What does a 4-D virtual reality experience have to do with one of the world’s iconic hotel brands? Is it just a gimmick to reach millennials?
As it turns out, engaging young business travelers is key to Marriott’s #GetTransported campaign, which is bringing virtual-reality “teleportation” booths to select U.S. cities this fall. But according to Karen Olivares, Marriott Hotel’s director of global brand marketing, the objectives go deeper.
“At Marriott, we’ve always thought of ourselves as an innovative brand,” Olivares says. “We have different technology pilot [programs] at our hotels, and we just launched mobile check-ins. In a way, we’re using the teleportation booths to showcase our research and development.”
During the three-minute #GetTransported experience, viewers strap on Oculus Rift goggles that take them from a Marriott lounge to a beach in Hawaii and the top of a London skyscraper (click the links to see what this reporter experienced). The 360-degree visual experience is augmented by bursts of spray, a moving footplate and headphone-supplied audio.
Olivares says that Marriott hopes the tool will help young business travelers associate the brand with innovation and technology. But what started as a fun way to engage people has sparked ideas for future applications of the technology.
“It could allow you to sample destinations before you book a trip,” Olivares says. “Our hotel websites all have a little photo gallery, but how cool would it be if you could take a virtual tour of the property instead?”
One day she hopes meeting planners will use these booths to “teleport” to a Marriott anywhere in the world, tour the facility and see what it’s like to walk the streets around the hotel before they commit to sending an RFP or booking a site tour. When those experiences would be ready is anyone’s guess, but Marriott already has developed a handy piece of tech meeting planners can download to their phones.
The Red Coat Direct mobile app allows meeting planners to alert Marriott staff to their needs with the push of a button. “Meetings are an important part of our business,” says Tally Shaw, a Marriott International global sales senior account executive, who calls the app “a game changer.” “The meeting planner doesn’t have to leave the meeting to tell someone that the room is too hot or too cold or to tell them ‘we need more coffee,’ ” Shaw says. “Planners alert staff of their needs through the app, and those needs are addressed within minutes.”
The #GetTeleported tour is part of a larger “Travel Brilliantly” rebranding campaign that is implementing customer-suggested improvements and amenities, like pop-up lobby gift shops that only feature locally made goods and public areas set up to encourage networking.
Marriott also is partnering with organizations to figure out how to use digital data from social networks to provide travelers with more relevant, personalized experiences.
“We have an innovation lab with MIT,” Olivares says, “and we’re working to figure out how we can create a more networking-friendly environment in the lobby.” Soon, you’ll be able to put your smartphone on a table and have it tell you who else is there who went to the same school, or has the same interests.
“If we know that eight people who like to run have checked into a certain hotel, the hotel could use that information to organize a group run,” Olivares says. “It’s all about: ‘How can we take those connections that are so common in the virtual world and bring it into the real world?’ “