Marriott’s Aynat Ravin on real-time insights and data in the travel industry

May 25, 2021

Written by Brett Lofgren

This week, we had the chance to sit down with Aynat Ravin, the Head of M Live — Marriott’s award-winning Real-Time Command Center. M Live combines the worlds of data and creative, and their efforts have enabled Marriott to attract and engage consumers around the globe. 

Aynat has a number of priorities in her role: from leveraging data to developing real-time insights that impact the customer experience to managing and protecting the Marriott brand and identifying the technology partners that will bolster M Live’s strategy. 

As restrictions have loosened and the world cautiously begins to open up, it felt like the perfect time to check in and see how one of the world’s leading travel brands is planning for the new journey ahead. 

 Brett: Four years ago, we were fortunate enough to welcome Marriott and M Live as a new customer. Can you share with us what your initial goals were in 2017 and how have they changed today?

Aynat: In 2017, M Live was still a fairly new addition to Marriott International.  We were launching Hubs around the Globe and we needed to power these M Live Command Centers with a suite of technology. NewsWhip was a great addition with real-time stories and insights across a variety of topics informing content, activations, brand strategies, and on-property pull-through. The NewsWhip screen serves as a backdrop with select insights that are shared on a daily and weekly basis with both our hotels and brands.

NewsWhip Spike screenshot showing the rise in interest in Caribbean travel growing as the islands began to open up at the end of May 2020

M Live

Brett: M Live has become the epicenter for creating content that shapes the Marriott customer experience. How do you balance the use of all these insights and technology throughout this process?

Aynat: M Live leverages social listening to mine through our data and identify macro and emerging trends.  We have a regular cadence of trends that we share across a broad spectrum of stakeholders who then leverage it in an authentic and relevant manner.  For example, on social last spring we identified the desire for people to explore “Into the Wild”.  This essentially showcases the pent-up interest in discovering pristine environments, and untouched lands that have become rarities. These types of trends inform digital content that Marriott Bonvoy Traveler produces.

Brett: Technology is now woven throughout the fabric of today’s travel. Automated check-ins, personalization, contactless payments, voice control etc. What are some of the opportunities and challenges with our new way of traveling?

Aynat: Over the past year, there has been an increased desire for guests around contactless experiences.  Marriott has addressed this desire through the use of mobile keys and check-ins through the Marriott Bonvoy mobile app. Marriott has also created new and innovative ways to tackle new opportunities.  In April, Marriott Bonvoy and Uber teamed up for the first time in a collaboration where members who linked their Marriott Bonvoy and Uber accounts could earn up to six points per dollar spent on Uber Eats delivery and three points per dollar on certain Uber rides.  Our Marriott Bonvoy members now have additional opportunities to earn points toward free nights when they travel.  This partnership engages travelers whether they are on the road or through their everyday activities.

Brett: The travel industry has been severely impacted these last fifteen months, but as the world slowly recovers, new opportunities will be presented for many businesses. Are there new markets, categories or audiences out there for Marriott?

Aynat: Marriott initially announced their foray into the All-Inclusive Platform in August 2019.  In February of this year, Marriott announced they would more than double the All-Inclusive Portfolio to 33 properties by 2025 with properties in the Caribbean and Latin America including Mexico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Antigua, Costa Rica and Brazil.  Marriott’s All-Inclusive properties provide convenient and hassle-free vacation experiences for our customers as well as allowing them to earn and redeem points.

Brett: We also identified that engagements to stories highlighting “Caribbean travel” jumped once the islands were declared open roughly a year ago. Are you noticing other trends across the travel sector?

NewsWhip Spike screenshot showing the rise in interest in Caribbean travel growing as the islands began to open up at the end of May 2020

Excitement about Caribbean travel and islands reopening began to increase around the end of May last year when some islands were declared Covid-free

Aynat: One trend that we have seen is playfully entitled the “Friend Zone”.  There has been more social conversation around friend trips with a 100% increase year over year in mentions with “travel + friends + plans”.  After this past year of isolation and loneliness, there is a desire to take trips with friends rather than solo getaways. 

Brett: How about those travelers that are looking for something local? 

Aynat: This past winter, Marriott realized that there were some travelers who were not ready to hit the road just yet but may need a change of scenery from their virtual zoom backgrounds. Marriott decided to pilot the concept of “work from anywhere” through the “Day Pass”, “Stay Pass”, and “Play Pass” concepts in select cities.  The Day Pass provides guests the opportunity to escape from daily distractions by booking a hotel room to work in with the option to check in as early as 6am and depart as late as 6pm.  The Stay Pass provides a change of scenery for your workday, and you can add on an extra night to relax.  Finally, the Play Pass offers the ability to blend business with leisure by having a workcation where kids have supervised activities while you are able to work in peace.  Lastly, Marriott Bonvoy members are also able to earn points on eligible hotel charges.

Screenshot showing the consistent public and media interest in "work from anywhere" this year

”Work from anywhere” search on NewsWhip Spike. There has been a consistent level of interest in the topic as we have moved through the beginning of the year, both from the media and the public.

Brett: Covid has reshaped industries, changed attitudes and behaviors.  What’s next for the travel industry?

Aynat: Leisure and business travel are beginning to blend together, and the new trend is called “bleisure”.  With this year providing, for some, the ability to work remotely, the purpose of a trip has become more fluid.  Guests can extend their business travel by tacking on some vacation days or add some work to their play.  This could be an interesting dynamic to keep an eye out in the long-term as business travel returns.

Top stories mentioning the terms bleisure or workcation

The top stories mentioning the terms ‘workcation’ or ‘bleisure’ between February and May 2021

Brett: Innovation has always been part of the Marriott story and the M Live Command Center continues to play a critical role in supporting the company’s transformation within the hospitality industry. Thank you Aynat and Marriott for their partnership and taking the time to share with us. 

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