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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | December 14, 2011

The Broadway Lounge at the New York Marriott MarquisExactly 19 months to the day since the launch of its Innovention Network website, which showcases 60 of its largest convention hotels and resorts around the globe, Marriott International yesterday unveiled several new enhancements to the site, such as search capabilities and improved visuals, all designed to assist meeting planners in site selection and ease the booking process.

Among the tweaks, planners now can view a complete list of hotels and resorts in the collection, or simply narrow down their search by region, as well as get information on a property's meeting capacity charts and floor plans, and timely updates on any ongoing or planned renovations. One particularly interesting new feature is a creative list of special value promotions being offered by the hotels, which run the gamut from F&B discounts and master bill rebates, to a free iPad2 and thousands of Marriott Rewards points. It's a dizzying collection of booking incentives that go far beyond the standard offerings of guest room comps and breaks on in-house audiovisual services.

Take, for instance, the 1,946-room New York Marriott Marquis, which three months ago wrapped up a $39 million renovation of its lobby, guest rooms, meeting space and two signature restaurants. Planners who book a qualifying meeting by Feb. 28, 2012, can choose one of two rewards: two tickets to the hotel's very glamorous New Year's Eve party (this year or next), which includes a two-night say and five-course dinner, or a private chef's dinner for nine in the comfort of their own home, prepared by the hotel's executive chef, Armando Monterroso. Or, thinking of holding a meeting at the 546-room Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa in Hawaii? Book 500 room nights and you could earn up to one million Marriott Rewards points. What do you suppose that translates to in terms of room currency?

But the real meat of the Innovention Network is that it delves deep into realistic measures to entice multiyear group bookings. Planners booking anywhere from two- to five-year multiyear bookings garner guarantees like a completed master account within 10 days of the event's end; real-time management of the event with Passkey GroupMax; a post-convention report within 14 days of wrap-up, and the on-site presence of a Marriott sales account executive at the pre-con meeting. Given the reshuffling and centralizing of Marriott's sales force, which saw the elimination of countless on-site director of sales positions and to date has resulted in one lawsuit and countless gripes from customers, that commitment alone is worthy of a second glance. For more information, visit www.innoventionnetwork.com.