Each year, SXSW lures tens of thousands of people to Austin, Texas, all of whom need a place to stay. With rooms near the convention center booking up quickly (as early August for this year's event), many drive 30 minutes or more to the conference, meaning they can't return to their hotel for a midday break. The situation breeds a sort of hipster vagabond who doesn't know where his next cell-phone charge might be coming from. It's this person Courtyard by Marriott hopes to help.
For SXSW 2014, the hotelier will debut Courtyard @, a sort of traveling guest room where attendees can recharge themselves and their devices (avoiding the indignity of camping out on some tile floor at a random outlet). The pods can be booked for free in advance in 30-minute increments and feature semi-circle sofas, refreshments, workstations and televisions.
Beyond the festival, the pods are a way to connect with a new generation of business traveler -- the millennial -- who the hotelier believes are just as likely to work from a bed or couch as they are from a traditional desk. The pods are sneak peek at the changes coming to some guest rooms at Courtyard hotels, featuring multiple tech drops for devices and new spots to charge them (including in the couch itself). Televisions in the newly designed rooms can swivel and be viewed from the couch or bed, and will feature a new calming color palette. “It’s not the usual soul-sucking beige box,” says Nina Herrera-Davila, director of public relations for Marriott. “We really wanted to design a room that fits with this new generation of travelers.”
Herrera-Davila says Courtyard is considering bringing the mini pods of Courtyard @ to other similar events in the future, such as CES, Lollapalooza or even ComicCon. Says Herrera-Davila, “We’re looking at space-restricted, jam-packed kind of events. The happening places.” When asked if Burning Man, a haven for tech community of late, might also be on that list, she said, “Could be.”
The Courtyard @ pods will be open through the Interactive portion of SXSW only, from Friday March 7 through Monday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For a list of other charging lounges at SXSW, the event’s official lounge index is a great place to start.