Sure, Marriott was just named the top hotel company in Fast Company’s “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies” issue—but it is not resting on its laurels. From shared living rooms to technology links to Apple’s Siri, the combined Marriott/Starwood is set to debut unique customer-facing offerings that are likely to keep it in the running for next year’s award. Twenty rooms at the Seaport Aloft in Boston are already equipped to enable Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator,” to help guests, well, navigate their way around the hotel room. Guests can speak to her through an iPhone or iPad; just say, “Hey, Siri, turn on the TV,” and it will happen. Aloft is the company’s tech incubator, and Marriott expects a slow rollout, probably in six months or so, as it wants to make sure the technology works perfectly before deploying it broadly.
But not all innovation is technological—sometimes it’s just human. Their Element brand is launching an equally interesting first in the hotel industry, a whole new room concept, a communal guest room where up to five individual guest rooms open into a central living room with a kitchenette and a big TV and a pool table. It’s perfect for small groups—families, bachelor parties, even co-workers traveling together and looking for a shared environment rather than having to all go into one room or to the public space to hang out together.
The idea was developed in the Marriott Innovation Lab and tested by focus groups of leisure and business travelers, property owners and travel agents. While Marriott is still currently analyzing test user feedback, it is so positive that they’re planning to have them in all Element hotels toward the end of the year.
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