Marriott to Add More than 100,000 Destination Experiences
On Tuesday, Marriott International announced an equity investment in PlacePass, a travel website that specializes in activities and experiences. Starting later this summer, the partnership will allow guests staying at any of Marriott’s 6,000 properties the option to book more than 100,000 tours and experiences in 800 locations in 117 countries.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based travel startup PlacePass was founded in 2016 by Emily Bernard and Ethan Hawkes as a metasearch site for travelers seeking fun ways to explore destinations around the world. In just over a year, PlacePass has become the largest online site to find and book activities through its network of commercial vendors, such as GetYourGuide, Musement, and Viator.
“We take friction out of the research and booking process,” said PlacePass co-founder Hawkes. “We are the first meta search site dedicated to tours and activities.”
Whether you’re looking to go face to face with a Sumo wrestler, learn to make pasta in a farmhouse in Tuscany, soar in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, or get an inside look at the Los Angeles Lakers locker room while accompanied by an NBA scout, PlacePass has thousands of options that appeal to every type of traveler. There are also a half dozen “Downton Abbey” themed tours for fans of the hit series.
“People want to connect to a destination in a more meaningful way,” said Bernard. “Whether it’s a cooking class or a mountain bike tour, they’re looking for something that’s personally rewarding. They’re finding that experiences are more valuable than a souvenir handbag,” Bernard told Travel + Leisure.
The trend of travelers to seek authentic local experiences continues to influence how hotel companies are seeking new ways to lure guests. Last fall Airbnb announced the rollout of Trips, an option for guests to book authentic experiences and classes led by locals.
The PlacePass activities will join Marriott’s existing programs SPG Moments and the Marriott Rewards Experiences Marketplace, which allow members of the Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards loyalty programs to use cash or points to book ultra-luxe activities, such as score tickets to sporting events like the Super Bowl or reserve the best seats at a concert.
Though a launch date has not yet been announced, Marriott’s global chief commercial officer and executive vice president Stephanie Linnartz said that guests will soon be able to book PlacePass offerings via the Marriott and SPG apps and websites starting this summer. The option to use loyalty points toward PlacePass experiences will also eventually be added at a later date.
“Travelers have been asking us for more local experiences and we’re planning to offer them an array of options wherever they’re going,” Linnartz told T+L.
Guests will be be able to choose from a selection of activities that have been tailored to their interests using big data and known consumer behavior, says Linnartz. “It builds off of our personalization mission,” she said.