During a wide-ranging discourse at a private dinner at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas for meetings journalists in Las Vegas—in conjunction with IMEX America 2018—Steve Heitzner, Americas chief sales and marketing officer for Marriott International, made several key points.
- Marriott remains deeply committed to the meetings industry, which accounts for 43 percent of company revenues. “As a company,” Heitzner said, “we continue to think meetings are really, really important.” The company has formed a global team that is working on a long-term meetings strategy.
- This year, systems integration was challenging between Marriott and the acquired Starwood brand, but Heitzner believes much progress has been made. Asked what he thought Marriott had learned from Starwood, he cited what he calls “activation”—by which he means the concept of using the hotel lobby as a sort of living room, for example.
- Regarding the current strikes at Marriott properties in several U.S. cities, Heitzner said, “Our hotels are open as if there aren’t any strikes, really. We pride ourselves on taking care of our associates and have met most of the demands of the unions.”
- Heitzner commented on Marriott’s move in April to cut third-party planner commissions to 7 percent: “It was a time in the industry that we thought was the right time. It was a very difficult decision, but we have been working very closely with the owners and franchisees [of hotels and resorts under Marriott brands] to do right by them.”
- When asked if Marriott intends to increase its brand portfolio beyond the current 30 flags, he said, “If there are opportunities to have another brand, we will absolutely look into that.” He also pointed to Tribute Portfolion Homes, a pilot project in London (soon expanding to Lisbon, Portugal) that offers curated, luxury homes with a local host who acts like “a personal concierge.” He said the concept has generated a lot of interest from the meetings industry, especially for incentives and VIP stays.
- The company looks forward to the opening in 2021 of The Drew Las Vegas, a double-branded property that will house a 3,600-room JW Marriott and 60-room Edition hotel, and be linked by skybridge to the newly expanded Las Vegas Convention Center. The property, formerly the unfinished Fontainbleau Las Vegas, will boast the largest casino and spa in the city.
- Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center, which opens in December near Denver International Airport (DEN), is drawing huge preopening group bookings—80 percent of which haven’t met in Colorado previously. Marriott will open a sixth Gaylord property in Chula Vista, California, in late 2022 or early 2023.
- Marriott has purchased Charlotte Marriott City Center in North Carolina as a laboratory for the “Marriott hotel of the future,” where new concepts will be tested.
- The Sheraton brand is being repositioned as the “world’s favorite gathering place,” with features intended to attract locals and guests for meetings. Over the next two years, the company plans to reinvent half of all Sheraton properties.