MARRIOTT'S COMFORT IN ADVANCE

At Your Service is a new program from Marriott designed to address the concerns of guests before they arrive at the hotel.

As part of the pre-arrival planning service, guests receive a personalized e-mail five days before check-in that includes information on local transportation, weather and restaurants, directions and maps. At Your Service is available at nearly 2,500 properties in the Marriott family. At a growing number of Marriott facilities, this “virtual concierge” also will enable guests to reserve spa treatments, trigger roomservice upon arrival and facilitate other, local amenities.

Based on guest feedback, At Your Service aims to expand Marriott's market by refining the online booking experience. “According to our research, more than 80 percent of guests said they'd be more likely to book their next trip with Marriott if they received this type of service,” says SVP of marketing Rita Cuddihy.

In another comfort-oriented move, Marriott finally joined the bed wagon, announcing in late January a $190-million program to upgrade bedding across its brands.

By year's end, 628,000 beds at 2,400 Marriott-brand hotels and resorts will feature softer sheets, plusher beds, more pillows and a new, white look, says Marriott International Chairman and CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. The worldwide makeover will use more than 30 million yards of fabric — enough to stretch more than two-thirds of the way around the world, according to Marriott.

According to Marriott's consumer research, four of five guests surveyed preferred the new linens and beds and said the switch would make them more likely to stay at a Marriott brand.

The move is a Johnny-come-lately: Starwood launched the bedding battle in 1999 with its Heavenly. Since then, other brands have joined the fray.

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