Marriott brings in new brands, adds 16 hotels in five years

‘We want to be on the shelf for everybody anywhere. There are travelers that want the Ritz-Carlton experience, there are those that want the Courtyard experience,’ says Craig S. Smith, president of Marriott International Asia Pacific.

With Marriott Inter-national being a huge brand worldwide, I think it’s safe to say that every Filipino who has traveled abroad has stayed in one of its hotels or at the very least know of them.

Marriott International has about 30 brands spanning all budgets, ranging from the luxury hotels Ritz Carlton, St. Regis and JW Marriott to the more affordable Marriott, Westin, Sheraton, Courtyard by Marriott and Residence Inn.

Craig Smith, president and managing director of Asia Pacific for Marriott International, and Michelle Garcia, cluster director of marketing communications for Marriott Manila, Sheraton Manila and Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo

I have several good memories of their hotels, including getting a really good flight-and-hotel package on Expedia a few years ago for St. Regis Rome, a last-minute booking at Westin Warsaw, a splurge at JW Marriott Hong Kong, and a wonderful Easter Week at Residence Inn by Marriott in Frankfurt last April. And of course, Marriott Manila and Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, which are always welcoming and warm for a weekend away from home.

Marriott has 7,000 properties under its brands located in 132 countries and territories — all under one loyalty program called Marriott Bonvoy, which replaced Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). That’s thousands of hotels to choose from to earn points towards free nights.

“So when travelers want to come to the Philippines, they already know our brand and are comfortable with it, and that’s helping us,” says Craig S. Smith, president and managing director of Marriott International Asia Pacific. “People trust our brands and then you add in the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty card — the fact is, 60 percent of this hotel is filled up with loyalty members today.”

Courtyard by Marriot Iloilo’s swimming pool in Iloilo Business Park

We are sitting inside the Chairman’s Suite of Marriott Hotel Manila, which overlooks Villamor Golf Course, and Craig is spending the entire morning talking to reporters on Marriott’s expansion plans in the Philippines.

The brand has currently four properties in the Philippines: Marriott Hotel Manila and Sheraton Manila in Resorts World, Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo in Iloilo Business Park and Clark Marriott Hotel in Clark Freeport Zone. The opening of the 390-room Sheraton Manila Hotel in Resorts World marked the brand’s debut in the Philippines. The hotel caters to today’s business travelers by being the first in the country to have a co-working space located in a hotel. New brands that travelers can look forward to include The Westin Manila Sonata Place expected in 2021 and developed by Robinsons Land Corporation; and the eco-conscious Element brand with the opening of Element Palawan Puerto Princesa in 2024.

In five years or by 2024, Marriott will add 16 more hotels and introduce to the Philippine market The Ritz-Carlton (finally!), Element and Westin for a total of more than 5,000 rooms in the country. During the same period, Marriott International will debut in five new destinations — Caticlan, Cebu, Davao, Mactan and Palawan — as hotel owners and developers build new hotels and convert existing ones into a Marriott International hotel.

Marriott Hotel Manila’s Presidential Suite

Craig says the growth of their portfolio in the Philippines may not be the biggest in Asia (they have 380 hotels in mainland China and 400 by yearend) but it’s one of the fastest growing.

“We always say we want to be on the shelf for everybody anywhere. There are travelers who want the Ritz-Carlton experience, there are those who want the Courtyard experience. And we want to be able to provide all of that and be the best. There’s demand from the market and we have partners that want to build hotels. We have different partners and with some of them we are signing multiple deals, like Resorts World whom we’ve been very happy with. It happens a lot across the world — you grow with your partners because we create success for each other.”

Marriott is also looking at more tourism destinations. “We’re opening in Caticlan in a huge, master-planned development that’s real close to the airport.”

Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo’s Runway Kitchen dessert bar

Marriott Resort & Spa Caticlan Courtyard by Marriott Caticlan are planned to open in 2021 in an integrated resort with a water park.

Craid adds, “I see potential around the country, there’s a lot of great destinations. What they got to do is to keep building the infrastructure. We talked about the fact that if you’re going on a three-day vacation you don’t want to spend a day to get there and a day to get back. And so as the Caticlan airport grows, you can now fly there direct versus flying to Manila, waiting four hours for your connecting flight and then getting on a plane to Caticlan and a boat to your hotel. And the day is gone. You don’t want to pay a lot of money to stand and wait in line, just because you’re losing your vacation.

“Even in other countries, when we talk to people in government… Da Nang is a good example. You still have to fly to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City to get to Da Nang. Same with Phuket, Bali, all the big destinations. You take two planes, it’s more expensive. The amazing growth we’re seeing in the Philippines is testament to Marriott’s strength in and commitment to the market, coupled by a rapidly growing economy. We look forward to bringing new hotels to the Philippines together with our trusted hotel owners, enabling more choices with unsurpassed experiences for our travelers.”

Marriott Clark in Clark Freeport Zone

Apart from new-build hotels, conversions are a key strategy in expanding, such as the Sheraton Manila Bay which is expected to open later this year. The rebranding plan by the owners includes a major renovation of the hotel’s lobby area and the creation of a new executive lounge and fitness center. Additional conversion deals include the debut of the Four Points brand with the opening of Four Points Palawan Sabang Beach in 2020 following an P8 million renovation by the owners; and the legendary Ritz-Carlton brand to debut in Philippines in 2021 with the opening of The Ritz-Carlton Manila.

“Conversions are one way that we grow our footprint; they allow us to quickly bring hotels into Marriott International’s portfolio, allowing guests to enjoy the benefits of our renowned travel program Marriott Bonvoy, and providing them with the assurance of a global company,” says Paul Foskey, chief development officer of Marriott International Asia Pacific. “Our successful conversion strategy exemplifies the trust hotel owners have in the Marriott International name.”

The newly opened 390-room Sheraton Manila Hotel in Resorts World Manila

What does Marriott stand for? Craig says, “The number one thing that Marriott stands for is taking care of our people. And that’s been our ‘secret sauce’ for years. You know, if you talk to most hotel leaders, even my counterparts in other companies, they’ll have worked for four or five different hotel companies. I’ve been with Marriot for 31 years; got out of school, started in Marriott and stayed with Marriott. We focus on taking care of our people because we know that if we take care of them, they’ll take care of the guests, and the guests will return but it also creates this immense loyalty.”

Golf course view from the Presidential Suite of Marriott Hotel Clark

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