Uncharted Territory

January 16, 2007

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.

Tape recording my blogs

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!

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Mr. Marriott, when I read that you had a blog I had to check it out. I am a former Mariott employee and wanted to express my gratitude towards your employee training program. I started as a front desk clerk and worked my way up the corporate ladder. I worked at 2 Residence Inns over an 8 year period. I read many of the comments on Residence Inn and the staff treating them like family. I have many good memories of my Family during the time that I was with the company and I wanted to let the Marriott customers know that the employees also appreciated you allowing us to treat you like family. It was a pleasure and a great learning experience working for Marriott Corp. for as long as I did and I sometimes regret that I had to leave the company in order to move to a new state. Thanks again!

Mr. Marriott, I am a Staff Sergeant in the US Army currently over seas soon to finish my 3rd tour in Afghanistan. Your hotel holds special meaning for my fiance and I as we met for the first time at the Marriott in Wixom, Mi and it was also the last night we spent together before I deployed at the Marriott Airport in Michigan in October. My fiance and I want to make our wedding as special and memorable as I'm sure any couple would want. To have it at one of your hotels in Orlando would be only fitting to continue our memories. This deployment has been by far the hardest with the loss of a team-mate. I have in the past stayed at several of your hotels in several states, the best by far has been the one in downtown Greensboro. My fiance and I would like to get married in Orlando, Fl. at one of your hotels. Could you recomend me the best hotel to do that in.

Thank you for making your hotels non-smoking. Those of us who don't smoke (aka the majority) appreciate not having the place we stay smell like old tobacco. Our non-smoking does not affect smokers; their smoking affects us however. Thanks again for making a good decision. You will gain many more customers than you will lose with this decision

I was taken aback by the smoking policies at Marriott... I went to check in to the Marriott Courtyard in Columbia MD, and was told I could not smoke in my room, fine... Went to my room, and it had a balcony... cool, I could go out and smoke there... Called the front desk to confirm, and they were like NO!!!!! You can only smoke in OUR designated areas. I immediately called 1-800-HOLIDAY and got a smoking room 2 miles down the road... AND a Nicer room!!! I immediately checked out of that Marriott, and have not stayed at another one since (This was August 2006) I can understand not smoking in the room, as I do not smoke in my house, but not allowing me to smoke on the balcony? That was just over the line... Us road warriors know how hard it is to be away from home, and I understand not smoking in the hotel room, but not having something reasonably IN or just outside the room, is frankly, a big issue... Loved Marriotts for many years, but this was the last straw...

Impressive entree into modern communications methods by an industry stalwart. I look forward to seeing if this keeps up!

Mr. Marriott
My husband and I are loyal customers of the Marriott family. We have two time shares at Hilton Head, SC and have lived in the Residence Inn here in Missouri since they opened in October, 2005. My husband's employment has temporarily located us to this location and the Residence Inn has truly been our "home" since October, 2005. There are corporate apartments nearby but we would not change anything about our living situation. The Residence Inn staff has made us part of their family during our stay. Just wanted to tell you this to say "thank you" for providing us with a home away from home. Actually we have learned that we may move on to the next assignment in Omaha, NE in the near future and the first thing we did was check to make certain that a Residence Inn was in the Omaha area - which fortunately it was!! Thanks again for the support your company has given us - living on the road is not an easy task but with our attitude that it is a "big adventure" and the help of the Marriott staff we enjoy ourselves even though our lifestyle is considered "non-conventional". It is a great way to see all regions of our country. Then when we need a vacation we just go to one of the Marriott resorts (Boston's Customs House last year and Newport Coast Villas this past fall) and have a great time there as well. Also thanks for the "No Smoking" policy - nothing is worse than walking into a nice room and smell stale cigarette smoke residue.

Great first post. I read over 450 blogs every two weeks. Yours would fit in nicely on my site and i'd also personally like to interview on my blog radio show, talking purely about your blog.

As an on-going Platinum Elite member with Marriott, I have stayed at least 75 nights per year in your hotels. That's over with now. Since Marriott instituted their non smoking ban, I've moved on to the Hilton chain. They recognize the importance of my business and welcome me as a valued guest. Since most cities I visit have a Hilton, usually very near to a Marriott, I'm not inconvenienced at all. Hilton properties are just as nice as a Marriott and their rewards program is equally as good. So, my dollars and my stays will no be at a Marriott. To all you smokers who were 'snuffed out' by Bill, try Hiltons. They'll welcome you with open arms and an ash tray.

