Fresh Details on Marriott’s New Small Business Reservation Tool
6 mins read

Fresh Details on Marriott’s New Small Business Reservation Tool

Take Skift

We spoke with Marriott’s chief revenue and technology officer to learn more about the hotel giant’s new online booking portal aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. Does it really offer a seamless, end-to-end solution for travel warriors?

—Sean O’Neill

Marriott International has launched a new booking platform to help small and medium-sized businesses book business travel.

Skift reported the news on Tuesday, but we wanted to learn more about how the tool, developed by startup Spotnana, works for business travelers.

“We think we’ve created something really compelling for small and midsize business travelers who were dissatisfied with what was available,” said Drew Pinto, executive vice president and chief revenue and technology officer at Marriott. “We think it will drive demand for our hotels and allow us to have personalized interactions with these business travelers.”

Marriott is targeting smaller companies that “self-manage” their travel because they are too small to use corporate travel managers. Employees book their own travel or use a personal assistant.

Marriott is betting it can attract travelers with loyalty bonuses and a streamlined booking process. Its program offers discounted rates and other benefits. Here are some key details.

Why now?

Marriott created this platform for two reasons:

  • A gap in the market: According to Marriott’s research, existing tools and offerings weren’t meeting the unique needs of this segment. “You could find great discounts, but that was it,” Pinto said.
  • A segment of growing importance: Small and midsize businesses were the first to rebound from the pandemic and have become a larger part of Marriott’s guest mix than in 2019. These business travelers are now staying at properties in numbers that exceed pandemic levels, while large corporations continue to lag behind their 2019 volumes. “We’ve had a lot of success in that space, but we’ve never really tailored anything to the unique needs of that segment,” Pinto said.

What’s new?

Small and medium-sized businesses that join the platform will be able to select “subject to availability” hotel discounts while also earning points toward future stays at participating hotels, room upgrades, and more.

Unlike other large hotel groups, Marriott now offers smaller companies the ability to book rooms at its hotels at the same time as booking flights and car rentals on the same portal, a service it built on an open platform created by startup Spotnan.

“We built a direct API integration with Marriott’s central reservation system, which allows the platform to create new offers directly for customers,” said Sarosh Waghmar, founder and chief product officer at Spotnana, Skift. This process provides travelers with the most complete, real-time inventory.

Loyalty game

To participate in the Marriott loyalty program, employees must enroll.

  • The push to get people to use its loyalty program could help the hotel group encourage more repeat bookings. It will also help the company’s computers recognize travelers and target them with relevant ads after their stay — making their digital marketing more effective.
  • The program provides elite status rewards to companies that meet certain usage thresholds across the company. Companies can award status rewards to employees, such as an executive assistant who plans travel for key company leaders.

What’s next?

Marriott will review how the platform performs with guests and prioritize new features for its travel management platform based on customer usage and requests. Here’s what else is on its product roadmap.

  • Making the connection to group bookings more seamless. “In the product, you’ll see a link to our quick group solution, where you can instantly book a group stay at our hotels,” Pinto said. “Our goal is to make that even more seamless.”
  • Potentially emphasizing specific hotel brands in the search process if they are of greatest interest to small and medium-sized enterprises, and de-emphasizing brands targeted at tourists and families.

Dissemination of information

Marriott plans to promote its new platform through both broad and direct marketing.

  • Internal Marketing through Local Hotel Sales Teams
  • Marketing to SMBs, different than typical consumer-focused campaigns. “Coming out of the pandemic, we created a small group on the marketing team for B2B marketing to really listen to that type of customer,” Pinto said. “That ranges from the large corporate enterprise customers to those smaller customers.”
  • Attending events like the Global Business Travel Association conference in Atlanta later this month to raise awareness

Driving direct bookings

Marriott wants to cut out the middleman and get more bookings directly.

  • That means the hotel giant is brokering the services of corporate travel agents that have built long client lists among small and medium-sized businesses in recent years, such as Navan, Travelperk and Booking.com for Business.
  • The move comes as companies scrutinize travel budgets and demand more efficient solutions. Marriott sees an opportunity to simplify the fragmented business travel process.
  • However, replacing specialist digital solution providers will not be easy.
  • “If a third party is the best solution for our customer, we’re happy to take that solution and make it as easy as possible for them to use,” Pinto said. “But there are many, many customers who feel like there’s nothing that meets their full needs. That’s why we launched this because in those situations, we prefer customers to book directly with us.”
  • “When a guest books directly, we know who they are and what their preferences are, and we can recognize them when they check in,” Pinto said. “They can manage their check-in through our app, which unlocks so much of what we can do to create a more personalized experience during their stay.”

Whether companies will buy into the new portal remains to be seen. But Marriott’s play signals that the battlefield is changing in the fight for high-value business travelers.

Marriott EVP and Chief Revenue and Technology Officer to Speak at Skift Data + AI Summit 2024

Photo credit: Visualization of Aloft Istanbul Karakoy in Turkey.