Marriott and Hilton entering the work-from-hotel space puts smaller hotel companies on defense, as the bigger brands have significantly more room to expand and compete — if they think it's worth it.
Marriott joined the growing work-from-hotel trend this week, a sign the world’s biggest hotel companies see offering up guest rooms as office replacements as a viable business.
The Work Anywhere with Marriott Bonvoy platform — teased earlier this month at Skift Forum Asia — includes a variety of options, from day use to multi-day, at a select number of Marriott properties. Marriott will then potentially expand it across its global portfolio, depending on demand levels at those hotels.
“That allows us to look at consumer behavior, look at operations of the hotel, and make tweaks along the way,” said Peggy Roe, global officer of customer experience at Marriott. “If and when we scale it, it will be thoughtfully designed to work.”
Marriott offers three tiers to Work Anywhere. The day pass allows guests to book a stay from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. at between a 25 percent to 50 percent discount off a regular overnight reservation. Guests have access to all the regular amenities of the hotel and rapid in-room Wi-Fi — a key selling point in wooing guests to work from a Marriott in lieu of a family home, Roe said.
While non-Bonvoy members are welcome to use the program, Bonvoy members earn points on their stay, a snack welcome package, and eligible members would get lounge access. Marriott offers the day use program at certain hotels in Atlanta, Dallas, Hong Kong, Kuala Lampur, London, New York City, Phoenix, Toronto, and Singapore. But the program is slated to expand within Europe, the Middle East and Latin America.
A Stay Pass — offered at nearly 2,000 hotels around the world — includes an overnight stay but also the early 6 a.m. check-in and late 6 p.m. check-out. This package also includes free breakfast and complimentary evening cocktails when available. The Play Pass for multi-day stays at participating luxury and resort properties also comes with a business concierge and supervised activities for children.
Guests are able to book any of these packages directly online.
“People have been staying in our rooms and working in our rooms forever but not in a way where it would replace their offices,” Roe said. “Here, we’re trying to provide a safe and secure place, experiment a little, and see what we can learn.”
Striking at the Right Time
This isn’t Marriott’s first foray in offering its hotels as alternative places to convene for work. The Workspace on Demand program launched eight years ago, but the platform was a little ahead of its time before more people were migrating away from a traditional office to coworking platforms like WeWork.
The 2020 landscape is entirely different, as most workers are still shying away from the office and open-floorpan co-working spaces due to the pandemic.
Companies like MGM Resorts and Hyatt have all launched variations of a work-from-hotel platform to appeal to those users seeking a private place to work. Smaller California-based Proper Hospitality even partnered with an actual co-working provider, Industrious, on its own spin on using guest rooms as an office.
Hilton joined in earlier this month with Workspaces by Hilton, a day-use program offered at some of its hotels in Canada, the UK, and the U.S. Hilton’s platform includes access to regular hotel amenities as well as special packages depending on the hotel.
The Conrad New York Downtown — where day rates start at $300 — package includes a $100 “zen box” as well as discounts on treatments from a nearby Clean Market wellness store, room service delivery for breakfast and lunch, and a 4 p.m. cocktail delivery. Guests at the Hilton Boston Back Bay have an in-room air purifier, shredder, printer, and a $20 food voucher as part of a day use package that starts at $99.
Marriott’s work-from-hotel launch comes months after Arne Sorenson, the company’s chief executive, chided major companies for extending their work-from-home policies well into next year — the idea being such moves kept workers away from the kind of corporate travel that filled up a hotel.
“While we all need to make decisions to protect our people and make sure that we’re not putting people out in risky environments, there’s absolutely no reason for us to be making decisions about what offices look like or what travel looks like in the second quarter of 2021,” Sorenson said during an August investor call.
While there are still questions regarding the longevity of work-from-hotel programs once travel demand and room rates rebound, there are also signs the idea could last for years to come.
Forty-two percent of respondents in a Marriott focus group of more than 400 Bonvoy and non-Bonvoy members said they would consider working from a hotel as an alternative to work-from-home. There is also chatter in the commercial real estate community on whether the work-from-hotel model could serve some degree of long-term demand due to many companies scaling back their office footprints during the pandemic.
“I see flexible office being a long-term viable option in the market, with work-from-hotel a likely niche industry,” Aaron Jodka, a managing director of research and client services at Colliers International, told Skift earlier this month. “If hotels can partner with established, well-recognized flexible office space providers, there are opportunities for this to carve out a post-pandemic niche in the market.”
Marriott consulted with its corporate partners on its own program. While Roe declined to elaborate on specific companies, she said it was a mix of large consulting and tech firms. Those conversations also left the door open for a post-pandemic future for the Work Anywhere platform.
“They trust us to house their employees when they travel. There’s no reason that wouldn’t translate to allowing them to use our spaces to maybe replace their office or as an in-between when you need a quiet space to work,” Roe said. “Because every hotel has to fill occupancy in a different way, this is just one more tool in [a hotel owner’s] toolkit to maximize their revenue and occupancy going forward.”
Photo credit: Marriott launched its Work From Anywhere platform Monday in select markets around the world. Marriott International