Marriott has recently stepped up its quest to be more innovative and ready to meet the expectations of today’s demanding travellers.
Ten days ago, in the basement meeting rooms of the Marriott London Kensington, eight travel startup companies pitched to a panel of technology and marketing executives.
The eight finalists were chosen from 140 fledgling companies that entered the TestBED search for products and services that would further the guest experience.
Jambo and Dazzle won the competition and the prize is a six-week acceleration programme within one Marriott hotel to test the product and gain feedback from the hotel, as well as, workshops and mentoring from the company on the hospitality industry, scaling up, online marketing techniques and story telling.
Dazzle, a voice-activated application using Amazon Echo to deliver hotel and local information to guests, was chosen because of the opportunity it provides for the group’s hotels to differentiate themselves as well as enhance the guest experience.
Osama Hirzalla, vice president brand marketing and ecommerce Europe for Marriott International says:
“Dazzle also provides the ideal test solution because it can be flexible enough to incorporate within a single hotel but also provide multiple avenues for use within a guest’s room as well as during their stay in a city.”
Jambo, an app enabling business travellers to connect with other professionals while on a trip, also earned a place on the TestBED accelerator.
“It offers a unique opportunity for Marriott Hotels to help business travellers connect with likeminded professionals while on their travels. It also offers hotels the opportunity to promote local events and encourage social meetings inside hotel F&B outlets.
“In a fast-changing landscape where millennial travellers want to feel connected to the people and environment around them, we saw a great opportunity to become an enabler of meetings and personal connections amongst business travellers.”
He was just one of a panel of five which also included Elizabeth Varley, founder and CEO of the TechHub; and Will Mercer, head of strategy at the Trampery.
Hirzalla says narrowing the eight down was hard but the company asked itself how the products and services wold help it better understand guests and whether it could be integrated in a single hotel.
Prior to the pitch day each startup was given guidance on presenting their product in terms of how it would fit with Marriott and its guests. The hotel company also considered how it might add value to the startups.
It was a strong line-up with a good mix of European businesses in addition – some with hardware products as well as a number of apps for in-hotel services as well as addressing the local area.
Abyss Glass – a Poland-based company with an interactive mirror offering entertainment options to guests as well as providing hotels with upselling opportunities and the ability to alert guests to what is going on at the property.
MagicBox – a France-based company which places a wifi-box in every room which also acts as a hub for the guests content enabling them to stream content from their devices to the television. It also enables the hotel to keep guests up to date with events and information in and around the property.
HiJiffy – a Spain-based concierge service for hotels built in Facebook Messenger. The service can be used to check prices and availability, access hotel facilities and get information on sightseeing.
AskHelmut – a Germany-based app to tell people what’s going on in the city they are visiting including concerts, theatre and art.
Firef.ly – a London-based app that aims to bring together in one place all the apps that a traveller might use as well as providing them with destination tips.
Immersive Robotics – a France-based startup which develops robots to help with customer service such as at a hotel reception.
Hirzalla also says that while all the products provided solutions to enhance the hotel experience for guests, some would have required too much integration with existing systems.
Commenting on learnings from the pitch process overall, he says:
“The whole process has been an eye-opener into the wealth of knowledge, innovative solutions and potential disruptors out there in the startup community that we had previously been unaware of.
“As consumers change and the travel landscape evolves, the line between travel and technology blurs and we need to respond nimbly to improve the guest experience and create meaningful experiences.”