Welcome to the blogosphere, and who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
http://www.petafoo.com - We Love Animals

Mr. Marriott,
Welcome to the blogosphere. Congratulations on your 50th anniversary.
Please know that your business acumen and spirit of hospitality is not only welcoming to travelers, but also an inspiration to many of us in service industry who aspire to maintain the consistent levels of service to which you have lent your name.
Best wishes to you and those in your employ for success in the years to come.
With Respect and Admiration,
Brian Humphrey
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department

Mr. Marriott,
I have always enjoyed staying at Marriott. Now that Marriott has a no smoking policy, I will no longer stay at Marriott. Surely, a few rooms at each property can be set aside for smokers. I realize that smoking is not politically correct today, but it is legal. I am requesting that you re-visit the non smoking policy. Thank you.

Just concluded writing you a response blog and had another suggestion... I travel mostly internationally. The Marriotts I stay at are generally the highest brand properties. I am a gold member, but I bet my 50+ nights generates many more revenue dollars for Marriott than many of the domestic Platinum members who stay at Courtyards or Fairfield Inns. Maybe the award level could be tied to dollar revenue too. The airlines have started to do this in their programs. Thanks again.

I have just returned from Thailand and Singapore, of course I stayed at the Marriotts there. One suggestion, how about installing iPod docking alarm clocks in your guest rooms? That would be great (and your behind your competition on this one). Thanks!

i saw ur interview with neil cavuto and i was sooooo impressed ....i am not a teckkie either but i will say i never usually stay at hotels so when i spentr a nite just recently i was completely bummed out not by the sevice or general accomodations - i felt safe- but THE FEATHERS!!!! i am allergic and was so happy to leave-oh my- but everything else was good -thanks 4 having this forum... i will be traveling again in the next couple months and i will check with ur hotel b4 i leave....

As a Marriott customer with several million points I would like to thank you for granting me the Lifetime Platinum status. Though my travel has decreased slightly over the passed few years my loyalty to Marriott is unwavering. The only time I don't stay at a Marriott property when I travel is when there isn't one or the choice is out of my hands. It may interest you to know that my husband also has a lot of miles with Marriott.
I value the service and clean rooms. Being able to go to the concierge lounge allows me to feel as though I have friends at every hotel.
I heard your comments on the Neil Cavuto show regarding someone who thinks you have too many feathers in your rooms. I love the fluffy comforters and the soft beds. For the first time in years the beds are warm enough for me. I love having all the pillows too. Please don't remove the cushy options. Also the idea that the comforter covers and all the bedding is cleaned every day is a real plus. I don't like the idea of sleeping under bed spreads that have been used by someone else.
Thank you again for the attention to detail and the excellent service.

How come there isn't a response to the smoking questions , must not value our business.

Dear Bill:
You are both courageous and on the cutting edge to enter into the world of blogs. Congratulations from another Marriott Lifetime Platinum.
I saw the comments of Mr. Evans regarding maintenance fees at Kauai Beach Club, where I also am an owner. We need to keep this in perspective: Of course, the outrageous winter weather on Kauai over the past few years created several water disasters for the entire island including the Kauai Marriott. This sadly included the deaths of a number of islanders who were swept away in fast-moving flood waters on the north side of the island.
Eight of my family were guests at the Kauai Marriott during March 2006 week of monsoon rains. I was there, so here are my observations:
1. GM **** ********* and his team worked wonders in helping many folks deal with the flooding --- not only helping all guests but also Marriott associates with affected families and many folks elsewhere on the island. Way to go, Bill!
2. We all understand that the proposed permanent solution to the seasonal flooding problem means a huge new culvert system and considerable expense to not only the Kauai Marriott Hotel, but also to Kauai Beach Club owners. However, we all must share in order to solve this problem even though none of us likes the expense. Thanks to (**** ********* team for their leadership in resolving this long-term problem!
In the immediate wake of the storm last March and the ensuing flooding of part of the Kauai Marriott Hotel, swimming pool and parking lot, **** ********* team was on the job 24/7 doing an effective job of cleanup and restoration. More importantly, Bill was visible and accessable, talking with many guests about their needs. The best part was that no one at the Marriott was injured and all guests were well cared for.
Talk about the spirit to serve!
Jim E.
Lifetime Platinum

