Global Traveler: Founded in 1957, Marriott has consistently maintained a solid place in the marketplace. As the company approaches its 50th anniversary in 2007, reflect on the changes, especially the highlights, of Marriott’s first half century.
Ed Fuller: Actually, Marriott Inter-national, formerly Marriott Corp., was founded in 1927 as a small root beer stand in Washington, d.c., on the basic principle that taking excellent care of its employees would ensure that the employees would, in turn, take great care of its customers. This philosophy permeates our business today and is credited as the foundation of our success.
We entered the lodging business in 1957. Our first hotel was located in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, d.c., near where the Pentagon is located today. It was the largest motor hotel of its day. At the time, the Jet Age was in its infancy and the u.s. interstate highway system was under construction. These two events signaled the beginning of mass travel as we now know it and presented our company with an unparalleled opportunity.
Today, we operate in 70 countries and have 2,700-plus hotels and 500,000 guestrooms in our portfolio. Our vision is to be the first choice in lodging internationally and we are focused on creating a competitive advantage by providing superior guest and associate satisfaction, owner returns and corporate profitability.
In the intervening years, Marriott began “testing the waters” of operating internationally with the opening in 1975 of the Amsterdam (Netherlands) Marriott. In 1983, we introduced our Honored Guest Awards (now Marriott Rewards) frequent guest loyalty program. After two decades, the program now boasts more than 20 million members and is recognized as the world’s “richest” loyalty program in the industry.
That same year, we introduced the first of our 15 brands — Courtyard by Marriott — which is targeted to the upper-moderate business and leisure traveler who wants consistently terrific accommodations at a moderate price. Today, Courtyard has become our largest brand in terms of numbers of units (600-plus properties) worldwide.
Other brands soon followed. Some, like the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., Residence Inn and the Renaissance Hotel Group were acquired; the remainder were developed internally.
GT: Dual-line phones, fax machines, voicemail, high-speed Internet access and, more recently, wireless Internet access are examples of hotel amenities that started as conveniences, but quickly became necessities expected by business travelers. What new amenities/technological innovations are next on the horizon?
EF: As travelers become increasingly sophisticated, they want and expect the same kind of conveniences as they enjoy in their everyday lives. Today, for example, flat-screen television is on the brink of being affordable to the mass market, and there is a lot of buzz and interest in installing these in hotel guestrooms. This, in turn, will impact the interior design of the hotel room. But, as technology permeates every aspect of business life, there’s a yearning for personal recognition and having services tailored to one’s personal interests and style. So you may be seeing more interest in personalization.
GT: Marriott has a 450-room hotel set to open in Shenzhen, China, next year — one of five properties opening in China between 2004 and 2007. Marriott also has a heavy presence in the Middle East. What brand —or brands — is the most strongly represented at these destinations? Why? Who is the target market?
EF: Our targets are the global traveler as well as the local market traveler. Depending on local market conditions, our global development strategy is first to introduce our luxury brands such as jw Marriott and upscale, deluxe Marriott and Renaissance brands in the capital and other major cities in a country. We then follow by introducing these hotels into established resort destinations and, where appropriate, introducing our luxury extended-stay lodging brand, Marriott Executive Apartments. Then we introduce our upper-moderate Courtyard brand and expand into secondary and tertiary cities with whichever brand makes sense.
In China, for example, where we have had a presence since 1989, we now have two jw Marriott hotels (Hong Kong and Shanghai) in our portfolio and recently announced plans for a 591-room jw Marriott hotel in Beijing. We now have six Marriott-branded hotels, including the Sanya Marriott Resort, our first resort property in China, on Hainan Island. Our Renaissance brand is represented by seven hotels; Courtyard by five properties; and Marriott Executive Apartments brand by two properties; and our Ramada International brand has 11 properties. Over the next few months, in addition to the Shenzhen Marriott, we will add a Marriott Executive Apartments property in Beijing, and two Renaissance hotels — in Wuhan and Suzhou.
In the Middle East, where we have been operating since 1980, we have six hotels under development and scheduled for opening through 2007. The regional portfolio includes three jw Marriott hotels (in Dubai, U.A.E.; Kuwait City, Kuwait; and Cairo, Egypt); 11 Marriott-branded properties; two Renaissance hotels; one Courtyard property in Kuwait; a Marriott Executive Apartments hotel in Dubai and six Ramada International hotels. Through 2007, we will add a Courtyard and a Marriott Executive Apartments in Dubai by year end; a second resort in Jordan in 2006 and three properties in Doha, Qatar, in 2007 — a Renaissance, a Courtyard and a Marriott Executive Apartments.
GT: Do u.s. travelers account for a significant portion of the market at Marriott properties in the Middle East and Far East? Of u.s. visitors, are most traveling for business, leisure or both?
EF: As we have expanded beyond the borders of the United States, we have worked hard to appeal to the local and regional market in addition to the global market and to appeal to both business and leisure travelers. Thus, with a few exceptions like London and the Caribbean, where u.s. travelers are a significant part of our guest mix, our guests tend to be international in nature and reflect a variety of nationalities. At any given time, you will find a mix of leisure and business travelers.
GT: For u.s. travelers who have yet to visit Marriott properties in the Middle East or Far East, describe the appeal — for both business and leisure — of some of your popular locations in each region.
EF: Each of our hotels in the Far and Middle East is imbued with the superior, welcoming hospitality travelers in the United States have come to expect of Marriott, as well as the state-of-the-art business travel services that make it possible to do business in a part of the world in which the traveler may not feel comfortable. At the same time, however, each of our hotels outside the United States offers a sense of place — in terms of its décor, restaurant choices and concierge services — that helps travelers experience the cultural and historical attractions of the destination. We offer the best of all worlds: the comfort of all that is Marriott with the excitement and stimulation of being in an unfamiliar environment. Each destination has its special appeal and we do our best to help our guests discover and experience the appeal.
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