Marriott has become an industry leader in emerging blockchain-based technologies such as NFTs and virtual reality. This is what they learned.
In late 2021, as the grip of the pandemic began to loosen, Marriott International needed a spark — something that would reignite the passion for travel among a public that, for the past two years, has been living under lockdown.
Found such a spark in web3. The metaverse – a 3D interactive virtual ecosystem containing a large and growing number of specific experiences – is just one aspect of Web 3, which, as the name suggests, is a term used to describe what has been envisioned as the next evolutionary phase of the Internet.
Non-fungible tokens, or NFTs — non-reproducible stamps to verify ownership of a particular asset — are another manifestation of Web 3. They have also been Marriott’s gateway to the world of blockchain-based technologies. In December 2021, the brand launched its first NFT Drop brand – becoming the first hospitality brand to create its own NFTs, per company. The ceremony was revealed at Art Basel in Miami Beach, and it featured three icons, each designed by a separate artist. The artwork for NFTs was inspired by the recently launched “Power of Travel” campaign. The NFTs were awarded to three individuals and came with 20,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, which Harper says is “very big.”
In addition to inspiring these three winners to start traveling again, “NFTs have certainly been a powerful marketing tool,” says Nicolette Harper, vice president of global marketing and media for Marriott International. “During the pandemic, we had to basically start from scratch. We had to define where our current and potential customers were spending their time: What were they doing? How were they connected? How did they want to mingle? Then how does a brand like Marriott fit into all that? By All that data in the research, we really found that the metaverse…was really where they spend their time, whether they’re playing games, watching games, going to concerts…that whole social component that they’ve lost during the pandemic, they’re getting on fixing them, if you will, in a very different way, through the experiments of the metaverse. And so we knew we had to be there.”
Next stop for the hotel chain: Augmented Reality
In July, the brand began experimenting with augmented reality (AR) – a technology that uses devices such as smartphones or tablets to superimpose elements of virtual reality (VR) onto the physical world. The augmented reality experience for Moxy Hotels – a Marriott owned brand that markets itself as “chic and playful” and geared toward younger travelers – has been launched in the Asia Pacific (APAC) market and aims to “break the rules in the unconventional world of hotel accommodation”, Harper says.
The experience allows guests, for example, to create and decorate virtual avatars; It was also launched in conjunction with a major regional games competition. “It was the beauty of combining real-life experiences, AR avatars, a social component — which you really need to rank as a metaverse — plus esports, which I don’t think a lot of hotels got into.”
Marriott was also working in virtual reality. It recently built a digital twin of one of its hybrid hotels and convention sites in Madrid; Harper says that visitors to virtual space can explore and “really learn about space.” “I actually had some business meetings at the Metaverse in that hotel…it was incredibly cool how realistic everything was. We can rearrange the meeting room fixtures and create completely different experiences. Probably one of the coolest things I’ve done from such a wise perspective the summer “.
Amplification vs. Substitution
It is clear that the basic business model of the hotel industry requires personal experience; It might be fun to explore a virtual hotel as an avatar, but at the end of the day, hotels need guests to visit their IRL sites and stay in actual rooms.
One informative aspect of Marriott’s Web 3 projects over the past several months has been the brand’s approaches to using new technologies to complement and support the existing – and essentially unalterable – core business model. “While we think Web 3 is definitely where we want to be, and we certainly think it will provide a lot of new and exciting virtual opportunities, it’s really about using that space to improve our existing offerings, and really amplify versus replace in real-life travel,” Harper says. . “You can’t fly in real life and defy gravity, but you can do it in the metaverse. So you can have that extra layer of experience to improve the things that really make us better in the industry… We want to inspire you in new ways and connect with you in new ways, but in the end, We’d like you to stop by and stay with us in real life.”
While she declined to provide specifics, Harper said that Marriott will “look at other augmented and virtual reality experiences,” and also plans to expand its NFT strategy. “Surely more will come,” she says.
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