More Hotels Innovate With Meeting Spaces

By Carolyn Said
San Francisco Chronicle.

Marin mortgage broker Brittany Keyes needed a San Francisco location for a sit-down with a client.

Through a website called LiquidSpace, she booked an hour at a meeting room at the JW Marriott Union Square.

That may not sound like a big deal.

But for Marriott, the world’s largest hotel chain, it represents an attempt to pivot, to attract younger people and to respond to seismic shifts in the work world — in short, to act like a startup rather than a multibillion-dollar global corporation.

“About two years ago, we had a big aha moment,” said Jackie McAllister, a senior marketing director at Marriott. “We realized that the way people work had changed dramatically but the way we catered to them was still the same. Meeting planners said they really wanted things simpler, especially for smaller groups. And we realized that people want to work outside of their homes or offices. A lot are working at coffee shops. We thought, ‘Wait, we have all these spaces in our hotels — lobbies, meeting rooms — that would be ideal for these mobile workers.’ ”

Marriott 18 months ago started Workspace on Demand ( www.workspaces.marriott.com), a program that enables quick and easy booking of space by the hour or day for work and meetings.

Marriott works with San Francisco’s LiquidSpace, which already had an online marketplace for short-term workspaces.

LiquidSpace, in business four years, has more than 4,000 workspaces at 1,500 venues in the U.S., Canada and Australia that users can book as quickly as making a restaurant reservation online.

They range from hip co-working spaces to formal business centers to extra space at banks, law firms, libraries and cash-strapped startups.

“Marriott is transforming its brand from not just a place to sleep but to work,” said Mark Gilbreath, LiquidSpace founder and CEO. “It’s creating a really bespoke experience.”

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