Retail

PlacePass Unlocks Local Experiences For Marriott Guests

Why be an outsider when you could be an insider? Why simply “travel” when an immersive local experience is available at the tap of a touchscreen? Today’s traveler wouldn’t settle for anything less, so that’s what Airbnb delivers – and it’s giving hotels a real run for their money.

Enter PlacePass and GoBe, two activity-booking platforms that are allowing tourists who stay at hotels to make their journey ever more personalized and local, and ever less, well, touristy.

PlacePass is a tour- and activity-booking startup. It recently partnered with Marriott International to offer varied and unique experiences, such as private tours of the “Downton Abbey” filming locations, pasta-making classes with a local celebrity chef, or activities for families, to guests at Marriott hotels.

Marriott’s investment in PlacePass adds to its extant rewards program, which allowed members to redeem rewards points for local experiences from live music to sports to food and dining to cultural activities. PlacePass will be just one more layer of possibility within the hotel’s mobile app that rewards members use to check in and out and to unlock their room doors.

“Marriott is adding value to consumer lives besides just a bed in a hotel room,” Stephanie Linnartz, the company’s global chief commercial officer, said.

Similarly, GoBe was started by Royal Caribbean Cruises to sell land-based tours and activities to vacationers via an app or the GoBe website.

These moves are part of a larger migration away from the standard vacation package and toward a customized, authentic, and memorable stay. But they’re also a direct response to the competition as Airbnb extends its influence beyond simple lodging with last year’s Trips booking site.

Trips lets travelers select from experiences arranged and listed by local experts, like a work-dine day in an urban garden with an L.A. documentary filmmaker or a three-day burlesque dancing class in London.

“Guests want to feel like they are experiencing something in the design or the local flavor,” said Fiona O’Donnell, the director of travel and leisure research at Mintel, a market research firm in Chicago. “They want it to be memorable and part of the local scene, not like they are tourists.”

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