I was in a dark room, facing a giant curved panel of LED screens. Water trickled into a black-pebbled basin nearby; a small group of pillars of different textures were on a pedestal to my right. As I stood there uncertainly, a white spotlight appeared to my left, and instructions flashed on the LED screen: "Move your body."
It's a test, I thought.
I was in the Seeker, an interactive installation created for AccorHotels' loyalty program, Le Club AccorHotels, to measure and compile data on my preferences and make suggestions on destinations I might want to try.
This week, Le Club AccorHotels program merges with Fairmont's President's Club, Swissotel Circle and Raffles Ambassadors programs. Members of Le Club AccorHotels will be able to use points to experience the top-tier Fairmont, Swissotel and Raffles properties. And Fairmont President's Club, Swissotel Circle and Raffles Ambassadors members "will benefit from Le Club AccorHotels' powerful points-earning structure, noting a significant boost in their ability to earn free nights faster," Accor said.
In other words, it's all about loyalty.
But what of the Seeker? It's an "immersive sensory experience that measures biometric reactions to gain deeper insights into our guests' wants and needs," Accor said.
And, it said: "AccorHotels believes that true loyalty is about understanding the needs of our guests before they do."
At the "front desk" of the Seeker, a young man and woman wearing uniforms fitted me with a headset to measure brainwaves; a wristband to measure my pulse; and then kindly relieved me of my phone and my handbag and sent me solo down a hallway to the heart of the Seeker. I felt surprisingly vulnerable.
The LED panels gave me instructions: I stood in the spotlight and moved my body, and the LED panels lit up in different shapes, colors and sounds; I held my hands under the trickling water, and soothing sounds and video of raindrops appeared on the screen; I grabbed at the pillars, and touching each one triggered different music and images on the LED panel. Then I stood in the center of the room as different video clips flashed past me on the screens.
After I wandered out of the Seeker and retrieved my phone, an Accor rep and a developer showed me the program again. It was custom-designed for Accor and measures brain activity, heart rate and galvanic skin responses to gauge interest in six metrics: solitude vs. togetherness; rural vs. urban; relaxation vs. adventure; family vs. romance; traditional vs. modern and cold vs. hot.
The body movement measured introversion and extroversion; holding your hands longer under the water measures your desire for adventure; the pillars all correspond to different affinities for modern or rustic environments.
A team had been deployed to the company's luxury destinations to score them against the same metrics. And at the end of my experience the program crunched the data, and I was presented with my vacation-preference readout and a few destinations that seemed right for me.
The Seeker was a specific installation -- I tried it in a warehouse in an industrial corner of Jersey City, N.J. But a digital platform will bring the immersive experience online in a modified format, testing for those six metrics to "get to the heart" of what Accor's VIPs want in a travel experience. Since the in-person experience can't be replicated precisely online, the web version uses a person's computer webcam to measure heart rate and the ability to choose "yes" or "no" on a variety of images (a faster response equals a stronger preference). Hotel kiosks will be set up in lobbies at the end of the month to mirror the online process.
"Seeker not only uncovers true travel desires, but demonstrates how being a member of Le Club AccorHotels opens the world up to its members to truly experience luxury with benefits, exclusive offers and privilege," the hotelier said.