Marriott unveils its hotel of the future

Earlier this week Marriott International unveiled M Beta at Charlotte (N.C.) Marriott City Center, an experimental hotel that allows Marriott to solicit guest feedback on new concepts and initiatives in real time. M Beta is an innovation lab that enables rapid prototyping of anything from keyless entry to the latest technology in the property’s gym, Matthew Von Ertfelda, VP of insight, strategy and innovation for Marriott International, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT in an interview.

“M Beta was designed to create a platform and catalyst for change within the brand and within the company,” he said. “It provides a safe environment for experimentation. We test new boundaries and operating models allowing for insights into consumer trends. We can respond to technological changes and generational trends in a high-impact fashion using true innovation tools.”

In the past year, the company has invested millions into reinventing the Charlotte City Center Marriott, a hotel originally built in 1984 and in dire need of a renovation. Marriott purchased the property in 2013 for $111 million with the intention of transforming it into the first M Beta Hotel, allowing the company to use it as an innovation test lab to collect real guest feedback, as well as serve as a showcase for hotel owners and developers.

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Physical Beta Buttons are located throughout the hotel to gauge consumer feedback with a live tally. By simply pushing a Beta Button, guests and visitors share their "approval" for the corresponding innovation. Beta Button engagement, votes and feedback on hotel innovations are then aggregated and brought to life in real-time via Beta Boards, digital screens placed throughout the hotel for all to see, as well as on TravelBrilliantly.com.

“This allows us to register, record and aggregate real-time feedback from guests and associates from all the innovations in the hotel,” Von Ertfelda said. “The hotel will continually respond to guest behaviors and continue to be relevant while intensifying loyalty and increasing business performance.”

Concepts featured in the hotel will rotate periodically and feature new products as well as various service offerings. One of the notable changes across the guestrooms and meeting spaces is abundance access to power—there are USB port throughout the spaces, Von Ertfelda said. The guestrooms also include access to Hulu, Netflix and screencast from a guest’s personal device to the television screen.

Greatroom at Charlotte Marriott City Center

M-Beta at Charlotte Marriott City Center is testing the following:

  • Hosted arrival: The traditional front desk check-in is gone and replaced with tablet-based check-in options. Personal greeters wait for a guest’s arrival at the curb, in the lobby, wherever on property. Of course mobile check-in is an option for rewards members and so is keyless entry, Von Ertfelda said.
  • FLEX fitness: Guests have access to nearly 1,000 on-demand group and personal workouts available on screens in the tech-driven, on-demand fitness studio or in-room, as well as access to local fitness boutiques, available to book directly through http://flexatmarriott.com/charlotte.
  • LG Studio in the dynamic meeting space: As the first iteration of a new partnership between the two companies, the LG Studio features a full LG kitchen within the hotel’s meeting space, providing food-and-beverage experience that can be tailored to any type of gathering, from a brainstorm to a networking event. Local artisans and vendors can inhabit this communal area.
  • The immersive kitchen at Stoke restaurant: Removing the walls between the kitchen and dining area, the immersive kitchen within the Stoke restaurant and bar puts guests in the center of the action, allowing chefs to interact more closely with and entertain guests with impromptu culinary offerings. The interactive space also encourages a sense of exploration among guests with a regular rotation of local artisan tastings and cooking classes.
  • Localized marketplace: Coco and the Director is a community center and the social hub of the hotel, which allows travelers to enjoy locally sourced coffee, original retail and limited-edition food selections from Charlotte small business. An ongoing rotation of literary, music, educational and entertainment events are featured, providing a constant source of inspiration for guests and locals.

Each of these new test features and concepts is tied to a multiyear global transformation of the Marriott brand that initially began five years ago. Marriott wants to take an historic brand and transform it into something that’s more design-driven, innovative and localized.

“We have a hotel that actually learns,” Von Ertfelda said. “Our work stream is focused on unlocking a culture of innovation and teaches property leaders to innovate. This culture of innovation training has not been done before and will allow us to enrich across the entire portfolio—even across the entire brand.”

The grand opening of M Beta at Charlotte Marriott City Center. From left to right: James Mitchell, Charlotte City Council member; Arne Sorenson, president and CEO, Marriott International; and Mike Dearing, managing director, Marriott Hotels.

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