The effect of crowdsourcing on hotel marketing and design

Recently, the real estate company Prodigy Network from New York announced plans to create a new, extended-stay hotel in the financial area of Manhattan. The property was to be named 17John after its address, which is one block away from the World Trade Center, and would be a twenty-three storey building.

Instead of hiring trusted designers, the company extended an open invitation to creative architects and designers to submit their own ideas for this new venture. Housed in a 1920s art-deco building, the new hotel was to have interactive work areas, lounges and around two hundred fully-furnished suites. Prodigy Network hoped that their new property would host networking events while creating a reliable digital online platform. The hotel would also have a restaurant, a gym, a rooftop deck and a spar.

This unique, collaborative approach was championed by Prodigy Network’s CEO Rodrigo Niño, who considered that crowdsourcing would be more effective in meeting the needs of the modern business traveller than tradition methods. The idea was to address modern working issues such as providing a place to work, internet connectivity and networking.

“Hotels are all about the loyalty of their guests,” said Niño. “That’s why you have to understand how to use (crowdsourcing) to impact your property, create ambassadors, and develop the ultimate loyalty program. We want to have a meaningful conversation with the crowd — the experts from the past need to turn into curators.”

The crowdsourcing design competition was launched on social media in mid-February. Entrants had until April 21 to pitch their ideas about the use of 17John’s space, guest suites and other work-related services. Prodigy Network offered cash prizes up to $50,000 for successful designs.

The project was dubbed ‘cotel’ – short for collaborative hotel. The hotel is scheduled to open in Q1-Q2 2016, at which time the hospitality industry will be able to gauge whether this crowdsourcing approach was a success.

“We want to create a community around this project,” Niño said. “That starts with the crowdsourcing competition and will continue after guests check in.”

While this may seem like an extremely innovative approach, Prodigy Network are not the first company to undertake such a tactic. Last year the multi-national hotel chain Marriott International chose crowdsourcing as a way to help determine their next innovation. They invited guests to submit their ideas via the website Travel Brilliantly. Some of the ideas that hotel users came up with included mobile room keys, purse hooks, regional-themed guest packs and even Marriott’s own brand of scent.

Anajna Kallarackal’s idea of vending machines that dispensed only healthy snack ideas won top billing at the site. She scored a trip to London as a reward, where she worked with the Marriott team to help bring her idea into reality.

“(Crowdsourcing) will create a tidal wave of new ideas,” said Chris Baer, a senior director at Marriott International. “There is no creation anymore except co-creation. To build any idea in a vacuum is more of a risk than building it with the insight of your guests and your associates.”