Thursday, August 10, 2006

Stay at a virtual hotel

Here’s a smart gimmick/idea (call it what you want) created by US resort giant Starwood to promote a new development at its W Hotels chain.

W Hotels has signed up The Electric Sheep Company, a Washington-based developer that uses technology to “realise” construction projects, to produce a virtual world for its new cut-price Aloft hotels.

The first Aloft hotels will open in 2008, while there are also plans for another 500 more around the world by 2012.

So to build a little bit of momentum the company is adopting an unusual – if probably rather expensive – marketing strategy and has asked Electric Sheep to build a computer-generated model of a fictitious Aloft hotel, based on its Second Life model.

But this is not the usual, flashy 3D graphic model of rooms, bar area, swimming pool and marina.

Once the hotel is “open” to the public in September, users will be able to develop their own avatars – similar to the computer game, The Sims – and stay at the resort.

Each user will be able to walk around the complex – in this case a rather pleasant island – and interact with the hotel’s facilities and other guests.

An Electric Sheep-run blog is following construction of the virtual Aloft hotel every day, ahead of its official “opening” in September.

Kevin May, editor, Travolution

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