Marriott Hotels has jumped onto the virtual reality bandwagon as part of its "Travel Brilliantly" campaign aimed at connecting with next-gen travelers.
The hospitality chain is taking to major cities a display in which consumers, wearing an Oculus Rift headset, can step into a phone booth-like "Teleporter" and be whisked to Black Sand Beach in Hawaii and the top of Tower 42 in London. Marriott Hotels paired up with creative studio Framestore and agency Relevent to create 3-D, 360 live-action video and photos and mix them with computer-generated imagery and elements such as mist, rumbling and wind. The Teleporter started its tour in New York City last week and will travel to eight cities before ending in San Francisco in November.
"A lot of people are curious about how we got here," said Michael Dail, VP of Marriott Hotels Brand Marketing. "Marriott Hotels has been an iconic brand and we look into the future on how to lead the category."
Through destination sampling, Marriott hopes users of the Teleporter will be inspired to actually go and take a trip somewhere. "Most people go to a hotel's website and see beautiful but very static images," said Mr. Dail, adding that the experience around the hotel is key for travelers.
The social aspect of the experiment is important from a marketing perspective. Users are encouraged to share their opinions, pictures and personal experiences with the hashtag #GetTeleported, in an effort for Marriott to attract younger travelers who may not be as familiar with the global chain's brand.
Marriott is trying to convey a more stylish and innovative image via its site called TravelBrilliantly.com, focused on the idea of "consumer co-creation" where travelers are urged to submit and participate in ideas that focus on making future travel better.
At the Marriott Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel, for example, a vending machine of healthy foods now sits in the lobby after one site visitor suggested that she'd like some better options when traveling late and leaving early. The prototype installation is being tested with guests and leftovers are donated to a local food bank. "Our goal is to really make sure people see the flagship brand as being innovative," said Mr. Dail.
The more than 18 individual brands under the Marriott International banner have separate campaigns that target different clientele. The Renaissance Hotels and Resorts brand is aimed at those looking for a lifestyle or boutique-type experience, while the Ritz-Carlton brand caters to higher-end customers.
Both Marriott Hotels and the "Travel Brilliantly" campaign are global in scope, so the Teleporter might be making an international debut in 2015.
"Marriott has a pipeline of hotel rooms under development, around 215,000 rooms worldwide, but I think about half are outside the U.S.," said Smedes Rose, lodging analyst at Evercore Partners. "There's a lot of growth in emerging markets and Marriott has done a good job of finding developers."
The company introduced a new brand, "Moxy," in Europe this year, which is targeted towards younger and budget-oriented travelers. Moxy Milan made its debut earlier this month and five more are slated to open soon in cities across Germany, England and Norway. Last year, Marriott acquired Protea Hospitality Holdings in Cape Town, South Africa, which operates 116 hotels across three brands.
Inside the U.S., Marriott, along with Hilton, have maintained its dominant market share. "They've had a pretty resounding recovery" from the recession, said Mr. Rose. He said that this is the fifth year of revenue per available room, the industry's yardstick. "In the past couple of years, industry trends and fundamentals have been very strong, with lots of occupancy improvement and growth in room rates," he said.