I was surprised to find out this week that Marriott has no status match program. I called this week because I was looking to leave the Hilton chain as a Diamond tier and was shocked when the CSR manager told me no way. She told me to make as many stays as possible and then call back and Marriott would evaluate my status. Guess you know I didn't take her up on the offer and I'll continue to stay at Hilton because of the perks. It's a shame that Marriott doesn't take advantage of customers like me who are disenchanted with a competitive chain and would like my business. I do like the fact that you are taking the time to listen to customers. Great Job!

I love Marriott hotels, have more than a million reward points and own 8 of your timeshares...and a good shareholder too.
But I love my pooch too and it breaks my heart to leave her behind when I go away. Because Marriott is against pets except for Residence Inns where they charge an extra $75 or so for pets, I have been forced to start using Starwood hotels because of their liberal policy towards pets. They never charge extra and even provide a Heavenly Dog Bed for my pal. Hate to say it, but I've spent almost $20,000 in SPG hotels to travel with my dog.
Are you considering a change in policy towards pets? It seems every boutique hotel in America now accepts pets, but it appears your company won't budge on your rigid pet policy. Thanks for this chance to let you know directly that you may be losing revenue to your primary competitor over this, and would like to hear what you have to say about it. I'll love Marriott hotels either way, but I'd prefer to give you all my hotel money and not just a portion of it.

Mr. Marriott I think that it is fantastic that you have embraced technology and are blogging. I am retired from banking and also started learning the internet in baby steps with the advantage that my son started when he was seven so he guided me and I am a pro now 6 yrs later. My son is a singer and he uses the internet fully thru my space as a medium to promote his music and get closer with his fans . People do appreciate it and it makes it warm and fuzzy even thou is ciber communication.
Last month I looked for a room for the best price by Miami airport and ended in a Suites by Marriott, I was totally impressed at the price and what blew me away was that they have internet service 24/7 free of charge. I do resent when you go to a hotel and they have a charge for internet service.
anyways I can go on and on but I think it is fabulous that you are attempting to learn the ciber business and I commend you for it

Mr. Marriott,
I am a Quality consultant and business owner with decades of training, studies, and experience in business performance and management. I have long been a Marriott patron and fan. I often refer my clients to Marriott practices as examples of ways they can better manage their businesses. This blog is yet another example of Marriott's leadership as one of the world's best run corporations, an example many of our corporate leaders need to use and learn from. Thanks for making me look good when I use Marriott as an example of how to do things right. Wishing you continued success personal happiness.

I understand that your hotels have gone non-smoking, I know that this will not make a difference, however, I and my Wife are both smokers and we travel some I am an instructor and while I am doing my thing, my wife is stuck in her room and will not be able to have a puff. Going outside when you are trying to relax and watch some TV, is not what a customer wants to do. Some places still respect others as smokers. Thanks for reading this just had to get this off my mind. Will not be staying in your hotels anymore for this reason. You probably will not post this but I have voiced my opinion some will not say anything.

Mr Marriott, I too am 74 years old.
What we NEED is inspirations for seniors like you so that we don't give up! I haven't. I have a product that will get rid of all dust mites in mattress' as well as cigarrett smell from carpets and never ever stain a sheet or spa robe! If you can blog at your age, I can hope that Marriott will try my product that I bottle and label myself at MY age! Good luck and thanks again for the inspiration!

Your recent comment on Nei Cavuto's show concerning giving illegal immigrants a chance at legalization in America is akin to advocating crime. In the future I will be boycotting your business and I encourage all Americans to do the same.

Thank you for reaching out to your customers Mr. Marriott. I work as a catastrophe insurance adjuster. I spend upwards of 200 days per year in your hotels. I can tell you that without exception I have always been pleased with the service I have received by your staff. Myself and my co-workers have the option to stay wherever we would like. We always choose a Marriott brand. Keep up the good work!