My daughter, Debbie Marriott Harrison, recently returned from the ceremonial opening of the Port-au-Prince Marriott Hotel in Haiti. Debbie is our company’s global officer for Marriott culture and business councils. She was so moved by her trip that I thought it best for her to share it on my blog. - Bill
Last week my husband and I checked into the brand new 175-room Haiti hotel where we were greeted by Lucardo, the front desk clerk. He had a beautiful smile and was so friendly, the perfect person to greet guests. He carried our bags up to the room and it wasn’t until Lucardo set down the bags and turned around that we noticed he only had one arm. We found out later that he had lost his limb in an accident when he was 6 years old. His parents couldn’t take care of him, so he was raised in an orphanage. I asked Lucardo how he liked working at the hotel. He teared up and said, “This is more than a family to me.”
Providing opportunities and “putting people first” are at the top of Marriott International’s core values that were handed down from my grandfather to my father to our associates like general manager Peter Antinoph. Peter and his team held many job fairs. They also purposefully went to orphanages, churches and refugee camps to find people who would make good hotel workers – some of Haiti’s best and brightest. (Eventually 232 people will work at the hotel.) We like to hire friendly and train technical.
Each Haitian associate had his or her own story. Some bore the physical scars of being buried in rubble from the 2010 earthquake. Some just completed school and were eager to land their first job.
Peter was so proud that he told me this was his most inspiring staff. People everywhere value a job, an income and health insurance. Even more, this Port-au-Prince staff is committed to their country and its future.
When the 2010 earthquake hit, almost 300,000 people lost their lives. My parents were staying at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Florida at the time. Most of the staff at the hotel came from Haiti and they were grieving, but they were determined to help rebuild. My parents first established a relief fund. Then my dad, working with his Marriott team, had a great idea: Let’s put a hotel in Haiti, an investment in the people, the economy and the country.
Helping a nation rebuild starts with creating opportunities -- one person, or five or ten or 232 at a time. By providing jobs, hotels can play a vital role in helping people build a life for themselves, their families and their communities. In this case, I call this multiplier effect “The Haiti Principle.”
As I was leaving, I looked back at the lobby and saw our culture in action, taking root. Our new associates like Lucardo were eager to learn new skills, happy to engage with guests and optimistic for the future. That’s how change takes hold, one person at a time and Marriott is proud to be a part of it.
I urge everyone to visit Haiti, meet our new team and see “The Haiti Principle” in action.
I’m Debbie Marriott Harrison, and thanks for helping us keep Marriott on the move.