If you’ve been traveling a lot for work lately, chances are you’ve been attending a lot of meetings at hotels.
The very mention of “meeting” or “conference” tends to make people think of dry, boring lectures in a sterile, office-like environment, maybe with some token refreshments and a bad joke or two from the presenter. But luckily for us, some of the biggest hotel chains have realized this too, and are looking to reinvent the meeting space for a more vibrant, fun audience. This is good news for us and them—at this past October’s IMEX America conference, top researchers from Marriott, Hilton, and MGM all agreed that bookings for meeting space are at all-time highs. At the same time, the people who want to book those spaces are demanding something new and exciting—enter the Experiential Hotel concept, where hoteliers meet that demand with innovative new features presented in a fun, social environment. Whether it’s by employing friendly staff who take the time to talk and engage with you, embedding connected technologies into the space itself, or adding elements of entertainment to spice up an otherwise drab conference, the new game in town is to make your dull work retreat into an experience that you’ll remember for a long time.
Naturally, there’s a lot of different approaches to rebooting the hotel meeting experience for a new generation. But the key takeaways are: openness/social engagement, ample food with an authentic local flavor, accommodations for all your tech gadgets, and some good old-fashioned showmanship. Marriott’s M Beta test hotel in Charlotte, NC features their LG Studio meeting space—in partnership with the electronics giant, they created a kind of giant communal kitchen where guests can meet and mingle over a delicious local meal and wine, while the resident chef cooks in full view and talks about the dishes he prepares.
Location is a big factor too—their Moxy experiential sub-brand made a point of opening its new location smack-dab in Berlin’s cultural centre, close to all the local attractions, restaurants, and hangouts, while MGM’s under-construction Las Vegas project The Park similarly plays off the city’s fun and glitzy reputation to paint a picture of a lively entertainment district. Over at Hilton, the emphasis has been on recruiting star planners and organizers through their WowMakers initiative, looking to customize their meeting spaces to appeal to any potential audience, while Hyatt is taking a more tech-focused approach by linking all of its employees and guests through a central database where any kind of preferences can translate to a personalized room and experience.
All of these initiatives add up to a desire to make you, the guest, feel like a real and involved part of the hotel process—to make your humdrum work meeting into an unforgettable, unique experience shaped by your wants and interests. Which of these new ideas will stick is anyone’s guess, but guests traveling on business in the near future definitely have a lot of cool stuff to look forward to.