Bill Marriott: The future of hospitality

In a recent interview to the WSJ, Bill Marriott (Chairman / Founder Marriott Group) spoke about his take on the future of hospitality. Here are some of the highlights:

“We’ve got to be cool!, adding ”in four years, 60% of our business will be millennials,” says Mr. Marriott, who adds with a laugh, “All of us old folks are moving on.”

The company is redesigning the interiors of its Marriott branded hotels which will look like the hotel company’s innovation lab, where mock rooms are being built in a cavernous space to be tested among 20-somethings. Later this year, the company is launching new hotel chain, Moxy Hotels, aimed at the millennial generation (roughly ages 18 to 33). In partnership with Inter Hospitality Holding, the hotels will feature small, low-cost rooms with grab-and-go food and the feel of a Silicon Valley startup.

” (Social media) has changed the whole dynamic of the growth of the business,” he says. “Ten years ago if you said we’re going to measure social engagement, I’d say, ‘What in the world are you talking about? Social engagement is saying hello to somebody in the lobby!’ ”

In addition to conducting focus-group research, Mr. Marriott says the company now pulls data from social media. For example, it asks guests for ideas of how to improve travel. When one wrote back asking for healthy vending machines, the company flew her to London to find items in farmers’ markets that could be stored in a machine. Marriott plans to launch the first of its new nutritious vending machines—with items such as fresh fruit and energy bars—in Chicago this fall.

He expects more advances in technology. Marriott now has mobile check-in and will add mobile checkout next. Soon, he says, guests will be able to open their room doors with their smartphones and choose exactly which rooms they want ahead of time. It’s a lot of change for a company that has had the same leader for over 40 years. But Mr. Marriott understands the need to be flexible.

Ritz-Carlton has since grown from 31 to 85 properties. Luxury then meant formalwear and steak dinners, but that has changed too. Mr. Marriott mentions the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand, including a rebranded Dorado Beach in Puerto Rico that in the 1950s was a playground for Hollywood’s glitterati. A room now costs, on average, $1,100 a night, but the property has still grown more casual.

Marriott launched a new line of premium lifestyle hotels, Edition hotels, a collection of contemporary properties in London and Istanbul, with two more locations coming by the end of 2015 – emphasizes the hotel’s lounge and restaurant scene over the rooms. (the brand is conceived in collaboration with Ian Schrager. ) Over 50% of the Edition brand’s revenue comes from food and beverage rather than from room fees.

Read the full interview here.

Grosvenor House London, a JW Marriott Hotel