Marriott International

The Art of Luxury

Recently, Marriott International invited the regional media channels to an immersive journey introducing their new luxury brand portfolio.

By Yousef G. BAARAH

A thoughtfully curated itinerary of bespoke experiences, exquisite glamour and delectable cuisine awaited media channels’ representatives to discover Marriott International ’s luxury treatment.

Marriott International is the largest international hotel operator in the Middle East and Africa, currently operating more than 30 brands including JW Marriott, the Luxury Collection, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels, Autograph Collection, Le Meridien, Marriott Executive Apartments, Marriott Hotels, Renaissance Hotels, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin, Aloft Hotels, Courtyard by Marriott, Four Points by Sheraton, Protea Hotels by Marriott and Residence Inn by Marriott.

Marriott International is addressing and capitalizing on the new golden age of travel. The company has an unwavering focus on personalization of each guest’s taste and style and offers the most dynamic and diverse portfolio of luxury hotels in the world.

The journey started when we arrived to the St. Regis Dubai. The hotel is located on the city’s arterial Sheikh Zayed Road. The St. Regis Dubai extends the legacy of the Astor family to Dubai. Inspired by the beaux-arts architecture of The St. Regis New York on 5th Avenue. The hotel is a European-style palace of refined opulence and refreshing comforts, where uncompromising services and innovative details elevate the experience.

On the second day of the trip, we departed from St. Regis to The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai to attend the Marriott International Luxury Brands Portfolio launch event to introduce its luxury portfolio to local and regional media and influencers.

The hotel is a beachfront getaway, minutes away from The Walk at JBR where five-star luxury is accompanied by an inimitable sense of place in a Mediterranean-style hotel designed with lush gardens and world-class amenities.

The event kicked off with signature cocktails from The Luxury Collection followed by a lavish dinner by The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai. The dinner was hosted in the presence of Alex Kyriakidis, president and managing director Middle East and Africa, Marriott International and Lisa Holladay, global brand leader, The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts and Bulgari Hotels and Resorts who spoke about the future of Marriott International ’s luxury portfolio in the region.

The evening was concluded in style, as guests were invited to kick back and relax in the W Lounge and soak in their experience with global and local Marriott International team leaders.

Our trip was concluded with a relaxing spa treatment at Iridium Spa at The St. Regis Dubai which was born from the DNA of the St. Regis brand, and exclusive to St. Regis only. Iridium Spa invites guests into a transcendental world where every moment is crafted to leave a lasting impression.

Presenting six thoughtfully designed treatment rooms, Dubai’s first Iridium Spa includes separate sections for male and female guests, each with beautiful wet areas featuring two “hammam” rooms, a steam room, sauna, hot tub and multi-sensory experience showers, as well as a generous relaxation area known as The Iridium Room.

With the signature Iridium Bespoke Massage, guests can choose from 60, 90, and 120 minute treatments in a preferred style of massage, ranging from Swedish, Deep Tissue, Hot Stone, Balinese and Pre-Natal. Each massage concludes with an individualized tea ritual.

Iridium Spa is the only spa in the Middle East to perform facials using products from sought-after luxury beauty brand Swiss Perfection Cellular Skincare. The anti-aging qualities of Swiss Perfection ingredients visibly rejuvenate by lifting and improving skin.

Iridium Spa has selected premium products and introduces exclusive retail selections to the Middle East for the first time, including the renowned Swiss Perfection Cellular Skin Care.

During our stay, we had the chance to sit down with Lisa Holladay, the global brand leader at the Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts and Bulgari Hotels and Resorts.

Lisa Holladay, global brand leader at the Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis Hotels and Resorts and Bulgari Hotels and Resorts.

Lisa is responsible for leading these luxury brands, including the ongoing evolution and deployment of each global brand strategy. She is accountable for brand marketing and management as well as defining the guest experience, from building brand preference for customers and investors, to on-site product and service touch points.

Beginning her career at Marriott International as the vice president of brand management, she then became the vice president of global brand marketing where she created and executed the global brand marketing strategy, including e-commerce, CRM, brand partnerships and field marketing activities.

Lisa is also a member of the Association of National Advertisers, the Forbes Executive Women’s Board and serves on the Board of Advisors of the Erwin Center at Clemson University.

After the Starwood acquisition, the Marriott has become the biggest hotel chain in the world. How many brands, rooms, and properties does the Marriott currently own and operate? 

A lot, this September was a year since the acquisition and as you mentioned, it became the largest hospitality company in the world, which is quite incredible. We’ve made it over a year now, so with the acquisition, we have 30 brands in total and eight of those are in the luxury space.

