Marriott International executives met with the GMs of its 10 select-service brands for the first time since the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide acquisition to discuss the future of the company and growth opportunities for distinctive select brands and classic select brands.
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana—For the first time since its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Marriott International is reaching out to GMs to outline the company’s vision for its portfolio of 10 select-service brands, which are now split into “distinctive” and “classic” categories.
Hotel News Now sat down with Marriott executives in New Orleans Thursday following one of the company’s eight GM conferences, which are also taking place in locations such as London, Mexico City and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson said his main message to GMs is about priorities for the future, the culture of the company and “building a single team.” The single biggest growth market for Marriott is in the United States, he said, but there’s also strong growth in China, and the select-service brands are part of this growth.
He added that Courtyard is Marriott’s most global select-service brand because the company has focused on its growth for a long time and it is “positioned well against the global business traveler.” He said he also sees global growth opportunities for Moxy because some customers want “a bit more lifestyle.”
Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Residence Inn, Four Points, SpringHill Suites and Protea Hotels make up the classic select brands while AC Hotels, Aloft, Element and Moxy make up the distinctive select brands. Marriott’s other brands are divided into classic and distinctive premium, and classic and distinctive luxury.
Building a community, key messages
It’s crucial for the GMs to be involved in talks about the future of the combined company, said Toni Stoeckl, VP and global brand leader of distinctive select brands.
“In the next five or six weeks, we’ll do a little road show,” he said. “We’ll go and meet with our general managers across the globe and talk about the vision for our company now that it’s a combined company between the legacy Starwood brands and legacy Marriott brands. We’ve been building on our rich company history and ultimately creating a new culture together.”
Janis Milham, SVP and global brand leader of Marriott’s classic select brands, said there are a few important messages they’re trying to get across to GMs at these conferences.
“It’s actually 10 conferences in one, in essence,” she said. “Every brand has a little different flavor, but basically, our goal here is to do about three or four things: First is to inspire our GMs; to recognize our GMs, so we do a lot of awards; to communicate with our GMs what’s happening with the brands and what we kind of need them to do to bring the brand experience to life; (and) any new initiatives we’re rolling out they can be expecting. Those are really kind of the key messages.”
Milham also stresses the importance of each classic select GM’s role.
“(Classic select) brands are important to Marriott because they’re our gateway brands,” she said. “We found through our customer research that if you’re trying Marriott for the very first time as a Gen X customer, you’re actually coming into one of my brands; that’s where they’re starting. So I was saying to (GMs), ‘you’ve got a huge responsibility because that means if they don’t have a good first experience at one of our brands, they might not come back.’”
Differentiation between each brand
Since the Starwood acquisition, Marriott has said that it will make each of its 30 brands distinct from one another—this also applies to select service.
Sorenson said for brands like Aloft and AC, it’s not very difficult to differentiate because “each have strong design flavor” and guests won’t be confused because they’re developed differently.
Stoeckl has a similar view of AC and Moxy.
“Some of the work we’ve done for AC and Moxy, those brands are very distinctive; they’re very distinct from each other,” he said. “You’re not going to walk in one or the other hotel and mistake it for the other. You’re not going to walk in an AC and say, ‘oh, looks like a Moxy.’ It’s not going to happen because they’re very, very different, even from the teams we hire, the type of experience they offer, what’s happening at the bar. Everything communicates the brands. It’s not just design; it’s the entire journey that our guests go through that ultimately make a brand come to life.”
Milham said her job is to make sure brands that are pretty similar, like Courtyard and Four Points, are distinct from one another in the customer’s mind.
“So let’s take Four Points and Courtyard, for instance. Those are two brands that you could argue are in the same space, same price point, all of that, and we’ve purposely put Four Points into my group so we can work to keep them apart,” she said. “And we really believe that Four Points is … targeting a customer that is sort of more relaxed: Kick back, have a beer, everything you need, nothing you don’t. It’s just more simple, easy. … (Meanwhile) Courtyard is a little more high energy, a little more … active, more of that customer who’s an up-and-comer; they’re a little bit more type A.”
Editor's note: Marriott International paid for all travel expenses and two roomnights. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Marriott had no influence on the coverage provided.