A Tech Wall, a Luggage Drop and a Smile

August 12, 2013

Listen to Blog

Every business is in a race to attract the next generation to its products.  It’s a full-out sprint in the hotel industry, and Marriott’s speed to market has an old hotel guy like myself impressed, out of breath, and not understanding everything that’s going on like I should.

In the last few months, Marriott has made two big brand announcements:  MOXY is a new brand we’re developing for European markets in partnership with Inter IKEA Group.  And our European urban brand, AC Hotels by Marriott, is being imported to The Americas.

Courtyard Guest Rooms
Courtyard's "Gen Next" guestrooms
These brands will be hip, affordable and full of technology.  Not to be outdone, Courtyard hit the runway and strutted out its “Gen Next” guestrooms (see photos).

For years, I was heavily involved in most interior design decisions.  I realized that I’d lost my touch (if I really ever had one) when I walked into our showroom a few years ago and complained that the wallpaper stopped in the middle of the wall above the headboard.  It wrapped around the corner but not all the way to the wall’s edge.

A young designer told me it was “in” not to be symmetrical.  If my dad had seen it, he would have asked if we’d run out of wallpaper.

Not trusting my taste, Courtyard was smart and tested its new guestroom concepts for a year and a half.  Research showed that Millennials want to “chill” in their room and not run straight to work at the desk.  As for colors, Donna and I love the reds.  The color red was a brand standard for each room.  No more. 

“Gen X and Y have a whole different decor and design preference,” says Janis Milham, head of the Courtyard brand.  “What appeals to them is tone on tone, less color pop, and a more organic sort of feeling.” 

Staying current isn’t enough.  I want our team to design for the future, and I believe Courtyard has done that.  The brand is introducing new pieces of furniture that open, close and move around differently:  “luggage drop,” “shower nook,” “tech wall.”  Etc., etc., etc.

We have a “Marriott Innovation Timeline” that tracks our industry “firsts.”  It’s too early to tell, but Courtyard’s new guestrooms may add a few items to our list, which includes the original ice bucket and a TV remote control.  (The ice bucket and remote control have enjoyed terrific runs, and I don’t think they’ll become obsolete, along with a lot of other things.)

I’m the first to admit that I don’t “get” why the Millennials like to wear earplugs and stare at tiny screens all day.  But we’re gearing up for them, and we’re well positioned for the future.  But being plugged in 24/7 does worry me.  I worry that Millennials will miss out on Marriott’s signature feature – a smile.  :-)

I’m Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move. 

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Hello Bill,

I wanted to let you know how the staff of Manhattan Beach Marriott was great in hosting the guests that arrived for my wedding this July 2013. After researching for available hotels in Manhattan Beach, CA, I signed the letter of agreement with Manhattan Beach Marriott.

I worked with Natalie Sandoval to ensure that the guests got their welcome bags and were happy with their accommodations. I also booked our wedding night at the hotel as well. Natalie ensured that our room was decorated with rose petals and also included a bottle of champagne.

All of the guests were happy with the rooms and the service that they got from the hotel staff. The staff was friendly and always greeted us with a warm smile. Thank you for making my day special and making sure that guests (some of them traveled from Netherlands and Russia) comfortable.


Dear Bill,
I have always thought of Gen X and Y as a state of mind rather than just a customer group, so with any re-design don't leave behind today's customer or make them feel uncomfortable in a new space. I still think whats guests desire is an overall room experience better than what they have at home, and looking at your photos I think you would achieve this. Interested to hear how this new approach touches all the points on a customers journey through booking, arriving, eating and sleeping and checking out of the hotel.

Good luck with your new approach. John Kennedy.

Here is my email(and one from my wife) to Alex Aranha who works at your Capman Island property.
I thought you might enjoy it and hope you let Alex and his team know how valuable they are.

Robert Card
Vice President of Sales
Kinetic Concepts Inc

It all starts with vision, mission and values. Clearly you believe in letting people feel welcome, delighting guests and keeping employees happy. I know how much goes into making that happen.

Please ensure your entire staff and your direct supervisor see this email and know the impact they have on people's lives. You may never know how important someone's time with you might be. You do very important work. Always remember that.
Kind regards,
Rob Card

On Aug 15, 2013, at 10:49 AM, Jean Card wrote:
Hello Alex,

I wanted to send you a warm thanks to you and your staff for making our stay absolutely wonderful. My husband and I have been devoted Marriott customers for almost 20 years. Regardless of position, from Julie at Balboa's to Ricky from Security, staff always greeted us with a warm smile.

In addition, you were extremely accomodating on our check out day. We asked for an exceptionally late check out because our youngest son Michael has Type 1 Diabetes and his insulin requires refrigeration. Without hesitation, your staff accomodated our request. For that, we are eternally grateful.

I have attached some photos of Michael enjoying his time at the Marriott Grand Cayman. It was rare that he did not have his face in the water with his snorkel gear on!

Jean Card

My husband and I just left Houston, TX and one week at the City Walk Marriott. Your signature feature is well intact!! We were so impressed with everything about the hotel. We were, especially, impressed with the friendliness of your staff...the gift they have (or the skills they have learned) of truly welcoming guests. Each staff member, from housecleaning to management, was gracious and always there with a smile.

So, thank you!!! We will not hesitate to call your Marriott our home away from home.

Doug and Stephanie Brodin
Olympia, WA

As a former employee of Marriott and a member of the Quarter Century Club, I have full confidence that Marriott will always stay atop the competition. Bottomline, all the "stuff" you mention in the article is fantastic, but the people are what really make Marriott the greatest. I still carry the card of Mr. Marriott quotes from 1987...Number 1, "Take care of your employees and they'll take care of your customers". Marriott has been doing that since 1927, while much of the competition fails!

There is not an easy place on the site to send a comment. I wanted to send a message to commend the Operations Manager, Matthew Damskov, and his staff at the TownPlace Suites in Renton, WA. Our family was travelling on a cruise out of Seattle and stayed both ends of the trip at this hotel. Matthew arranged for our transportation to & from the ship, had our rooms prepared for our early arrival upon return, and actually had to shuttle us in the hotel shuttle (for free!!) when our cab didn't show up. This was service above & beyond. I commend Marriott on their excellent customer service.

Hey Bill. Very nice pictures to go with this post. From my point of view, it looks like you are on the right track. The rooms look really appealing and I am not a millennial. With this approach I would not hesitate to stay at one of our new look places. Great job!

It's the times there a changing :-)

Bill is simply adorable! This world is too crazy. Old fashioned style, elegance, & class is timeless. God Bless!

Greetings Mr. Marriott,

I think your father was also the one who said "Success is never final," and he would be incredibly proud of the strides Marriott has taken to capture younger travelers to maintain an industry leader. You have outstanding insight and I love keeping up with your blog, keep the posts coming!!!

Best Regards,


The Courtyard Next Gen room looks great! If you don't change, you are falling behind - I think someone said that and it seems to be true.

Hi Bill,
Enjoyed reading your blog and your honesty and humble approach to the Gen Y and Gen X. I love colour, though the organic finish interior is also very acceptable. My first experience with a Marriott was over 29 years ago in America. I was totally blown away with it then.
PS, I dont get the ear plug mentality either, but we are from a total different era...Lucky change is acceptable for us.

I always appreciate reading your blogs Bill, keep them coming. I would agree with your dad on the wallpaper thing, would look unfinished for my taste also.