For the second year in a row, Marriott Hotels is launching its TestBED accelerator programme to discover cutting-edge technologies that can transform guest experience at their hotels.
TestBED is a 10-week accelerator programme that gives startups the chance to test their products in an operating Marriott hotel in a major European city.
The programme provides the fledgling enterprises the opportunity to develop their products with:
- Feedback from Marriott guests and employees to help accelerate development;
- A marketing training programme, tailored to the startup's needs, provided by industry leaders;
- Mentoring by a range of Marriott experts;
- Global exposure through Marriott Hotels’ marketing and media; and
- The opportunity to attend TEDx and industry events supported by Marriott Hotels.
10 weeks of pilot and training
The TestBED accelerator programme lasts 10 weeks, most of which are spent in one of Marriott's European hotels to pilot products.
The programme begins with a 5-day boot camp in London and ends with a presentation day, during which participants share their results and learnings from TestBED.
This year Marriott is looking for startups focusing on:
- Enhancing the in-room experience;
- Transforming the overall guest experience, in and outside the hotels; and
- Helping guests discover a ‘headspace’ to achieving a 'focused' and 'inspired' state of mind during their stay.
Seed and early stage startups within the above categories were encouraged to apply for the competition.
Entries were required to be ready to pilot their products/services within a live hotel environment.
A voice service and a social app for business travel
Last year, eight finalists were chosen from 140 fledgling companies that entered the TestBED competition for products and services designed to improve guest experience.
Two startups, Jambo and Dazzle won the prize which was a six-week acceleration programme within a Marriott hotel to test the product and gain feedback from the hotel, as well as workshops and mentoring from the company about the hospitality industry, scaling up, online marketing techniques and storytelling.
Dazzle, a voice-activated application using Amazon Echo to deliver hotel and local information to guests, was chosen because it allows Marriott's hotels to differentiate themselves from the competition, while enhancing guest experience.
According to Osama Hirzalla, vice president brand marketing and e-commerce Europe for Marriott, “Dazzle also provides the ideal test solution because it can be flexible enough to incorporate within a single hotel but also provides multiple avenues for use within a guest’s room as well as during their stay in a city.”
Jambo - an app for business travellers
Jambo, which enables business travellers to connect with other professionals while travelling, also earned a place on the TestBED accelerator.
According to Hirzalla, “It offers a unique opportunity for Marriott Hotels to help business travellers connect with likeminded professionals while on their travels. It also offers hotels the opportunity to promote local events and encourage social meetings inside hotel F&B outlets.
"In a fast-changing landscape where millennial travellers want to feel connected to the people and environment around them, we saw a great opportunity to become an enabler of meetings and personal connections amongst business travellers.”
This year’s winners
According to Guy Kedar, lead judge and head of innovation at MEC, a leading media agency network, one of the changes since last year’s TestBED concerns how the startups are graded.
It was realised that much insight could be gained from the question and answer session at the end of each presentation. For example, during the Q&A, judges from Marriott, as well as those from the startup world, were able ask the companies how much real difference participating in the accelerator would make to their businesses. Another question was how the startups envisaged working with the individual hotels to make the nine-week pilot phase a success.
Finally, three companies have been selected, including one using chatbots, a translation service and an energy and water consumption tracking device.
Portugal-based HiJiffy features an AI (artificial intelligence) - powered chatbot designed for the hospitality sector, where they are being adopted to improve guest communication, engagement and customer service.
The company, which will now run a pilot at the London Marriott Regents Park, uses Facebook Messenger to enable the hotel to interact with guests on a real-time basis. The chatbot also allows the hotel to converse with guests from before they arrive, throughout the stay and after they leave.
UK-based MyManu has developed wireless earbuds offering live voice translation services. The ‘Click’ earbuds enable guests to speak in their native language, which is automatically translated to the staff member's language and vice versa.
The service, which can also be used for meetings and events, is now being piloted at Madrid Marriott Auditorium.
Also based in Portugal, Optishower has developed 'smart' metres to measure water and electricity consumption which provide Marriott employees and guests with an analysis of usage.
Marriott Hotels might offer its guests the ability to track consumption and reward them for sustainable energy use during a stay. This could result in hotels saving money on utility costs, while at the same time making environmentally minded guests feel better about travelling.