Marriott Eyes Millennials for Meetings Innovation Cues

meetings innovation, Marriott International
Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Los Cabos

Millennials are expected to outnumber all other generations by 2030 and with that comes a gradual shift in preferences that is already changing the scope of meetings, incentives and conventions.

A longtime pioneer of hospitality trends, Marriott International is facing this challenge head on with a number of meetings innovations and new experiential programming that cater to the millennial no-holds-barred “festivalization” of meetings. Expanding the boundaries of what constitutes the smart hotel room is a central focus, particularly in the growing Internet of Things (IoT) space and the increased demand for connectivity between objects and devices. To this regard, Marriott’s first IoT guest room is currently taking shape at its Innovation Lab, and while the details are still being worked out, Stephanie Linnartz, global chief commercial officer at Marriott International says we should expect the usual process of “innovating while integrating,” adding that one of the biggest challenges is creating a platform that is easy for all guests to use.

Another soon-to-be step-up in the way of personalization is Connect My Device technology, which will pair personal devices with guest room TVs for instant streaming of entertainment such as Netflix. Currently, guests who want to use Netflix must fiddle through a lengthy login process on a TV remote control. With Connect My Device, all of this is ready to go the moment attendees enter their rooms.

Linnartz says community-minded programming is also on the to-do list of millennials and The Ritz-Carlton caters to this through compelling “Impact Experiences” that immerse them in social and environmental impact activities that are unique to the destination. Linnartz says another innovation in the works, PlacePass, will be “the Kayak of experiences” for attendees, scouting the world over for the most authentic and immersive out there—100,000 in 800 destinations worldwide, to be exact. Marriott is also grabbing millennials’ attention by simplifying WiFi and adding in fun perks—the Sheraton Grand Chicago has rolled out meetings puppy breaks—and it appears that the street food trend is here to stay.

In the Pipeline

Marriott expects to open 200 new luxury hotels in the next three years with 50 hotels and 16 resorts opening this year in China alone, Marriott’s fastest growing segment and the world’s No. 1 source of outbound travelers. “We gained 200 to 300 hotels after the merger,” says Peggy Fang Roe, chief sales and marketing officer for Marriott Asia Pacific, “and a growing middle class is creating a new segment of aspirational travelers who are looking for higher quality products and experiences.” Highlights here include The Ritz-Carlton, Haikou, the brand’s first golf resort in China, and the eco-conscious Element Chongli, in the mountainous Taiwoo Ski Resort of Zhangjiakou, co-host of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

In North America, 5,000 hotels are currently in the pipeline and Marriott will be “opening up one every day for the next three years,” says Steve Heitzner, chief sales and marketing officer for the Americas. Heitzner describes Marriott’s Moxy brand as a “luxury youth hostel” that is particularly alluring to millennial attendees. The newly opened Moxy Times Square also has the largest rooftop bar in NYC, which millennials love.

Among the most anticipated Marriott openings are the Bulgari Hotel, Shanghai; The Barcelona EDITION; W Brisbane; Zadun, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve Los Cabos and Le Berri, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Paris.

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