At age 76, J.W. Marriott Jr. (aka Bill
Marriott) remains at the top of his game in the hospitality
business. In the past year alone, Marriott’s $15 billion, Bethesda,
Md.-based hotel company wrapped up a $3 billion overhaul of its
Renaissance brand; forged an unexpected alliance with lodging guru
Ian Schrager and unveiled a boutique brand concept called Edition;
aggressively extended its limited-service brands into Europe and
its full-service brands into Asia; and unleashed a bevy of
environmentally friendly programs.
This March found Bill Marriott and his
son, David, 34, regional vice president, marketing management,
Eastern region, and heir apparent, together at the JW Marriott
Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Ariz., to celebrate Bill’s birthday
with the extended Marriott clan. The two took time to chat with
M&C’s hotel editor, Cheryl-Anne Sturken, about the
company’s recent accomplishments and to share a glimpse of what
lies ahead for the chain.
M&C: Five years ago,
you seemed noncommittal when I asked if you would ever consider
adding a boutique brand. What changed to make Edition
Bill Marriott: The
timing is right, and we have the right partner. Ian Shrager is the
godfather of the boutique business. Edition is going to have the
energy and style that appeals to a whole different customer. We
plan on going head-to-head with Starwood’s W brand. The first opens
in Los Angeles in 2010, and we are looking at Paris, South Beach in
Miami and about 10 more.
M&C: How have you
Renaissance used to be all over the board. There was no
consistency, so planners didn’t know what to expect from hotel to
hotel. That needed to be fixed. This is a brand that relies heavily
on group business -- up to 50 percent of Renaissance revenue is
from groups. Now, it has a strong brand voice and great
M&C: Ritz-Carlton is
another brand whose image has been tweaked. How
Bill: For one thing,
we’ve taken down off the walls all the boring pictures of people no
one knows, and we’ve incorporated more youthful designs to appeal
to a changing customer base. On any night, our Washington, D.C.,
hotel is humming with locals. But make no mistake, this is still
very much a luxury brand. Walk into any Ritz-Carlton and you’ll get
the same level of service.
M&C: How and why did
you restructure your sales force?
David: I spent three
years working on SalesForce One, which is a new staffing model for
us. It shifts salespeople out of the hotels and into regional sales
offices. The client now has one point of contact, selling across
all brands. There still will be on-site salespeople at our largest
convention hotels. But SalesForce One has created a powerful
selling culture. Before, we had people chasing down the same
accounts, and there was tremendous overlap. Now, they are deployed
into developing new business. By year-end 2009, we will be reaching
10 times more customers, and we will have 12 or 13 regional
M&C: What is Marriott’s
global expansion strategy?
David: Half of the new
hotels coming online are outside of the United States, particularly
in Asia, Europe, Latin America. A big part of that expansion is in
our limited-service category; we have modified that brand for
aggressive growth in those markets.
M&C: Any other
environment. Social responsibility is very important; it has grown
to epic proportions. At our annual top association client event for
about 200 [held in May], the entire meeting will be green. Not only
will that event give us a chance to showcase the initiatives we
have taken as a company in this area, such as organic centerpieces
and recycling, it hopefully will give our clients some ideas they
can incorporate into their own events.
M&C: David, your father
is an industry icon, well known for his hands-on management style.
What’s your style, and what mark do you want to make on
David: I try not to
look too far out. I prefer to concentrate on doing a good job with
my current responsibilities. When I took on SalesForce One, I asked
myself, where can we most improve what we provide to our customers?
I am so inspired by what we’ve achieved, and I aim to stay
J. Willard Marriott opens a nine-stool A&W Root Beer stand in
Marriott opens its first property, the 365-room Twin Bridges Motor
Hotel in Arlington, Va.
J.W. Marriott Jr. is named president of the company
First international hotel opens in Acapulco, Mexico
First hotel-management contracts are inked
First European hotel opens, in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Corporate headquarters is built in Bethesda, Md.
First Courtyard by Marriott opens in Atlanta
First JW Marriott opens in Washington, D.C.
Residence Inn is acquired and Fairfield Inn launched
Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities is
Pathways to Independence, a welfare-to-work program, is
Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. is acquired
TownePlace Suites, Fairfield Suites and Marriott Executive
Chain reaches milestones of 2,300 hotels and 200,000
Ramada International is sold
All Marriott properties in the United States and Canada become
Company partners with Ian Schrager and announces creation of new
boutique brand, Edition