Crowne Plaza launches initial Second Life island

ATLANTA: InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has leapt into Second Life with Crowne Plaza's "The Place to Meet Island," offering virtual conference rooms for rent.

ATLANTA: InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has leapt into Second Life with Crowne Plaza's "The Place to Meet Island," offering virtual conference rooms for rent.

Space can be booked by anyone in Second Life, but the venture particularly targets small and midsize companies lacking their own virtual meeting spaces.

IHG is using the Second Life destination as a way to promote its meeting offerings both online and off.

"We're in the meeting business," said Del Ross, VP of distribution marketing at IHG. "That's what Crowne Plaza is all about."

The island, which debuted June 29, is being promoted in-world with a "meeting room in a box" giveaway (a virtual meeting room that is, literally, in a box and opens into a conference facility).

IHG is also reaching out to diverse groups by holding meetings in Second Life to educate them about their offerings. On launch day, the island hosted the "Leading Brands Summit on the Impact of Emerging Media," which included speakers from MIT and Coca-Cola. Weber Shandwick assisted IHG on the campaign.

Ross said he considers the meeting facility a good start, but sees greater potential as the virtual medium continues to develop.

"We're establishing [ourselves] now so whenever the 3D Web takes off, we'll be there and go in guns blazing," said Ross.

IHG got the idea while it was in Second Life discussing marketing options for its Crowne Plaza hotel brand and found itself meeting out in the open within the virtual world.

"People were flying over asking questions, and it was awkward," Ross said.

As of now, space is available at no charge, and the virtual world mimics the design and capabilities of real-life meeting rooms.

"The look, feel, and basic amenities are all similar to the physical world," said Ross. "The human touch, in terms of service amenities, is a bit harder to replicate." Crowne Plaza is providing an Atlanta-based virtual Crowne meetings director to help.

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