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by Michael Shapiro | May 10, 2013

Marriott International unveiled a nifty mobile web app this week, made expressly for the on-site needs of planners during meetings at Marriott properties. Red Coat Direct, as the app is called, presents a straightforward interface to the planner, customized for each meeting: One can either make a request of the hotel or check on the status of a request already made. A series of options serve to guide planners through their requests, which could be for room temperature changes, coffee refills, additional dishes, meal time changes, easels, more tables -- pretty much anything a planner might require from the hotel staff during a meeting or event. (Marriott's promotional video provides additional glimpses at the interface.)

I would assume that many planners will still find it easier to pick up the phone and speak to his or her hotel contact. But the app aims to be more efficient than that. Requests made through Red Coat Direct automatically generate messages to the appropriate parties. For instance, your request to turn up the temperature goes to your hotels sales contact as well as the engineering department simultaneously -- as your contact responds to say "we're on it" someone from engineering is, theoretically, already warming things up.

Red Coat Direct is a mobile web app, so there is nothing to download. Any device with web access, including a laptop, can run the app. A few weeks prior to the meeting, the sales contact provides the planner with a link. There, everything has been customized for the meeting in question. The meeting rooms used are programmed into the app, for example, streamlining the request process.

Marriott has been piloting the app since Christmas 2012 at two of its meeting properties: the Tysons Corner (Va.) Marriott and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Planner response has been enthusiastic, according to a Marriott spokesperson, and has helped shape the app's development. This week the app debuted at 10 U.S. Marriott properties and will be put into action at 14 more later this month. A dozen more hotels will get the app in June, including one in Dubai and several in the U.K. (The list of properties is available online. ) By the end of this year, the app should be available at all Marriott hotels in the U.S.; by the end of 2014, it should debut at all of the brand's global properties, in 19 languages. Future plans entail adapting the app for Marriott International's other hotel brands, with different names and functionality to reflect the meetings programs of each brand.

We've seen instances of social media affecting meeting services at some hotels, where attendee requests or complaints via Twitter receive near-immediate attention from a hotel staffer. A number of Marriott properties do have someone monitoring social media for just such purposes, according to a spokesperson, although there isn't yet a companywide approach to such monitoring. This new app, however, takes the same ideas of mobile accessibility and near-instant gratification, and puts them directly in the hands of the planner.