[News] Marriott launches new messenger apps and robots to compete with Airbnb
• Marriott wants to fend off Airbnb by
introducing new apps and services.
• Guests will soon be able to book hotel
reservations and submit requests on Facebook Messenger and
• A new feature that curates local activities for guests
could help the company compete with Airbnb.
The hotel business is exploding. Over 80% of millennials, who
famously value experiences over material things,
are more likely to spend money on travel than save for their
Still, the threat of home-sharing startups like Airbnb looms
large over legacy hotel brands. But Marriott,
the world’s largest hotel chain, has a solution to take on the
The company won’t be renting out private homes anytime soon. But
Marriott is channeling Silicon Valley startups by rolling out new
apps and services that aim to make the guest experience seamless
and more personalized, from
concierge robots that deliver fresh towels, to a data-driven
mobile app that suggests restaurants and activities it thinks
guests will enjoy.
These millennial-friendly amenities deliver the personal touch
that travelers crave from home-sharing startups, with the safety
and liability that come with staying in a major hotel chain.
Marriott is by no stretch a startup. Through a $13 billion
acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, the company
now owns 30 hotel
brands ranging from The Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis on the
high-end to Courtyard Marriott and Four Points on the more
affordable side. It has 1.2 million rooms globally, which puts it
400,000 rooms shy of Airbnb’s count in 2016.
In 2017, Marriott plans to open 500 new hotels — with some new
The company is launching a Marriot Rewards extension for popular
messaging apps including Facebook Messenger, Slack, and China’s
largest messaging app WeChat. Members of the loyalty program will
be able to use these apps to search availability at thousands of
hotels, find articles about their destination city, and connect
with concierge before and during their stay.
Aloft, a boutique hotel brand owned by Marriott,
added autonomous robots to its concierge staff in 2014. When
a guest calls the front desk to request a toothbrush or
a cup of coffee, a hotel employee loads the robot — called Botlr
— and sends it on its way. Botlr comes equipped with sensors and
3D cameras that allow it to avoid obstacles and find the
The idea is that Botlr frees up hotel employees to focus on more
Stephanie Linnartz, global chief commercial officer for Marriott,
told Business Insider that Marriott has to make every part of a
hotel stay as easy as placing an order on Amazon.
“To have technology play a critical part in the guest experience
— and all along the journey — is how we’re going to win [guests’]
loyalty,” Linnartz said. “We want to be your first choice.”
made another strategic investment this year. It dropped an
undisclosed amount in PlacePass, a search engine for travel
experiences, tours, and attractions in 800 locations in 117
countries. Before and during their hotel stays, guests receive a
curated list of activities based on their interests and past
reservations, and can book PlacePass activities through
offering a similar service last fall. A new feature called
Trips lets users sign up for “experiences,” like going
truffle-hunting or driving classic cars, or check out “places,”
which are recommendations from local residents. Trips is
available in 40 markets worldwide.
Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott,
told Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell earlier this year
that this is an area where traditional hotels could have an
unexpected edge on Airbnb.
“We have advantages because we have a community [at our
hotels]. You’re not alone in somebody’s extra bedroom or house
that they’ve left behind. … You can talk to people who are
there who will say, ‘Here’s my favorite restaurant,'” Sorenson
Anyone who’s stayed in a hotel before can relate: Concierge
is not always helpful. They might spit out the same few
recommendations to each guest that approaches their desk.
Linnartz said the new partnership with PlacePass marries
the rich data behind a hotel company with the computing wizardry
of a tech startup to make guests’ experiences more
“We’re thinking in a very open-minded and creative way about what
— you know, we’ve never been afraid of competition — what can we
do to be as competitive as possible,” Linnartz said.
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