In the futuristic movie “Minority Report,” the character played by Tom Cruise walks into a mall and his eyes are scanned by 3-D screens that start calling him by name to get his attention. He walks into the Gap and a hologram asks, “How did those assorted tank tops work out for you?”
The world of personal advertising isn’t quite there yet, but Hawai‘i Tourism Authority and Expedia are inching closer. They will roll out the “Discover Your Aloha” campaign on Sept. 26, which uses facial recognition software to personalize Hawaii advertising content. It will be used to stimulate traffic and increase Hawaii travel bookings on Expedia, Hotels.com, Orbitz, Travelocity and Wotif in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
|2016 HAWAII TOURISM CONFERENCE
Expedia’s “Discover Aloha” facial recognition partnership with HTA has been under wraps, but more details about it and other technology upgrades will be available at HTA’s 2016 Hawaii Tourism Conference.
>> When: Sept. 26-30
>> Where: Hawai’i Convention Center
>> More info/register: Hawaiitourismconference.com or 664-3822; full conference or single-day passes are available
>> Sept. 28: Expedia will talk briefly about the campaign during the conference general session, “Flatter Than Ever: Defining the New Global Marketplace and Relating to Change.” It will be held in the ballroom from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m.
>> Sept. 28: Expedia will host an Aloha Reception at 5:30 p.m. on the rooftop garden of the Hawai’i Convention Center.
>> Sept. 29: “Technology/Media: Discover Your Aloha,” will be from 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Room 320 at the convention center. The session will discuss the creative design and technology behind the campaign’s facial recognition software.
>> Sept. 29: The HTA will spotlight new virtual reality marketing during a session entitled, “Virtual Reality: The undiscovered territory in tourism marketing,” from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. in the ballroom.
>> At the Village Square: On the main level of the convention center, visitors can try out HTA’s new virtual reality technology. Hours are Sept. 27 from 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sept. 28 -29, 7 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; and Sept. 30, 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Here’s how it works: Potential travelers give permission to activate the campaign’s facial recognition component, which then uses those potential travelers’ personal web and mobile cameras. Site users are shown drone footage and scenic videos of Hawaii. Expedia’s booking sites monitor their facial reactions and then make travel recommendations tailored to those reactions. Users also can interact with the site, which will develop a profile about the kind of Hawaii travel they prefer. The campaign will not save or store personal information, but users can choose to share details on social media.
HTA and Expedia will release more details about the campaign at the 2016 Hawaii Tourism Conference, which will be hosted by the tourism agency from Sept. 26-30. The cutting-edge campaign represents a portion of an up to $7 million technology investment made by HTA over the past year, said the agency’s chief operating officer, Randy Baldemor.
“We’re at the forefront of the tech sector and even more so of tourism,” Baldemor said. “The campaign will allow us to be more sensitive to what visitors want and need.”
Expedia also is eager to embark on its first facial recognition partnership, which it says has the potential to increase Hawaii bookings and bolster customer satisfaction.
However, like other technology innovations, HTA and Expedia may find the devil is in the details. That’s why the American Civil Liberties Union has spent the last several years seeking legislation to enforce facial recognition privacy measures.
“It is impossible to protect against the negative effects of this powerful technology fully without government intervention and statutorily created legal protections,” the ACLU said in a statement submitted to the U.S. Department of Commerce, which has been considering biometric privacy protections over the last few years.
ACLU officials said it would not comment on the Hawaii campaign until they have a chance to review the end-user license agreement. However, in the past, the organization has expressed concern that facial recognition technology has “the potential to substantially limit anonymity, allow widespread tracking of the public and facilitate stalking and harassment.”
Despite controversy, biometrics is increasingly used in commerce. It allows beauty consumers to conduct virtual-makeovers and interact with products. Users taking part in Merrill Edge’s “Face Retirement” campaign may access an interactive visualization service that allows them to see how they will look as they age. A few years ago Verizon joined with the NFL to launch a GamePaint app that gave users the opportunity to virtually paint their faces with team colors.
Since the advertising campaign puts HTA and Expedia in new territory, neither organization was willing to speculate on the percentage of viewers who are likely to give permission for facial screening. Expedia, which reaches 90 million people every month across its platforms, has high but realistic hopes for its new partnership with Hawaii, said Noah Tratt, Expedia’s global senior vice president.
“We’ve learned, especially when you do something new, to approach it with a ‘test and learn’ philosophy. The idea that we’ll launch something and it will hit a home run immediately is probably naive,” Tratt said. “We’ll look at how the campaign is performing and adjust. We’ll keep our eye on the data to ensure we are meeting the marketing parameters of the partnership. Hawaii is an incredibly important destination for us. It’s a top destination.”
If they don’t opt into the facial recognition feature, visitors to the site still may see the campaign’s videos, which showcase dramatic imagery across Oahu, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Hawaii island, Tratt said.
Tailored to the young
Some people may be resistant to facial recognition, which looks at them as a person and not just data, said Joseph Toy, president and CEO of Hospitality Advisors LLC.
“It’s another paradigm that they’ll have to get past,” he said. “Technology is a big benefit to the market, but it can create anxiety as well.”
But Sam Shenkus, Royal Hawaiian Center marketing director, said those concerns probably are less applicable to the coveted millennial market.
“Millennials live on their phones; they are practically part of their body,” Shenkus said. “They won’t be intimidated or nervous. They already share plenty of personal information on Facebook and Snapchat and all the other digital sites that they frequent. Personally, I think the campaign is brilliant.”
Keith Vieira, principal of KV & Associates Hospitality Consulting LLC, agreed that the campaign will resonate the most with the technologically savvy millennials that HTA wants to cultivate.
“We’ve relied so heavily on the older traveler, 45 years old and above. To move into the future, we have to attract more younger travelers,” Vieira said. “We also have to find better, more cost-effective ways of reaching market segments. I don’t think there’s a better way to reach millennials than this.”
The campaign also has been endorsed by a host of local partners, including Kualoa Ranch, Polynesian Cultural Center, Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, Pacific Whale Foundation, Hana Ranch, Princeville Ranch, Kohala Zipline/Hawaii Forest and Trail and Wailua Shave Ice on Kauai.
“We were glad to see HTA taking some calculated risks. We are always on board to try new technology and we were very excited to partner with Expedia; no one comes close to their level of research with travel testing. We think they are on to some pretty cool stuff,” said Frank Among, Kualoa Ranch’s director of sales and marketing.
Polynesian Cultural Center officials are also excited to watch the campaign unfold. “Using this cutting-edge technology to showcase Hawaii’s scenic beauty and culture to millions of travelers globally is a wise move. Culture is inseparable to the Hawaii travel experience, so we’re happy to support HTA’s innovative marketing strategy,” said Seth Casey, the center’s marketing manager.