Meeting Mentor Magazine

December 2018

Guest-Driven Innovation

A Look Inside Marriott’s
M Beta Hotel Experiment

You won’t find a front desk at Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina. Guests can go directly to their rooms when they use keyless check-in with their cell phones. Or they’re guided through check-in at tables in the lobby. Keyless check-in and hosted arrival are two of the innovations being tested at the hotel, which celebrated its grand opening in October, debuting as Marriott’s first M Beta property and the world’s first “live-beta hotel.”

“Beta button” touch pads are located throughout the 446-room hotel, and guests and visitors are invited to vote on what features of the hotel they like. Votes are calculated in real-time and displayed on TV screens in the lobby. Aspects of the hotel that get the most “likes” are then considered for other Marriott hotels.

“Marriott Hotels is transforming the traditional hotel experience. We are inviting guests to be part of the innovation and decision-making,” said Mike Dearing, managing director, Marriott Hotels, at the grand opening celebration. “M Beta at Charlotte Marriott City Center is a testing ground for exciting new concepts as we constantly evolve and challenge our way of thinking.”

Charlotte Marriott City Center originally opened in 1984. Marriott International purchased the hotel in 2013 and has invested about $16 million to transform the property. According to Marriott, concepts featured in the hotel will rotate periodically and feature new products and services. Besides hosted arrival, other concepts currently being tested include:

Kitchen in Meeting Space: This is a full-service kitchen outfitted with LG appliances. The goal is to recreate a residential kitchen atmosphere in the pre-function meeting space for chefs to prepare items in front of attendees.

Local Marketplace: Coco and the Director is a combination coffee house, community center and gift shop, and it functions as the social hub of the hotel. Locally sourced coffee and retail and limited-edition food selections from Charlotte small business are featured, along with a rotation of literary, music, educational and entertainment events.

Flexible Fitness: Guests have access to nearly 1,000 on-demand group and personal workouts available on screens in the fitness studio or in their hotel rooms.

Immersive Dining: There are no walls between the kitchen and dining area in the hotel’s Stoke restaurant and bar, allowing chefs to interact more closely with guests and entertain them with impromptu culinary offerings. Stoke serves farm-to-table Southern-style food, led by a Charlotte native chef.

Building Brand and Brand Distinctions
M Beta is the first big innovation by Marriott since its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts became official on September 23, making Marriott International the world’s largest lodging company. Marriott International now encompasses 30 different hotel brands, including Starwood’s Sheraton, which operates in many of the same markets as Marriott Hotels and offers a similar product.

“The Marriott brand is obviously the flagship brand, and it’s where we want to make sure we have as much momentum and innovation as we possibly can [for this brand],” Arne Sorenson, Marriott International’s president and CEO, said in remarks at the grand opening of the Charlotte Marriott City Center. “We need to make sure the brand continues to evolve with the tastes and desires of our customers, and those tastes and desires continue to change year after year. This is the perfect hotel to showcase that reinvention.”

Marriott executives also said they hope the M Beta in Charlotte inspires franchise owners around the globe to renovate their hotels in a similar fashion, getting away from the cookie-cutter look and feel that characterizes many chain hotels.  —Regina McGee

 

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