FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Hotel Update: The New Marriott

by Laura Daily

May 1, 2017
Features

AFTER TWO DECADES, my favorite aunt announced she was planning to remarry and blend her small family with her fiancé’s large, extended one. Her daughter’s reaction? “Mom, I love you. He’s a great guy. His kinfolk seem nice, and I know you’ll be happy, but let’s cut to the chase … what does this mean for me?” My aunt’s response: “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Like my cousin, business travelers want to know how Marriott International’s acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts will affect them. They have questions, lots of questions. And the answers from both Marriott execs and travel industry insiders, for the most part, are “Wait and see.” Here’s what we do know about the “new” Marriott.

Marriott is the largest hotel company in the world, with more than 6,000 properties and nearly 1.2 million rooms in 120 countries. No matter where you go, you should be able to find a Marriott hotel. The portfolio now includes luxury brands The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis and Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts. Westin, Renaissance and Autograph Collection occupy an evolving lifestyle category. Premium brands such as Marriott Hotels and Sheraton anchor the portfolio. And there are new, fun, accessible experiences at Moxy Hotels, AC Hotels and Aloft. Bottom line: The new Marriott allows travelers to find a property that fits their budgets, lifestyles and preferences.

JW Marriott Panama © MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL - CARIBBEAN & LATIN AMERICA

JW Marriott Panama © MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL – CARIBBEAN & LATIN AMERICA

“But our focus is not on bigger, rather, better,” says Tim Sheldon, president, Marriott Caribbean and Latin America (CALA). “We have tremendous talent at our properties who ensure that our guests receive world-class service and enjoy unforgettable experiences. New brands in our portfolio and new markets mean more experiences for our customer.”

Sheldon adds that thanks to the merger, Marriott has been able to add new markets. Argentina, for example, where Marriott had not been operational for several years, is now again a Marriott destination with Sheraton, The Luxury Collection and the newly introduced Tribute brands. And expansion continues to be a priority. “Marriott has a robust pipeline of new projects for the next five years and plans to open 37 new properties in CALA in 2017. We will continue to increase our footprint across the region, with a special focus on Mexico,” he says.

In December 2016 The Luxury Collection added five flagship properties to the brand: The Wellesley and The Westbury in London; Hôtel de Berri in Paris; Cristallo Resort & Spa in Cortina, Italy; and The Alexander in Yerevan, Armenia.

Cristallo Resort & Spa

Cristallo Resort & Spa © MARRIOTT

To Matthew Carroll, vice president, Marriott Hotels, the merger kick-started the flagship Marriott Hotels brand to elevate the guest experience. “We’re renovating and deploying new guestrooms around the world to give them a more contemporary feel,” he says. For example, many properties converted tub/shower combos to walk-in showers and replaced carpet with hard-surface floors.

Marriott is also pushing innovation. Last October the company unveiled what it called the world’s first hotel in “live beta,” M Beta at Charlotte Marriott City Center. “Beta buttons” throughout the hotel enable guests to instantly give feedback on amenities and concepts. Among the test features: personal greeters in lieu of traditional front desk check-in; access to 1,000 on-demand workouts on screens in the fitness studio; and a coffeehouse with locally sourced coffee.

Marriott’s plans to evolve, sign more franchise agreements and open new properties are no surprise. So let’s deal with the million-dollar question: What is happening to the loyalty program? On day one — Sept. 23, 2016 — as the ink was drying on the acquisition papers, Marriott announced loyalty members could link their Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest accounts, obtaining instant Elite status matching and unlimited points transfer between accounts.

Renaissance São Paulo

Renaissance São Paulo © MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL – CARIBBEAN & LATIN AMERICA

Now Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards members can use points to travel to destinations such as the Maldives, Santoríni in Greece and Bora-Bora, while SPG members have access to popular locales such as Aruba, Tuscany’s Serchio Valley and Kruger National Park in South Africa.

They also gain exclusive access to money-can’t-buy events and experiences in music, sports (including professional football, baseball, basketball and tennis) and entertainment such as Broadway shows, an increasingly valuable perk, according to Thom Kozik, vice president, global loyalty, Marriott International.

“Our members increasingly value experiences over points. Whether they get to throw out the first pitch at a World Series game or attend a private concert with Demi Lovato and DNCE, the combined partnership of Marriott Rewards and SPG means we can deepen the emotional relationship with them,” he says. “We are giving members once-in-a-lifetime access to pursue their passions in ways they could never have imagined and that our competitors cannot match.”

Also, when members book stays directly with Marriott, they can use the Marriott mobile app to check in and check out, receive an alert when their room is ready, as well as make service requests directly to participating hotels using Mobile Requests before, during and after their stays. Similarly, SPG’s mobile app allows guests to use SPG Keyless to check in, get their room numbers and unlock the room doors using their smartphones or Apple Watch at participating hotels.

