Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 18 2016

Big Hotel Brand Gets Serious About Cocktails

David McMillin

Over the past month, Marriott’s acquisition efforts have dominated the headlines in the meetings industry. Now, the hotelier has some news that does not involve terms such as common stock, divestiture or regulatory approvals. Instead, it involves something quite a bit more fun: the hotel bar. Last week, Marriott kicked off its first-ever Bourbon Battles competition. The five-city tour will stop in Lexington, KY, Portland, Calgary and Boston before wrapping up in New York City on National Bourbon Day. If you didn’t know National Bourbon Day was real, you are not alone. I didn’t know this annual celebration existed, either. It’s June 14.

The move underscores just how big bourbon has become in the bar scene. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey have surged by nearly 40 percent over the past decade. Marriott is helping those sales figures grow even bigger with its new Greatroom Bar concept, which features “expertly curated bourbon flights” and premium labels including Maker’s Mark and Knob Creek. The Bourbon Battles will feature Marriott’s in-house bartenders squaring off against other local mixologists. It sounds like an ideal pairing of flavor and friendly competition.

Appealing To An Emerging Generation Of Guests And Attendees

The hotel industry is working to create experiences for younger guests, and I expect to see more of these moves in the near future. While plenty of leaders in hospitality may indicate that Airbnb and other alternative accommodation services are not a direct threat to their immediate business, the reality is that the traditional hotel property can feel a bit stale for adventure-seeking guests.

As a member of the much-talked-about Millennial generation, I believe the bar can be one of the key distinguishing factors in the stay-in-a-hotel versus stay-in-someone’s-rental-unit debate. Let’s face it: the peer-to-peer rental property will most likely beat the hotel on price, and it will probably be in a more unique neighborhood. But that loft apartment in Williamsburg is not going to come with an award-winning mixologist who can make a Poblano Pepper-infused Manhattan. (For the record, I do not know if anyone can make such a drink.)

Looking for tips on building a better bar menu for your attendees at your organization’s next networking event? Check out “3 Facts About Millennial Attendee Beverage Preferences.”

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