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‘Welcome to the Greatrooms’, says Marriott to delegates


‘No barmen, waiters or porters – just hosts’, Sydney Paulden is told

Hotels are always promising a new experience for guests, but how new can an experience be in booking, checking-in, having a meeting and staying a few nights?
Well, very different according to the new approach being introduced by Marriott Hotels.
I have just been briefed by three Marriott executives with very senior positions in Europe and they all had a lot of innovations to announce. Large numbers of groups and individual travellers will become aware of them, because the number of properties in Europe alone that are involved amount to 300, under 19 different brands within the Marriott Group.

First of my informants was Robert Juntke, Director of Events, Marriott Europe. He explained that the company has been carrying out research in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands to pinpoint areas of hotel design and services that could be improved.

‘We talked in depth’, says Robert, ‘not only to individual delegates attending meetings but also to the planners of the events. As a result we are introducing new ideas that will provide a major enhancement of their experience in the future. These will apply to the public spaces, the pre-function areas, the f&b services and also very much to the use of technology’.

Robert was speaking in the Marriott Amsterdam, the first property in Europe to incorporate these new ideas, which are now being rolled out wholesale. ‘One overall point made by the planners’, Robert explains, ‘is that they want the hotel to be not only a venue but also a partner. This means that we are now looking much more into the objectives of an event and helping the organisers to achieve them.’

Themes for events can range from celebrations, to education, sales promotion and innovation, with any combination of them all. Marriott is now building up a database of images of how their hotel spaces can be decorated or equipped, how food can be presented and different types of menus and dishes, so that organisers in advance can pick and choose the style and arrangements that will assist in achieving their objectives.

As Robert talked, I personally imagined it in terms of a photo-fit whereby the impact and impression that event organisers wanted to achieve can be pieced together, item by item, in advance.
Robert summed the services up with ‘more value for money’, in that hotel and organisers are able to work in unison to ensure the successful achievement of the objectives.

Of course, in today’s world, technology is being brought to bear to offer advanced services. ‘We are providing organisers with an app special for each event. If they suddenly have ten more delegates to cater for, if they need a-v assistance, whatever it is that suddenly arises, they can tap it into their app and they will get an immediate reply from someone who is fully briefed on their event.’

Now people might say a hotel space is a space and so what? But Marriott, according to Robert Juntke, is taking a totally different view. ‘For one thing’, he begins, ‘more and more frequently delegates are using every space as an office. That concept embraces ballroom and bedroom, pre-function areas and break-out rooms. They need tables where they can work together with laptops. They need private areas for discussions. They need facilities where they can be served with snacks whilst they network. They need immediate access to power supplies, to wi-fi. These facilities are already in full swing in our properties.’

An extension of the use of apps to facilitate hotel visits was explained to me by Ulrike Hallegger: Director of Rooms, Marriott Europe. To be launched in November 2013 is a mobile room check-in app. This provides guests with a direct connection with their hotel even before they arrive. It can be used to check in and, by providing the hotel with their up-to-date expected time of arrival, the hotel can reply to the guests via the app to say when their room will be ready for occupation.

‘The app can also be used to complete all the usual details of a check-in so that there is no delay on arrival. We are also working’, says Ulrike, ‘to develop this two-way communication for use with room service and checking-out.’ I was then supplied with even more information on Marriott innovations when Jeremy Dodson was brought into play. He is officially V-P for F&B Development for Marriott Europe, but his main theme was the introduction into Marriott properties of the Greatroom concept.

This is not to be confused with the Great Room that is the pride of the J W Marriott Grosvenor House’s conference facilities in London. Jeremy points out that in the USA, ‘the Greatroom’ is a term used in the way that ‘living room’ is used in the UK. It is a space to promote socialisation, where there is great coffee and snacks that range from titbits to casual dining.

It is a new concept that is already being rolled out group-wide. ‘After very many years of the same thing’, comments Jeremy, ‘the new-generation delegate will be able to benefit from something completely new. The Greatroom is designed to welcome with its design and furnishing; to relax with comfort, food and drink; to gather people together round a bar as a hub; and to foster small even spontaneous meetings with areas of privacy within the room by means of low walls and the provision of localised power supplies.’

He then explains that ‘the feature bar within the room will not particularly emphasise alcohol, but will be a focal point through lighting, low music and colourful design.’

In keeping with this approach, Marriott is going to refer to all its staff as ‘hosts’ in preference to the usually more narrowly defining labels such as waiter, barman, porter and so on. The word ‘guests’ for hotel clients is to be taken more literally.

These innovations are expected to be operating in 80% of Marriott properties in Europe by the end of 2014 and 100% during 2015.

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