A voice activated personal assistant and a mobile professional networking platform have been championed by Marriott Hotels in Europe to lead the way in the future of travel technology.

Marriott TestBED, an accelerator programme created to find the most innovative tech start-ups in the hospitality sector, saw almost 150 budding companies whittled down to two in a thorough judging process culminating in a live pitch day in front of a panel of industry experts.

The programme gives two start-ups the opportunity to pilot their product in a Marriott Hotel for six weeks, in addition to benefitting from a mentoring programme and training led by industry leaders.

The judging panel (pictured above) included TechHub founder Elizabeth Varley and Start Up Britain founder Oli Barrett, alongside Osama Hirzalla, Vice President Brand Marketing & eCommerce Europe at Marriott International, Guy Kedar, Digital Partner and head of social and innovation lead at MEC, and Will Mercer, Head of Strategy at the Trampery.

The two winning start-ups were Dazzle, an in-room voice activated personal assistant that uses a hybrid of Artificial Intelligence and human brain to answer guest queries and services, and Jambo, a location-based mobile platform that enables business professionals to connect and network.

Judge Elizabeth Varley, founder and CEO of TechHub, the global community for tech entrepreneurs, said: “the dedication of the finalists to advancing how we’ll travel in the future showed through in their innovative products.

“Dazzle excited us because of the rapid developments we’ve seen in voice-activated interfaces and artificial intelligence over the past year, as well as its real potential to enhance the guest experience. In Jambo we saw the benefit for travellers who are increasingly looking for opportunities to connect to other people, and the opportunity to view the hotel as that connection platform.”

The two start-ups will now go on to pilot their products in a Marriott Hotel in Europe, while receiving publicity and support from the brand, as well as exposure at relevant events and introductions to industry leaders. They’ll also gain invaluable insight and advice from professionals of the travel and hospitality industry with a series of tailored training days.

Osama Hirzalla, Vice President Brand Marketing & eCommerce Europe at Marriott International said: “We saw some amazing ideas from across Europe from our shortlist of eight start-ups, but Dazzle and Jambo really stood out for all of us. We saw that they had the drive and enthusiasm to maximise the opportunity to implement, test and potentially improve their product to help shape the future of hotels. This whole process has reminded us of the wealth of talent lying in the start-up community and we are tremendously excited about working alongside these two companies in the months to come. I believe that our bespoke mentoring programme combined with the operational experience and feedback from real customers that they will receive will be hugely beneficial to them. Meanwhile, we’re excited to see what we can learn from them as we combine their entrepreneurial spirit with our tools and hospitality expertise.”

Marriott Hotels has spent the last few years upgrading and evolving its product and experiences to lead the future of travel. In doing so, Marriott Hotels has repeatedly engaged the creative community and developed programmes that enable entrepreneurial talent to flourish within its global operations. Marriott TestBED is the latest innovative programme to engage with this community, following the successful launch of CANVAS in 2015, an incubator project that challenged Marriott employees or local entrepreneurs to fill unused space in Marriott city-centre hotels with creative food and beverage concepts.

More recently in September 2016, Marriott Hotels announced its partnership with TED, the non-profit devoted to ideas worth spreading. The relationship brings creatively curated TED Talks, blogs and original quotes to hotel guests worldwide. In turn, travellers staying at Marriott Hotels have access to thought-provoking and inspirational content to help jumpstart their own original, inventive thinking.