“For the business traveler who was a Marriott customer, this is a positive. You get new properties to earn and burn points and gain a more global and more upscale footprint. For those loyal to Starwood, there is skepticism,” says Gary Leff, author, ViewFromTheWing.com. “Marriott is known for being more rewarding on spend, Starwood more rewarding to Elite guests with more robust suite upgrades and breakfast perks. Which will get adopted by Marriott is anyone’s guess.”

Overall, Marriott made a lot of early moves to allay the fears of Starwood members. As Leff points out, the ultimate goal of Marriott International is to become the only brand and only loyalty program a traveler needs. “A loyalty program is how a consumer experiences a chain as a whole and can ultimately be the reason to stay or switch brands,” he says.

For Marriott, it’s a long transition process. The company has to review and negotiate with suppliers, credit card companies, airlines, rental car companies and rewards partners. Wanting to avoid the technical snafus that plagued airline mergers, Marriott is taking it step by step as it upgrades and merges its reservations, loyalty and operations backend software. Nothing in the immediate term is likely to radically change, and Marriott doesn’t want to over-promise and under-deliver. Moves will be revealed in the next six to nine months. We’ll just have to wait and see.

MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL

Demographic: With an ever-evolving portfolio of innovative brands ranging from upper midscale to luxury, Marriott attracts a wide range of travelers seeking attentive service, exceptional amenities, a commitment to excellence, in-depth local connections and preeminent loyalty programs.

Offerings: Marriott operates 6,000-plus properties worldwide, offering 1.2 million rooms in 120 countries. Guests can opt to join three loyalty programs: Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest.

BRANDS:
Luxury: St. Regis, W, The Luxury Collection, The Ritz-Carlton/The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bvlgari Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott, EDITION

Upper Upscale: Westin, Le Méridien, Sheraton, Tribute Portfolio, Autograph Collection Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Delta Hotels by Marriott, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Vacation Club, Gaylord Hotels, Design Hotels

Upscale: Four Points by Sheraton, Element, Aloft Hotels, AC Hotels by Marriott, Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn

Upper Midscale: Moxy Hotels, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Protea Hotels by Marriott, TownePlace Suites

Introducing

FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

#globility

Insta Feed
Daily
Jul 10, 2020

Visit Navajo Nation

Navajo Nation is an area of land in the southwestern United States. Covering about 27,000 square miles, the region in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah currently makes up the largest area of land retained by a tribe within the United States. Home to the Navajo people, the area boasts monuments, parks, markets, trails and historic sites.

A Lighter Footprint

United Airlines’ environmentally friendly efforts lessen the impact on local U.S. communities.

Daily
Jul 10, 2020

Buy Now, Stay Later: Thailand

The Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Los Angeles Office announced a new initiative for would-be travelers waiting for the green light. The Buy Now, Stay Later: Thailand launch comes on the heels of Thailand’s foreign travel restrictions extending until further notice.

Daily
Jul 9, 2020

Black-Owned Travel Essentials Companies

Packing for a trip can be stressful — making sure you have all the travel essentials. Don’t always rely on nearest store or mall for your travel needs, check out these Black-owned travel essentials companies.

The Perfect Fit

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses create two-thirds of net new jobs and account for nearly 48 percent of the U.S. private sector workforce. And small- and medium-sized businesses outpace all other sectors as one of the fastest-growing in the United States. InterContinental® Hotels Group (IHG) goes above and beyond to create opportunities for this segment with its IHG® Business Edge program, voted Best Small- to Mid-Sized Business Program in Global Traveler’s 2019 GT Tested Reader Survey awards.

Set Sail on a Luxurious Yacht with Dream Yacht Charter, The Moorings and More

IMAGINE SETTING SAIL IN AN EXOTIC, far-flung destination, just you and your family or group of friends aboard a private yacht. The sun warms the deck, a soft breeze dances off the water, and an über-attentive crew caters to your every whim while the personal chef whips up the finest of the local cuisine with all of your culinary preferences top of mind. All the while, the captain navigates the yacht into secluded coves; to pristine, seemingly undiscovered beaches; or even to the hottest spots along the coast for a night out on the town.

eFlyer Deals
Jul 8, 2020

Kimpton Hotels Ready to Welcome You Back

A number of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants reopened their doors around the United States. The properties have been hard at work building upon the brand’s already high cleanliness standards, while still retaining the beloved perks that enhance the uniquely Kimpton experience, including coffee hour, yoga mats and more.

Goway Offers Travelers Journey of a Lifetime

Since 1970, Goway Travel has been committed to providing customized travel experiences for world travelers. Few things are better evidence of this commitment than being awarded the 2019 Trazees award for Favorite Tour Operator. Goway Travel heartily thanks the readers of Trazee Travel for this honor and for their confidence in Goway’s work in creating travel memories that’ll last a lifetime.

eFlyer Deals
Jul 8, 2020

Azamara Launches First-Ever Global Promotion

For the first time ever, Azamara is offering a global promotion on all sailings. Through July 17, the sale will offer a $500 onboard credit and a 50 percent reduced deposit.