Every business is in a race to attract the next generation to its products; it's a full-out sprint in the hotel industry, and Marriott's speed to market has an old hotel guy like myself impressed, out of breath, and not understanding everything that's going on like I should.
In the last few months, Marriott has made two big brand announcements: MOXY is a new brand we're developing for European markets in partnership with Inter IKEA Group. And our European urban brand, AC Hotels by Marriott, is being imported to The Americas.
These brands will be hip, affordable and full of technology. Not to be outdone, Courtyard hit the runway and strutted out its "Gen Next" guestrooms (see photos).
For years, I was heavily involved in most interior design decisions. I realized that I'd lost my touch (if I really ever had one) when I walked into our showroom a few years ago and complained that the wallpaper stopped in the middle of the wall above the headboard. It wrapped around the corner but not all the way to the wall's edge.
A young designer told me it was "in" not to be symmetrical. If my dad had seen it, he would have asked if we'd run out of wallpaper.
Not trusting my taste, Courtyard was smart and tested its new guestroom concepts for a year and a half. Research showed that Millennials want to "chill" in their room and not run straight to work at the desk.
As for colors, Donna and I love the reds. The color red was a brand standard for each room. No more.
"Gen X and Y have a whole different decor and design preference," says Janis Milham, head of the Courtyard brand. "What appeals to them is tone on tone, less color pop, and a more organic sort of feeling."
Staying current isn't enough. I want our team to design for the future, and I believe Courtyard has done that. The brand is introducing new pieces of furniture that open, close and move around differently: "luggage drop," "shower nook," "tech wall." Etc., etc., etc.
We have a "Marriott Innovation Timeline" that tracks our industry "firsts." It's too early to tell, but Courtyard's new guestrooms may add a few items to our list, which includes the original ice bucket and a TV remote control. (The ice bucket and remote control have enjoyed terrific runs, and I don't think they'll become obsolete, along with a lot of other things.)
I'm the first to admit that I don't "get" why the Millennials like to wear earplugs and stare at tiny screens all day. But we're gearing up for them, and we're well positioned for the future. But being plugged in 24/7 does worry me. I worry that Millennials will miss out on Marriott's signature feature – a smile. :-)
I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.www.blogs.marriott.com/marriott-on-the-move