BE IN THE KNOW

November 28 2012

Take a Look Inside One of the World’s Biggest Hotel Brands

By David McMillin, Staff Writer

What will you find at Marriott hotels on an average day? 1.4 million towels, 200,000 slices of bacon and a team of researchers working to uncover what matters to guests around the world.

In “Behind Closed Doors”, a one-hour CNBC documentary, the international hotel brand gave viewers a full disclosure of its inner workings that included a range of staggering statistics, the secrets behind room supply and demand and the brand’s focus on customer research.

Guest Profiling

While every hotel has a customer service department, Marriott revealed that it wants to do more than help its guests; it wants to know what drives their thoughts and actions. The documentary included a look at the brand’s focus on understanding what guests use during their stays, what amenities matter to them and of course, what drives them to spend money. From statistics on the number of women who use hair dryers to the percentage of men who use their computers while in a hotel bed, Marriott has a love affair with data.

All of that research relies on more than data, too.

“I try to find a place where I can have a good line of sight and see the whole lobby,” Drew Shepard, a researcher at Marriott, said. “We get paid to people-watch a little bit and watch how people are behaving and what they’re doing.”

That people-watching inspired redesigns of Marriott lobbies to encourage guests to linger and spend more.

Hotel Pricing

When it comes to spending on the actual room, CNBC interviewers highlighted an example of the same room priced between $109 - $329 on the same night. David Roberts, senior vice president of global revenue management, Marriott, discussed the balance of supply and demand in the hotel industry. For guests, the best time to strike that balance is staying on Sunday and leaving on Monday.

While Marriott is constantly adjusting prices based on its competitors, the hotel does not always want to fill all of its rooms.

Even when a hotel is “sold out,” Roberts says that there are typically a few open rooms just in case a Platinum member of the Rewards program walks in the door.

“We don’t ever want to turn Platinum away for any reason,” Roberts says.

Global Bookings

Marriott hopes to begin selling out more nights in new places, too. In a move that reinforces the continuing international expansion of the hospitality industry, Marriott plans to open 50 additional hotels in India to capitalize on the 30 percent annual growth in demand. The Marriott name is taking hold across the country, but the hotel has been forced to navigate a challenging business climate where bureaucracy and government corruption create obstacles for getting construction permits approved in a timely fashion.

Rather than owning the properties, the hotel giant turns the construction and ownership duties over to locals, and Marriott manages the hotels. While building brand awareness can be challenging in a new environment, Marriott has found a surprising partner: Bollywood. Frequent celebrity appearances at the JW Marriott Mumbai on the Juhu beach have played a key role in Marriott’s ability to stand out in the emerging market.

“Behind Closed Doors” will rerun occasionally over the next few weeks. Check listings for date and time.

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