popular in the field of tourism. Mobile AR apps do not require any expensive equipment. Modern smartphones and tablets efficiently run augmented reality applications.

If you think that using augmented reality in travel and tourism makes sense, we are willing to provide you with more detailed information on this topic and do our best in AR development.

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