Front Desk

The new Marriott: consistent, not uniform

Somewhere in the past year of two, or perhaps even longer, Marriott International passed a key threshold that should serve as an apt lesson for other hotel companies and even individual properties.

At a press event in New York recently, Mike Jannini, Marriott's suave and well-spoken senior vice president of brand management, articulated a new corporate philosophy—at least it was new to me—that shows how the company has radically shifted its outlook on what's important in the properties it operates or franchises. In response to a reporter's question, and in an off-hand way, Jannini explained that the company's standards have morphed from uniformity to consistency.

That's big news. Fairly or not, the perception of Marriott to travelers, owners and operators has long been that it would tolerate nothing less than what is written in an operating manual, design specification or franchise agreement. Again, the perception was "my way or the highway." One canâ€â„¢t argue with the results, however, as Marriott is consistently viewed as the most successful company in the business, with the brands most coveted by owners, developers, franchisees and most importantly, travelers.

What Jannini was saying is that in a marketplace that has shifted in terms of traveler demographics (they're getting younger, more diverse and increasing female), the emphasis must be on serving customer needs in the way customers define them, not how the corporation defines them. What's important, for example, is that the guest feels he or she had an overall great sleep experience, not that the sheet thread count is 300, or 400 or whatever.

While this is the kind of philosophy that all hoteliers must adopt if they hope to keep abreast of the market, it's also a lot harder for a behemoth like Marriott to monitor, control and adjust as needed. But, failure to do so—especially at the property level—means the race will pass you by.

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