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Seasoned business travelers understand the importance of convenience. Whether it’s an overnight stay in a neighboring town or an extended trip outside of the country, traveling for business has become more commonplace.

According to a 2013 report by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) the number of trips taken in 2013 is estimated to be  431.8 million, and with such a large number of trips being taken, travelers admit to still not being able to properly conduct their business.

In an effort to minimize traveling challenges and offer better experiences Marriott Hotels and Resorts has undergone a significant update in both style and functionality of their properties.  As part of their re-branding effort, MHR presented business professionals and influencers a peek inside their latest innovations at the “Travel Brilliantly — What’s Next Now” event, co-hosted by NewsOne.

“We’re in the experience economy,” Princeton University professor and BlackPlanet.com co-creator Omar Wasow said. “Companies who are winning  now are offering up experiences.”

Wasow who moderated the event, was joined on a panel by actor and travel authority Laz Alonso, fashion designer Natalia Allen, technology expert Mario Armstrong and owner of D.C’s Florida Avenue Grill, Imar Hutchins to discuss everything from how apps can enhance  the traveling experience to how African-Americans are perceived internationally.

“I’ve always had a genuine interest outside of what I like to call these four walls of the U.S.,” Alonso said. “In France, there’s a common theme that they aren’t nice to Americans. I noticed they are amazingly helpful when you to try to speak their language. They aren’t so helpful when you walk into their country speaking English … and rightfully so.”

During a portion of the event, audience members used their smart phones to interact with the panel. By either texting or voting online, attendees were polled on their traveling preferences, which included hotel over flight upgrades and being able to text while overseas as a travel necessity.

Alonso — who has filmed movies in all parts of the world including France and Spain — said hotel upgrades are very much a Western philosophy.

“Nice hotels are an American thing,” said “The Miracle at St. Anna” actor. “In France, the flats are so small, some don’t even have kitchens, which is why people are at the cafes at all times a night.”

Attendees entered the venue in a freight elevator decorated with palm trees to give  the illusion of a tropical experience. Once inside, audience members were given a multi-layered experience encompassing food, cocktails and tactile displays promoting the innovations.

Guests were encouraged to engage with several stations including the mobile check-in, which allows Marriott Hotel reward members to check in a day before and request amenities, including extra towels, room service, and valet parking.

Attendees were also invited to pitch their ideas and design their own guest room for future hotels, as part of an ongoing effort to engage business travelers in a two-way communication dedicated to creating a positive travel experience.

Technology expert Mario Armstrong said seeing the innovations of Marriott Hotels and Resorts gives him hope that more people realize they have a say in their own lives.

“I get the most hope because I have been seeing more people who believe they do have the power to make some change.”

Marriott Travel Brilliantly

(L to R: Imar Hutchins, Laz Alonso, a Marriott exec, Natalia Allen, Mario Armstrong, Omar Wasow, Smokey Fontaine)

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