Marriott Takes On Millennials With Live Hotel

From www.justluxe.com by Nicolle Monico
Marriott Takes On Millennials With Live Hotel

Marriott is making a play for Millennials (who isn’t?) with their newest hotel in Charlotte. M Beta, which officially opened on October 11, is the brand’s first technology-centric property designed as an innovative approach to hotel stays. I made a trip to the Queen City for the hotel’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, and to see firsthand how Marriott could engage this particular Millennial.

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: JustLuxe

When you think of Marriotts hotels, “cool,” is probably not a word you’d use to describe them. But M Beta at Charlotte Marriott City Center is not the Marriott you’re used to; it’s a hotel you might even call trendy after a visit. The first thing you’ll notice is what many hotels are switching over to nowadays, which is the non-front-desk lobby areas. Set up at tables rather than behind a desk, personal greeters assist guests with the check-in process via iPads.

However, you can choose to skip this whole process and download Marriott’s app to check-in via your smartphone. The app will also function as your room key so you can go straight to your suite immediately upon arrival. M Beta was created as a “live” property, it is meant to be constantly changing and adapting to better meet guest’s needs based on their feedback.

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: Marriott Charlotte City Center

All around the hotel you’ll notice Beta Button touch pads which act as “likes” for each area, space or amenity. If you thought the check-in process was seamless, hit the button. Enjoy the fitness studio? Press the red button and add to the number of likes already received. In the lobby a digital display projects the tally for each Beta Button so not only you, but the brand itself, knows what is working and what could use some updating for future updates/concepts across all Marriott Hotels properties.

“It has been a vehicle for us really to challenge and disrupt paradigms, to challenge the status quo,” said Matthew von Ertfelda, Vice President of Insight, Strategy and Innovation, at Marriott International. “Really to test new thinking and new boundaries across every aspect of the guest experience from how guests arrive and are welcomed into the property to how can we actually design and activate public space, or how we design fitness centers that are more immersive and have digital components and experiences to them.”

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: Marriott Charlotte City Center

Inside the guestrooms, carpeted flooring is replaced by hardwood surfaces and art work is purposefully left off walls. Decorated in neutral tones (brown, beige and grey), the rooms all include chaise lounges, nesting tables and large, 55” HD TV screens with Netflix and Hulu services built right in. While the renovated accommodations were meant to reflect a more residential feel, I couldn’t help but want a little more of Charlotte’s character reflected inside. This was the only place in the hotel that I felt was lacking, which isn’t bad for a completely new property.

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: JustLuxe

M Beta is not only meant to engage its guests but it hopes to be a hot spot for locals as well. This is played out in a few ways. Its main venues are Stoke and Coco and the Director. The first is a restaurant with an open kitchen serving farm-to-table eats and a rotation of local artisan tastings and cooking classes. Coco is a café that not only serves food and drinks but also sells unique retail and limited-edition items from Charlotte small businesses. The stadium-style seating and co-working spaces are creatively designed to promote social interaction, and just plain feel stylish. I spent a couple hours working here and throughout the day, the place kept busy with locals popping through its front doors for coffee or to meetup with friends.

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: Marriott Charlotte City Center

Probably the most impressive aspect of the hotel is its FLEX fitness center. Previously, the property had a pool but the brand opted to do away with it and enlarge its gym. The result is a spacious venue where working out actually looks fun. Along with a number of machines, there are two smaller rooms where guests can participate in over 1,000 on-demand fitness classes. The options range from Pilates to yoga and cardio sessions, all with virtual instructors displayed on a nine-screen wall. There’s even a digital display offering local running routes that can be customized based on your wants and sent to your smartphone. You’ll definitely want to hit the Beta Buttons in the fitness center.

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: Marriott Charlotte City Center

Charlotte made national news back in the spring of this year when it passed its new HB2 law. The law prevents transgender people from using government-run bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. This decision frustrated many locals as well as celebrities and performers who chose to take a stand against the act. Bands such as Maroon 5, Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato all cancelled performances in the city following the announcement. In an effort to promote equality, M Beta’s public restrooms are designated Men’s and Women’s but also state they are open to all genders.

Marriott International has made it clear that they are against discrimination of any kind and are making this known throughout their hotels. “We have spoken out publicly … to really basically say, we think these are the right policies to amend,” said Arne Sorenson, Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International. “We have to walk the talk, we have to make sure we are embracing all communities, including the LGBT community, and welcoming them as associates and as guests.” Which means you may start to notice more and more Marriott properties offering all-gender bathrooms in the future.

marriott charlotte city centerPhoto Credit: JustLuxe

At the end of the day, M Beta is undeniably cool, but it is also functional and approachable, even if you're not some 20-something hipster. You want to hang out there, you want to post up at the bar with your girlfriends drinking cocktails on tap and chill in the café sipping on local coffee. It feels un-Marriott-like but still gets it right in all the ways that the brand has done so over the years.

Although M Beta is already being well received by guests, the brand doesn’t plan to immediately turn every Marriott into an innovation lab hotel. This Charlotte property was purchased by the brand (which is rare), many of its other hotels have private owners. So don’t hold your breath to see an M Beta in your city any time soon, Marriott is looking for just the right set of circumstances to create additional hotels like this one. But since they are now the largest hotelier in the world, it's nice to know that they are listening and responding to what we want.

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