Winston Churchill, one of my heroes, once said, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going.” It certainly describes the challenge our Marriott associates have faced over the past several weeks, as Egypt, Bahrain, Libya and other countries in the region have experienced a great deal of political turmoil and unrest. Marriott has quite a large presence in that part of the world with 30 hotels across many brands. The safety and well being of our guests and associates is always our number one concern.
In Libya, our brand new JW Marriott hotel in Tripoli opened for business just as the disturbances began. As we reviewed the options, we realized we needed to evacuate the few guests who were in the hotel, as well as our 185 associates who had come to Tripoli in pursuit of new careers with Marriott. The evacuation was coordinated by our regional crisis team and operations team, headed up by Mark Satterfield. It was a complicated operation with special bus convoys and a charter Airbus 310 airplane. We all breathed a sigh of relief as they took off from Tripoli airport and landed safely in Jordan, to return to their home countries and their families.
He also witnessed many courageous acts by our team in Cairo including a group of culinarians at the Cairo Marriott who protected their hotel by fending off protestors with their kitchen knives. The team at the JW Marriott Cairo opened up their meeting space to serve as a staging ground for evacuees to Saudi Arabia.
The Marriott Spirit to Serve has really been put to the test by these recent events, but, as always, our culture sustains us through challenging times. Ed Fuller and Mark Satterfield are on their way to Bahrain this week from Saudi Arabia with the same mission: to recognize and thank our brave associates.
Right now, no one knows what the situation in the Middle East and North Africa will become, but we have had a long standing presence in the region and will continue to operate as we always have, welcoming guests wherever their journey takes them and with the safety and security of our people top of mind.
I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.