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Marriott Hotels launched a beta version of its new website for meeting planners on Wednesday called Meetings Imagined. The portal’s most unique characteristic is its “Inspiration Gallery” with sample photos of all of the different components that go into destination meetings and events.
Much like a bride creates customized inspiration boards of wedding-themed photos on Pinterest, planners can log in and “heart” specific photographs to save them in personalized sets, ranging from coffee breaks in Atlanta to cocktail receptions in Amsterdam.
On the left side of the site, three drop down menus begin the search process. You start with the type of meeting, bucketed into seven categories: Celebrate, Decide, Educate, Ideate, Network, Produce and Promote. Marriott chose those after polling existing clients and analyzing the 40,000 meetings a year at its 500+ hotels worldwide.
For example, say you’re a corporate planner responsible for organizing a sales strategy session or board meeting, and the C-suite has mandated healthy snacks during session breaks. So you click on the Decide or Produce buttons, based on the meeting’s purpose. From there, the second menu covers Setup, Food/Drink, Tech/Supplies and Experiences, so you highlight food.
The third menu contains the various Marriott hotel brands. You’re a fan of JW Marriott, you click on that, and the search engine pulls up a selection of food and dining-themed photos. One result is a pic of the organic Om Snacks at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE.
From there, a planner saves the photo of the chocolate-covered “Pistachioms” into a customized set inside his or her profile.
The Upside for Planners
Here’s the smart part. Planners can email an entire set of collected F&B options to a client or senior executive for feedback. Or they can send the set to the conference services manager at any Marriott hotel, asking if that hotel has something similar. It could include just the Om Snack photo or any collection of F&B inspirations, from a food truck lunch to a gala awards dinner on the beach.
Basically, a planner can create an entire conference at Meetings Imagined, with multiple sets of photos covering the entire scope of the program. Hotel meeting webpages typically provide info on space, dates and rates, but the purpose here is to visually brainstorm the overall meeting experience aligned with a specific business goal.
“While others may focus on just meeting logistics, [the] Meetings Imagined concept infuses a more sophisticated approach based on objectives and outcomes,” says Paul Cahill, senior VP of brand management for Marriott Hotels.
The new website also has a searchable hotel database with room count, meeting space capacity, contact info, etc. For the beta launch, there are five participating hotels in America and four in Europe. Many more are rolling out in coming weeks.
The overall concept of Meetings Imagined is inspired, and there’s nothing else like it in the market right now. The website also includes industry thought leadership, although some of it seems slightly commonplace. Marriott could switch out less valuable info nuggets, such as describing how slow music relaxes attendees while fast music energizes them, for more indepth and nuanced group business insight.
There’s a lot of white space in the meetings industry for serious business intelligence from the supplier side, revolving around Millennial meeting trends, social media, technology, community integration, sustainability and buyer/supplier relations. DMC (destination management company) and vendor partners could also be profiled.
However, this is still in beta. The potential here long term is significant for both the Inspiration Gallery and a robust blog discussing the above and Marriott’s recent meeting innovations, such as the Red Coat Meetings app, Workspace on Demand, and the Future of Work partnership with STEELCASE and IDEO.
Greg Oates covers hospitality/tourism development and travel brand media. He has participated in 1,000+ hotel site inspections in over 50 countries.