The Marriott International currently runs 6400 hotels across the 30 brands in 125 countries with over 1.2 million rooms to offer – more than anyone else in the sector.

Which ones are considered luxury brands?

The luxury brands are:

The Ritz Carlton, the Ritz Carlton Reserve, which is a brand extension of the Ritz Carlton, the St. Regis, the W, Edition, Bulgari, the Luxury Collection, and JW Marriott.

It’s been more than a year now since the Marriott acquired Starwood. How much did this acquisition cost? And how rewarding was it?

The deal size was 13 billion dollars.And yes, definitely. We’re at over a year and as we just shared, we are the largest hospitality company. I think the proof is in the development of opportunities. When you look at the growth of the company you look at what we reported out in the U.S. third quarter earnings to Wall Street, we exceeded expectation.

We’re going to spend next year finalizing the merger of the three different loyalty programs: the Starwood program which was SPG, Marriott’s program, and the Ritz Carlton rewards program. We’re still looking at how we can combine the three programs.

But even prior to combining the programs, we are focused on growth with over a hundred million members globally and 1 million in the Middle East and Africa. Obviously what is going to pay off at the end of the day is guests staying at our hotels and having our properties and our brands as their first choice preference. What we believe will link them all together is the loyalty program.

Each individual brand is separate and has a different value proposition, a different target audience, and a different positioning. But at the end of the day what links them all together will be the loyalty program. The name of the program is still to be determined.

The St. Regis, the W, and the Luxury Collection will all be opening soon in Jordan, can you tell us a little bit about each one of them?

The Luxury Collection – Al Manarah, is in Aqaba and as you know the entire location is being developed (Saraya Aqaba). For us, this is a great opportunity to be the first movers into that area. We also have the Westin opening up so we will be the largest operator in this area. The Westin will be opening up later but the Luxury Collection – Al Manarah will open up next year. They sort of complement each other within that location.

As for the W, it’s going to be the brand launch within the country at large so we are excited about that. The branding on the building can be seen from anywhere in the city. Everybody is talking about It. It is located in the heart of Amman city in the Abdali area and will be opening up very soon, definitely in Q1 next year.

So for us, next year in the Middle East and Africa, Jordan is the largest or the most important location because we have the largest number of luxury hotels opening up there. The St. Regis opens in July in Amman; we’ll have the largest ball room in the city so that would be great for meetings and social events and other functions.

So, the St. Regis will officially open in July?

It will open in the middle of the year and after Ramadan. We need to see what makes sense to the Jordanian market; the local market is very important to us so we need to make sure we get the date and the timing right.

There are similar high-end developments in Jordan and abroad, what sets Marriott luxury brands apart from the rest?

Each of the brands has their own brand positioning and what they stand for. For the St. Regis, it’s really about the history and the story of the original property, the St. Regis in New York built in 1904. It had beautiful art decorations, iconic murals, and was considered the best address. It’s still an extremely prestigious address built by John Jacob Astor the fourth and was really the most innovative branded hotel in the world.

The differentiator of St. Regis from other hotels is what we pull through it and visualize. St. Regis properties around the world all go back to that original property in New York. Champagne sabering was invented by the St. Regis and the Bloody Mary cocktail was invented at the Kinjo Bar of the St. Regis. We now have Bloody Marries in all the properties around the world but they have their own individual twist so that they pull through the location.

Taking the history and heritage of the brandand modernizing it is how we set ourselves apart from the rest.

For the Ritz Carlton, it’s very much about the heritage of that brand going back to Caesar Ritz and the original Ritz Paris, which still exists in the culture of service. And the W is more of a rebel brand; you know the “whenever-whatever” culture, much edgier, embraces its youth but in a very luxurious way.

Bulgari is another great way to mention how our brands differentiate from the rest. The idea of carrying that through in the hospitality space is really this idea of a precious gem; these hotels are really precious gems. They are so Italian, regardless of where you go, you feel like you just entered a fabulous Italian friend’s home. Bulgari will be opened up in Dubai this month; we are super excited to see how you puff Italy into Dubai.

What other projects in Jordan does the Marriott have lined up?

in 2018, we are opening all our luxury brands in Jordan, believe it or not. We have the St. Regis, W, and the Luxury Collections and the following year we’ve got the Westin.

What about the Ritz Carlton? When will it open in Jordan?

We haven’t announced that yet. The Ritz Carlton is under construction now and will be opening in 2021 in a very good location in Amman. Since the development is still under construction, the dates may change. That’s why often times we’re not committed to the exact month. We are excited to visit Jordan; luxury Jordan is our most important market by far.