August 01, 2002
Meetings & Conventions: Newsline newsline.gif (8042 bytes)WITH JW MARRIOTT RESORTS, CHAIN AIMS FOR LARGE, UPSCALE MEETINGS

New Resort Brand Targets Groups

JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort, Spa & Golf Marriott International has zeroed in on a niche not currently being filled by its major competitors: the luxury resort that can handle large meeting groups.

The result is JW Marriott Resorts. The new brand will be “positioned above regular Marriott resorts and directly below Ritz-Carlton,” said Bill Marriott Jr., chairman and CEO of Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International.

The properties, which cost 12 percent more to build than the average Marriott resort, will feature a significant number of rooms, extensive meeting space, luxury spa services and championship golf courses.

The brand kicked off its U.S. debut in February with the 541-room JW Marriott Las Vegas Resort, Spa & Golf. Set to open in November is the 984-room JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix.

While new to the U.S. market, Marriott has already opened JW Marriott Resorts overseas, including properties in Cairo, Egypt; Puerto Rico; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; and Shanghai, China. In all, 20 JW Marriott Resorts are either currently open or in the pipeline.

Seven existing Marriott resorts are being considered for conversions to the new JW brand, although the company will not reveal the specific properties.

In addition, the chain is moving forward with a new concept of building JW Marriott properties next to those of sister brand Ritz-Carlton. The two hotels would share amenities like spas and golf courses. The first such development, the Grande Lakes Resort, is under way in Orlando, where a 1,000-room JW Marriott Resort and an adjacent 585-room Ritz-Carlton are under construction and set to open in mid-2003.

The new resort brand is meant to address what analysts call a largely unmet need in the meetings market. “Marriott is concentrating on the two customer segments that were underserved in existing resort markets, primarily corporate and incentive groups,” said Sean Hennessey, director of hospitality consulting for New York City-based PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But there are risks in coupling a massive property with a smaller one whose major selling point is high-end customer service.

“They will have to manage the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando carefully in order to make sure the customer does not feel slighted or imposed upon by the folks on the other side of the convention space,” said Hennessey.

According to Jack Corgel, a senior lodging analyst with Atlanta-based PKF Consulting, “There is definitely opportunity in the resort segment. The question is, is it the right entry for Marriott?” He added, “I can’t imagine you would have both a JW Marriott Resort and a Ritz-Carlton springing up in every resort area. The slice of opportunity is too thin.”


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