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Droning On

Marriott International Uses Latest Technology To Market Its Properties

Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Steve Pike
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In a marriage of high-flying technology and social media, Marriott International is using drones to get the word (and pictures) out about some of its newly opened and recently-renovated properties.

The drone initiative, which Marriott International calls a “brand first,” took flight (pardon the pun) recently at the W Fort Lauderdale with a “Drone Dash” to showcase the beachside hotel’s $55 million renovation. The Drone Dash gave W Hotel guests and worldwide viewers a first look at the renovated property—literally inside and out—and just as important, gave each a glimpse into Marriott International’s newest way to market its hotels and resorts.

“What this really leverages is the power of the Marriott portfolio,” said Matthew Glick, senior director of global creative and content for Marriott International.

The renovation of the W Fort Lauderdale included updating the guestrooms and a new banquet room with a seating for up to 300 guests. In addition, early next year the W Fort Lauderdale will open acclaimed Restaurateur Stephen Starr’s El Vez restaurant on its ground floor.

The W Hotels brand was one of several brands Marriott International acquired in its 2016 acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The 24-story, 517-room W Hotel Fort Lauderdale broadcasted the race live to millions of followers on Facebook in partnership with M Live, Marriott’s Global Marketing Command Center.

“We’re looking at all sorts of technological advances when it comes to how people are booking hotel rooms these days,” said Bradley Wulff, associate director of marketing for W Hotels. “A lot if it is visual, so drones give you that really unique perspective in being able to see a hotel in a different way than a picture on a web site.”

The racing drones, which can reach speeds up to 90 miles per hour, each were controlled by pilots from Expert Drones’ nationally ranked pilots and equipped with high-definition cameras.
“Drone technology is being utilized in a variety of different ways, but never before like this,” said Brett Velicovich, managing partner of Expert Drones.

Wulff said drones are being tested across the W Hotels brand. For example, the W Punta Mita offers drone delivery of churros and cocktails, and the Escape Package at W Bali offers drone coverage of guests surfing the blue waters of the South Pacific. A drone—larger than the ones that competed on the Drone Dash—even delivered some cocktails to guests at W Fort Lauderdale’s “living room” bar, one of the areas that received a makeover during the renovation.

The W Fort Lauderdale Drone Dash was the first big test the brand conducted at a renovated property.
“This hotel is a perfect example of what we can do with the drones because it has so much space,” said Wulff. “And looking at it from the outside, it was the perfect place to do it.

“I don’t know that we can do a Drone Dash at each property, but I do think the ability to have drone photography and 360-degree aerial views of the hotels is something we can create.”

Wulff said plans call for drones to help cross-promote hotels and resorts within the Marriott brand. For example, the drone pictures and videos from the W Fort Lauderdale can be used on the W Channel to show off the property to guests of the W South Beach, W Miami, or any other W or Marriott International property. The pictures and videos also can be used on all of Marriott International’s social media platforms.

“We really wanted to find a unique opportunity to show off the marriage between technology and social media,” Glick said. “We saw that a lot of people are talking about drones.
“People on social media are very much into live stream technology. We really wanted to marry the two.

So, we got together and came up with a terrific idea that took a lot of skill and precision working with the best expert drone pilots and [Marriott International’s] production company. We put together a very skilled format that took months of planning and lots of cables and rehearsals.”

The W brand, “Is always out there first with innovation,” said Glick. “Our guests love our hotels and their experiences staying at out hotels. The Drone Dash is just another unique experience they can have with us.”

Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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