Hotels Boost Their Interactive Offerings for Groups


As part of their job, planners are always on the lookout for exciting new programs to capture the interest of their attendees. Inevitably these days, such ideas involve new technology. Given the entire culture’s embrace of mobile apps, streaming video, social media platforms and the like, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, among other major hotel companies, are working hard to make interactive programs available to their guests—meeting attendees as well as business and leisure travelers.

Some of the programs are geared to a particular age demographic (i.e. young), but increasingly, hotel managers are finding the appeal is actually much broader.

For planners interested in incorporating such programs into their meetings and events, first challenge your sales manager and, subsequently, your conference services manager, to determine which programs are the best fit for your group. They can then resolve details as to timing, integrating it into your overall meeting agenda and finally seeing how the evening can best be promoted internally to ensure a large attendee turnout.

Hilton, for example, is sponsoring a concert series at its properties throughout the year for members of Hilton HHonors, its loyalty program. At one recent event in Miami, a popular local hip hop musician and artist, Marcus Borges, AKA “Grab,” made use of an installation wall set up in the hotel to create an art deco–style mural in advance of the concert. Meeting attendees and other guests were welcome to pass by to Instagram and film the painting’s progress.

Hilton has also encouraged planners to create what are called “custom geo-filters” at their events through Snapchat. Attendees are invited to snap and share their experiences using lighthearted graphics.

If the organization sponsoring the meeting has its own Facebook page, the hotel can broadcast the event to all the organization’s Facebook followers, giving them access to a range of special features.

In March, Marriott experimented with Twitter’s Periscope app to broadcast unfiltered performances at the popular South by Southwest music festival. To date, such Marriott programming has been targeted to members of its frequent guest program, but could be expanded to a larger audience going forward.

Similarly, music was at the heart of Starwood programs in April. Keyed to the opening of the Coachella Festival, Starwood partnered with Pitchfork’s Internet-based P4K Radio to stream the concert from one of its California resorts. Like the Marriott effort, this was targeted to members of the Starwood frequency program. (Coincidentally, Starwood is in the process of being acquired by Marriott.)

Meanwhile, many hotels, including Hilton, are encouraging the use of a new app called SummitSync to allow meeting attendees to create profiles based on their professional interests and background. The app then matches attendees with similar profiles.

Even as traditional and time-honored a fixture at meeting banquets and opening night receptions as the photo booth is being reinvented, thanks to today’s emerging new technologies. Forget yesterday’s grainy, black-and-white snaps. Today, we’re looking at slow-motion video and social media printing stations.

Photo credits:



Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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