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Between its market cap, commitment to sustainability with its LEED program, and its new Innovation Lab, it's no surprise Marriott was a contender for the most innovative hotel chain on the Forbes list. But other hotel chains, such as Hilton Worldwide, which will soon allow guests to control virtually all aspects of their stay using their smartphones, are definitely in the conversation.

Priceline got into the restaurant reservations business, Starwood Introduced robots for customer service, and Marriott brought hotel check-ins to mobile devices, all of which may have contributed to their placement on Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most innovative public companies.

Forbes ranks companies by their so-called innovation premium, defined as the difference between their market capitalization and net present value of cash flows from existing businesses. Investors also provide input on which companies they view as the most innovative today, and which ones are most likely to generate large-scale growth ideas in the future.

The Priceline Group (16), with a current market cap of $61.7 billion, acquired restaurant reservations service OpenTable this year, demonstrating the company’s ability to expand beyond the narrow definition of “travel,” although TripAdvisor, which did not make the Forbes list, did likewise, although on a more modest scale.

Marriott (18), with a current market cap of $20.5 billion, cited its Innovation Lab, mobile check-in and check out service, and lobby designs as among the subjective reasons that it landed on the Forbes list.

The lab, announced earlier this year, tracks and monitors customer feedback and tests prototypes of new technology and services.

First rolled out a few years ago, Marriott’s Greatroom Lobbies feature restaurants and bars in a cozy atmosphere with comfortable furniture. Marriott hopes these amenities bring guests to lobbies to socialize and connect with other travelers.

Marriott is also testing new healthy vending machines in at least one hotel lobby, and the idea grew out of its crowdsourced campaign. And mobile check-in and checkout are already available at 1,200 properties worldwide, and by year-end most of Marriott’s 4,000 hotels will have them, the chain says.

Starwood (66), with a market cap of nearly $16 billion, can point to its snappy response time on Twitter and its new robot “Botlr” that will help with check-in and delivering items to guest rooms as innovations that could have influenced the Forbes ranking after the numbers were crunched.

The Forbes ranking does not include privately held companies, including the likes of Airbnb and Uber, which undoubtedly have been doing much innovating over the last few years.


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Tags: forbes, marriott, priceline, starwood

Photo credit: Forbes ranked Marriott International as the most innovative hotel brand. LA Wad / Flickr

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