HB ON THE SCENE: Marriott Sets Sights on Affluent Traveler

NEW YORK—Marriott International Luxury Brands Group along with Tina Edmundson, global brand officer, Marriott International, hosted its inaugural luxury luncheon on Wednesday at the newly re-opened Union Square Cafe, giving a preview of upcoming hotel debuts, brand news and travel insights.

Luxury is in the details and international travel was the theme for the event as demonstrated by the bespoke table linens emblazoned with illustrations of far-flung destinations and experiential moments by Mariana Guerrico, an artist and social media influencer, as well as the swath of global brand leadership in attendance representing acquired brands—St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, The Luxury Collection and W Hotels brands—in addition to The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, BVLGARI Hotels & Resorts and JW Marriott.

Having held numerous roles at Starwood Hotels & Resorts for 18 years and now serving eight years with Marriott International, Edmundson has a unique perspective from both sides: “For us, the last several months have been quite a wild ride. The Starwood acquisition is definitely the biggest news in the hospitality industry and certainly a significant milestone for Marriott International and its legacy,” she said. “It feels like I’m coming full circle and I often refer to this merger as the perfect marriage in operational excellence coupled with branding and marketing genius, and Starwood makes it perfectly balanced.”

In her remarks, Edmundson touched on the post-merger progress the company made out of the gate in terms of loyalty, offering members the ability to link their accounts and status on day one. “It’s a sign of what’s to come. With the hard work behind the scenes, our members will continue to be pleased and surprised as we introduce a single loyalty program,” she said.

Toward that effort, Marriott tapped David Flueck as SVP of loyalty, overseeing Marriott Rewards, which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. In addition, he will provide strategic direction for the future single loyalty program.

In terms of Marriott’s high-end portfolio, the company is focused on understanding the ever-changing needs and wants of its affluent travelers in order to serve them and evolve as a business. What drives these consumers? According to Edmundson, it’s about a feeling and personal priorities—time well-spent, important relationships and personal happiness.

“They’re starting to measure their success quite differently and that’s going to affect the way that we do business,” she said. “In our world, entrepreneurial brands are entering the market with original ideas every day and at a rapid pace. We can’t just keep up with it, we have to exceed the expectations. We have to make sure we’re leading the charge in terms of innovation coupled with a warm, genuine care for our guests and we’re doing that thoughtfully as we grow our portfolio. We’re making sure that we don’t dilute the magic and personality of our brands, by preserving the culture, the heritage, the uniqueness and values of each of our brands.”

Among the brand highlights: 

• St. Regis Maldives has opened; the brand is set to debut in six other destinations including Shanghai, Cairo and Amman, Jordan. 

• W Hotels recently opened in Punta Mita, Mexico, and hit its 50th hotel milestone with the arrival of W Las Vegas. The brand has more than 30 hotels in its pipeline and plans seven additional hotel openings in Tel Aviv, Israel; Panama City; and Shanghai.

• Edition recently premiered the new Sanya Edition in Hainan Island, China, marking the brand’s first hotel in Asia. Additional openings are planned for Abu Dhabi, UAE; Barcelona, Spain; and Bangkok in the next year.

• The Luxury Collection is set to debut in nine destinations, including Napa, CA; Singapore; and Panama City.

• JW Marriott made its resort debut this year in Vietnam, with more hotels scheduled to open in Vancouver; Jaipur, India; and Tamuda Bay, Morocco.

• BVLGARI Hotels & Resorts is scheduled to open hotels in Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai in the second half of 2017.

• The Ritz-Carlton has opened hotels in Langkawi, Malaysia; Astana, Kazakhstan; and Geneva