Navigating through an expansive property without a map can be daunting and time consuming for an outsider. With 2,009 guestrooms distributed across 28 floors “the world's largest Marriott,” Orlando World Center Marriott in Central Florida decided to make the lives of its guests a little easier. Spread over 200 acres, the resort partnered with app developer MeetingPlay to launch the free “World Finder” smartphone app to guide the visitors end-to-end throughout the property premises.
To understand the technical side of the story, hT gets the CEO of MeetingPlay, Joe Schwinger on board to answer some questions about World Finder and beyond.
Joe Schwinger is CEO of MeetingPlay
Q. Can you tell us about your foray into hospitality industry?
Hospitality and innovation are in my blood. Over 15 years ago, I started working for Marriott International. Those days, e-commerce roles looked nothing like they do today. In fact, one of my first projects was to load images onto the Marriott.com website.
During the course of my career at Marriott, I was able to help the company evolve by continuously pushing innovative technology-based solutions. Eventually, due to my passion for hospitality and technology, I became the director of e-commerce for North America, where I oversaw the execution of property-specific e-commerce plans.
MeetingPlay is a natural extension of my experience in the hospitality industry. During my tenure at Marriott, I noticed on-site meetings were underserved from a technology perspective. I created MeetingPlay to help event organizers and venues keep attendee engagement at peak levels from the beginning of the event to the end.
Q. What kind of apps does MeetingPlay develop for your clients?
We provide mobile event technology solutions that improve engagement, facilitate networking, promote content, and ensure event organizers meet their goals. MeetingPlay offers white-glove service, customizable
technology, and unmatched support to our global clients.
We’ve worked with many of the Fortune 500 companies, including brands beyond the hospitality industry. We recently launched an augmented reality feature for our mobile event app. With this new technology, we can help clients like Marriott provide their guests with a one-of-a-kind experience while also promoting their brands.
Q. How was the World Finder app conceived?
Because of our familiarity with the industry, we understand the challenges hospitality organizations face each day. One of the most prominent obstacles is how to prevent guests from getting lost in large hotels.
Our wayfinding application uses 3-D mapping and iBeacon technology to help guests pinpoint where they are in a hotel and find their way around. Wayfinding prevents guests from getting lost and creates a more enjoyable hotel experience.
This technology is not exclusive to Orlando World Center Marriott. Orlando is one of the most recent installations being well received by our client.
Q. In simple terms, how does iBeacon and 3-D mapping work?
iBeacon is the terminology coined by Apple for proximity sensing technology. At a basic level, proximity sensing uses indoor Bluetooth combined with other mobile technology to identify how close people are to the beacon hardware placed within a building.
We’ve combined the iBeacon technology with 3-D mapping to help guests navigate large hotels. Research has shown that 3-D photorealistic mapping reduces confusion and provides lifelike location cues. For example, we can add design aspects like hardwoods and architectural features into the 3-D maps. Guests know exactly where they are according to their location on the map and other physical landmarks.
Q. Can you walk us through the experience of the app from a hotelier’s standpoint?
Beyond helping us to fine-tune routes for efficiency, hotel staff has very little to worry about during the installation and ongoing service of our technology. We handle every aspect of setting up and maintaining our app and location beacons. Our seamless service allows hotel staff to focus on creating an unforgettable guest experience and generating incremental revenue using targeted marketing through our app.
Guests will be able to use our mobile app to navigate the hotel easily and discover everything the hotel has to offer. In addition to the value we add through navigation assistance, our app also provides a communication channel between the guests and hotel staff. Hotels can utilize this channel in several ways, including event updates and real-time, proximity-based promotions.
Q. What kind of properties are ideal for such technological arrangements?
One of the most valuable features of our technology is its versatility. We can adjust the strength and reach of the beacons to fit the unique layout of any location. Our technology works in any setting, including high rises or expansive, single-level buildings. We’re able to overlay our services with GPS and other technology to customize the perfect solution for each client.
Hotel managers and owners can utilize proximity sensing and iBeacon technology for much more than just mapping services.
Q. What role does a hotel have to play after implementing an app like this?
Our technology is hassle-free for our clients. MeetingPlay handles all the technology installation and upkeep so hotels can focus on incremental revenue and guest satisfaction. Our beacon technology is low-maintenance and serves as a long-term enhancement for our clients.
The most prominent role hotel management will play after implementing our technology is to drive targeted marketing and generate incremental revenue using our app as a platform. Hotels can push notifications to guests through our app, alerting them to hotel services, products, and promotions. Not only does this enhance the guest’s experience, but it also creates additional revenue for the hotel.
Hotels can also couple our proximity-sensing technology with our meeting apps to improve on-site events and elevate attendee engagement.
Fire pit at Falls Pool Bar & Grill, a poolside bar at Orlando World Center Marriott.
Q. What happens if a hotel, which has already been mapped, decides to expand construction or open a new wing?
Our technology and apps are flexible enough to work with multiple client assets to create the best user experience possible. We can work with a client’s existing maps or create 3-D mapping from scratch. If a hotel expands or undergoes construction, we can make simple upgrades and adjustments to account for the modified layout.
Q. Is there anything I should have asked, but haven’t?
I’d like to note that it will be important for hotel managers and owners to keep an eye on proximity sensing and iBeacon technology in the hospitality industry. Clients can utilize this technology for much more than just mapping services.
iBeacon related apps are quickly becoming an expectation for event planners and attendees. Apps like ours can give event updates, provide targeted marketing, and increase attendee engagement. It’s common today for hotels to lease Wi-Fi networks to event organizers. How long before guests and event organizers require proximity sensing resources as well? Hotels that are in front of the technology will be able to capitalize on the demand and create incremental revenue by leasing iBeacon networks, just as they currently do with Wi-Fi.
Additionally, mobile event apps are great vehicles for communication between hotel staff and guests. Hotel management already has the attention of their guests when they use our wayfinding and event app features. This open line of communication provides hotels with the opportunity to collect valuable feedback from their guests, as well as promote their services to create incremental revenue streams.
hT got in touch with Gary Dybul, director of sales and marketing at Orlando World Center Marriott to get the bigger picture.
Q. What was the impetus for adopting this technology?
We wanted to give our customers an app that would provide an overview of all the property has to offer, as well as a way to navigate through this information. This app offers a virtual concierge to all of our guests, both corporate groups and leisure travelers.
Gary Dybul is director of sales and marketing at Orlando World Center Marriott.
Q. What in particular about your property made wayfinding so important?
We have so much to offer at the property, with nine restaurants and lounges, as well as a championship golf course and full service spa, and wanted a more advanced way to provide this information to our customers. Previously, we were handing out property maps along with restaurant hours of operation and scheduled activities (which is still an option for those who want it.) This app allows us to provide all that information, as well as a direct connection to make reservations, book a tee time at Hawks Landing Golf Course, or view offerings at our spa, all in the palm of their hands.
Pool area at Orlando World Center Marriott
Q. How are you seeing guests use it so far?
We are still in the early stages. At this point, the restaurant menus and hours of operation have been getting the most use.
Q. Do you see any sales/booking benefits from this new technology?
There are additional opportunities that we will explore for specific corporate use as we continue to roll out this technology. This can work alongside a group meeting app, which will further enhance the information we are providing to our customers.
Q. What lessons have you learned in the few weeks your system has been up and running?
It is real-time information we can provide to our guests. We believe there is much more we can add over time, customizing the information as we learn more about what our guests are looking for in the app.
By Najook Pandya