Hotels are going full experiential to transform and compete in the hospitality space.
At its D23 Expo in Los Angeles earlier this month, Disney announced plans for an “immersive” Star Wars hotel at Walt Disney World, where employees are cast members in costume and character, where each guest receives a storyline, and the surroundings… think: windows that only show outer space. It’s expected to “send the trend of immersive vacations into hyper-speed,” the Orlando Sentinel writes, and it’s one example of hotel properties leveraging technology and experiential to transform the hotel stay into an engagement zone.
It’s a space marketers have been watching. Among the leaders in hotel experiential is Marriott, which several years ago debuted the 4D virtual reality experience “The Marriott Teleporter” activation, which offered VR content of London and Hawaii, where it operates hotels, on top of motion, sounds and tactile elements like water sprays to bring the content to life. It was part of the brand’s Travel Brilliantly campaign to be looked at as a tech innovator, rather than a standard business hotel. This past spring, the brand announced its Moxy Hotels brand expansion into Europe, a hotel packed with experiences from meetup spaces to “photo booth-inspired hotel elevators complete with props” for snapping selfies.
Hotel properties are partnering with brands on engagement programs, too, like Terranea Resort in L.A.’s Palos Verdes, which has a long-running partnership with Lexus. Lexus vehicles are available for test drives on-site and equipped with GPS trackers pre-loaded with “themed itineraries” of local points of interest developed by the hotel concierge team. At SXSW, Standard Hotels, Casper mattress brand and Tesla teamed up to create an overnight “oasis” for festivalgoers. Attendees used the Standard’s One Night app to reserve a same-night room at the Austin Motel for $99. All rooms were equipped with Casper mattresses and milk and cookies. An on-site “mom” was available to tuck you in and read a bedtime story. Oh, and the Teslas were available for rides from the motel back to the festival.
At the Star Wars Hotel, however, experience builders will find a trifecta of tactics, with storytelling, theatrical immersion and technology combined, representing a new twist on the “permanent” brand experience and signaling a new age of engagement that carries through to bedtime.