-By Raquib Siddiqi
Marriott International has recently launched its first pop-up hotel innovation lab, creating an interactive model hotel experience in downtown Los Angeles to crowdsource real-time feedback from the public, furthering the company’s futuristic vision.Underscoring Marriott’s goal of continuously innovating the guest experience with an eye on design and technology, the lab will let industry professionals, hotel guests, associates and the general public see, touch, taste and hear some of the exciting enhancements being considered for the future of the company’s innovation incubator brand Aloft, and eco-conscious, extended-stay brand Element. Among them:
• With business and leisure travelers looking for more unique spaces, Element is piloting a bold new guest room design that will feature a communal room in the center of four guest rooms, allowing travelers to share a kitchen, dining room and lounge area. This will provide more collaborative space for groups who would like to spend time together in a more private setting.
• Aloft will be revitalizing its food and beverage program with an emphasis on fresh, healthy ingredients such as spinach, quinoa and avocado. Travelers will be able to order customized “pots,” a healthy meal in a colorful to-go container with food that reflects regional tastes. A personalized pot can be ordered and paid for at a digital kiosk; guests will receive their pot with a time-stamped, label featuring their chef’s emoji.
• Tech-centric beverage concepts, such as a portable wine cart for Element that automatically pours wine when activated by a guest’s hotel room key card.
“We’re excited to unveil Marriott’s first-ever, pop-up innovation lab for Aloft and Element – two phenomenal brands that are always evolving as guests, lifestyles and technology change,” said Eric Jacobs, Chief Development Officer – North America, Marriott Select Brands, Marriott International. “We’re also eager to collect and utilize feedback from the ownership community, which has expressed tremendous enthusiasm for both brands.”
At year-end 2016, there were 116 Aloft and 23 Element hotels open around the world, with 150 Aloft and 73 Element hotels in the pipeline globally. In 2016, new signings of Elements were more than double 2015 signings, whereas Aloft experienced a 37 percent uptick in signed deals year over year. In 2017, Marriott expects to open 33 Aloft properties and 14 Element properties across the globe in a diverse array of cities such as Seoul, South Korea, Seattle, Washington, and South Bend, Indiana.
Given the importance that Marriott places on incorporating feedback from its hotel owners, franchisees, and loyalty members, every person who passes through the lab will have the opportunity to offer their feedback in real-time through Swurveys, a swipe-able survey. The feedback will be reflected in the Aloft and Element brands as they rollout this intuitive guest experience beginning in the fall of 2017. “Innovation is embedded in Marriott’s values,” said Toni Stoeckl, Global Brand Leader and Vice President, Distinctive Select Brands. “We’re driven by creating solutions that elevate, innovate and evolve the guest experience, fueling guest loyalty and maximizing the value of our owners’ investments. It’s how we stay relevant to guests today and tomorrow, while providing a meaningful competitive advantage to our partners.”
The pop-up innovation lab event comes four months after Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which conceived of the two brands and witnessed an uptick in signings in the months leading up to the merger.
This isn’t the first time that Marriott invited the public to help transform the traditional hotel experience. In October, the company unveiled its first M Beta hotel for its flagship Marriott Hotels brand at Charlotte Marriott City Center, a functioning hotel that doubles as the world’s first hotel in “live beta.” From keyless entry upon arrival to digital experiences in the fitness studio, every corner of the hotel allows for rapid prototyping, inviting guests to test and give feedback in real-time, ultimately shaping their future hotel experience.
Marriott is an innovation leader, ranked 19th on FORTUNE’s list of Most Innovative Companies, and the powerhouse in hospitality innovation.
(The writer is a former Editor of The Bangladesh Times and specialises in aviation and tourism writing)
-By Raquib Siddiqi