I'm venturing into uncharted territory as I launch this blog. A year ago, I didn't even know what a blog was -- until my Communications team began telling me about all the blog traffic on travel and tourism. Now I know this is where the action is if you want to talk to your customers directly -- and hear back from them. Soon we'll add an audio version of the blog. That's how I'm most comfortable: telling stories and listening.
I've checked out Jonathan Schwartz's blog at Sun Microsystems and "Randy's Journal" at Boeing. I've listened to Senator Barack Obama's blog podcasts. I know blogs will be a hot communications tool in the 2008 Presidential campaign.
Truth be told, I'm not very good with computers, although I couldn't do business in today's fast-paced economy without my cell phone, and my grandchildren have gotten me hooked on my iPod. I know our guests expect the very latest technology when they check-in to our hotel rooms and we're moving quickly to provide that. I've also hired the most talented and innovative team of leaders in the lodging business, and they're helping me move into this brave new world of communications technology. Ten years ago when my people first started talking about selling room reservations over the internet, I was a skeptic. Today Marriott.com is not only the biggest website in the hotel industry, it's also our fastest growing reservations channel. I'm a convert!
Pioneering new frontiers is how this company was built. Eighty years ago, my parents, J. Willard and Alice Marriott, traveled cross-country as newlyweds to Washington, D.C. from Salt Lake City. They opened up a root beer stand on 14th Street which they later called "The Hot Shoppe." That was the same year aviation pioneer Charles Lindbergh made his first transatlantic flight to Paris. The company has evolved and grown tremendously over the years. In 2007, we hope to open our 3,000th hotel. We are now a global lodging company. But as my father always said, "Success is never final." That's why I want to celebrate our 80th anniversary milestone by moving Marriott continuously into the future -- without losing sight of the number one reason for our success: responding to changing customer needs and making sure our associates are well cared for so they in turn take care of our customers.
Blogging will allow me to do what I've been doing for years -- on a global scale. Talking to the customer comes easily to me. I visit 250 hotels around the world every year. This year I'll be traveling once again to China where we have 27 hotels, 16 under construction and many more in our development pipeline. At every hotel, I talk to associates, from housekeepers to general managers, to get their feedback. I call it "management by walking around." Like my parents, I value the input from our associates at all levels. I make lots of notes -- and my best ideas almost always come from our people in the field.
Our 143,000 associates are truly the people who make Marriott a world-class business. I want to share some of their stories with you in future blogs. We are a company that is built on opportunity, and that foundation has made us successful.
Occasionally, I'll blog about current events -- even touch on controversial topics. Every American and everyone who wants to be an American deserves a chance to pursue the American dream of financial independence. That's why I'm passionate about immigration reform and offering people a path to citizenship. I'll share my ideas about that in a future blog.
Finally, a lot of people ask me how a root beer stand that started in 1927 has grown into a global business and how we've managed that growth. It's a great American story with some truly funny anecdotes. One of these days, I'll tell you about my father's passion for astro-turf -- and it wasn't on the football field.
Bottom line, I believe in communicating with the customer, and the internet gives me a whole new way of doing that on a global scale. I'd rather engage directly in dialogue with you because that's how we learn and grow as a company.
So tell me what you think, and together we'll keep Marriott on the Move!