Marriott Hotels managing director Mike Dearing speaks to Breaking Travel News
With 500 hotels in over 50 countries, Marriott Hotels & Resorts is seeking to redefine hospitality for the next generation of travellers.
From its hotel-cum-laboratory in Charlotte, North Carolina, the group is redesigning each element of its properties, with everything from the public spaces, guest rooms, and bars, to the meeting facilities and coffee shops coming under the microscope.
The aim – in Marriott parlance – is to allow guests to ‘Travel Brilliantly’.
As Mike Dearing, managing director at Marriott Hotels & Resorts, explains to Breaking Travel News: “Five years ago we embarked upon a journey to transform the Marriott brand.
“We bought the Charlotte City Centre Marriott because we wanted to have a living laboratory where we could have our best thinking and our most innovative ideas come to life on a real hotel platform.”
The process is now beginning to bear fruit, with Marriott rolling out its redesigned properties across North America and Europe.
However, as an asset-light company, Marriott only owns a tiny handful of the properties it manages, with the vast majority controlled by investors.
These third parties had to be convinced to invest in existing hotel stock in order to bring it up to the latest standards.
“There has been tremendous adoption,” continues Dearing.
“We have a lot of evidence now to show huge spikes in guest response and market share.
“We are able to convince owners, with data, that their hotels will be a hit with guests and you will be a powerful competitor in each market, driving revenue and bottom line.
“That is how owners like for you to talk to them.”
Marriott has so far seen $600 million invested in its North American properties alone, with much more to come.
Some 30 properties in the US have been refreshed, while there are a further 100 in the pipeline.
The response from guests has been largely positive.
Osama Hirzalla, Marriott vice president brand marketing and e-commerce, Europe, adds: “When you put the consumer in the centre of your thinking, think what they would like to have, then you tailor your product to what they want, you will find success.
“We all know that consumer needs are evolving, so we need to be evolving our product at the same time.”
In Europe, London Marriott Hotel County Hall has been among the first properties to incorporate the latest thinking.
Re-launching earlier this week, the reimagined interiors of the hotel combine contemporary design and luxurious functionality with inspiration from the heritage of the building.
All suites include upgraded bathroom facilities, entrances with tiled mosaic flooring and bespoke wallpaper featuring a historic map of London from the era of the building’s infancy.
Matthew Carroll, Marriott vice president, global brand management, Marriott Hotels, explains: “One of the big shifts, we can see here at London Marriott Hotel County Hall, and across the brand is the move to the walk in shower - this is something we are very focused on, based on what guests have told us they prefer in the rooms.
“This is a very different design aesthetic to the one we have had before; much more customised, inspired by the local area. This is something much more residential, elevated in terms of finish levels.
“There is a core experience we are looking for in each room, a set of standards, but tailored very much to a local environment.”
The new properties have allowed Marriott Hotels to move incrementally upscale, attracting a changing demographic of guests.
Dearing continues: “The business mix changes when you have a reinvented property, a property that is able to appeal to a higher rate traveller; that more valuable business transient traveller.
“Groups like crew business, they can be yielded out, and you get a richer mix.
“It is amazing in today’s transparent market, with things like TripAdvisor, word gets our very fast, word that there is essentially a new hotel in the market – people will find you.”
Technology, too, has played a role in boosting awareness of the changes at Marriott.
While an overhaul of this kind might previously have been heralded with a television or poster campaign, social media has performed the same function for a fraction of the cost.
Hirzalla adds: “The social element is important.
“When a consumer stays in a hotel like Marriott Hotel County Hall, the social content generated is greater than any other Marriott property.
“What we do is look at that content, harness it, and amplify it.
“This becomes the advertising for us, because it feels far more authentic, rather than just brand advertising.
“So we look at driving, growing the brand story through the eyes of the consumer, their stories and how they identify with Marriott.”
As Dearing is quick to point out, it is this engagement with guests that remains key.
“The guests really designed the new Marriott.
“We worked with a large number of our guests and the room has very much emerged from what they told us about how they travel and how they use the room,” he adds.
“We will never forget that, no matter how good the technology, the thing that really makes a stay memorable is the human interaction that you have with the people who are really the heart and soul of the hotel.”
With 500 hotels and resorts in over 50 countries around the world, Marriott Hotels is one of the largest hospitality providers in the world.
Find out more about the brand on the official website.