Monday, July 5, 2010

JW Marriott, Morton's, and Cisco -- They're Embracing Virtual Meetings. Is Your Property?

If you thought virtual meetings only took place in a boardroom, think again.  I found an article this past week that highlights JW Marriott hotels and Morton's Steakhouses, and discusses how both chains are adapting to a decrease in business travel by embracing virtual meetings. 

The technology that is discussed in this article is not the latest and greatest, yet the idea of implementing it into JW Marriott hotels and Morton's restaurants is new.  Both companies are eager to find ways to help the business travelers they do receive at their properties have a more productive stay.  They want their guests to be able to do more, even if they cannot meet face-to-face with their business partners.

While no prices are quoted for how much it cost to build these "GoThere" meeting suites at the JW Marriott properties, I'm sure it is substantial.  These rooms are very high-tech and outfitted by Cisco, which has built a thousand of similar rooms at its own offices.  Marriott's investment in these rooms shows that they feel virtual meetings will continue to increase at their properties, and they are among the first to give the public this opportunity.

What I would personally love to see is the new Cisco Suite at the JW Marriott Union Square.  According to the article, the suite "recreates an intimate, face-to-face meeting that can link multiple locations.  The room has six large leather chairs arrayed in a semi-circle facing three large screens. Each of those can link to another suite, and the people there appear life size."  The other suites that the room can link to are all over the world at other JW Marriott properties.

The article is called "Hotels, even restaurants, embrace virtual meetings as way to profit from business’ lower appetite for travel," and it was published in the San Francisco Business Times.  I encourage you to read through it, see what these companies are bringing to the table in terms of technology competition, and think about where you want to see your conference center in two or three years from now.  Yes, more and more research shows that meeting face-to-face is more beneficial and productive than virtual meetings, however, data also shows that most companies are still cutting back on business travel. 

Leave feedback as to how your conference center is embracing (or not) virtual meetings, and whether or not you can see this type of technology at your property. 

Also, happy (late) 4th of July!

Written by:
Meghan Bollenback
Food & Beverage Manager
R. David Thomas Executive Hotel & Conference Center

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