Marriott’s APAC VP: “We’re the biggest, but we want to be the best”

Ali Coulton

Two years ago Marriott International bought Starwood Hotels 10 brands for 14 billion dollars and became the biggest hotel company in the world.

2016 Sean Hunt Photo PREFERREDNow, according to area vice president for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Sean Hunt, they want to be the best.

In Hunt’s patch, the number is a slightly more manageable 30 hotels, which will be 31 in November, with the opening of the Westin Brisbane.

“Plus, we have 24 more in the pipeline, that’ll take us to about 55 hotels, operating by 2020, 2021,” Hunt told Travel Weekly, at a special update on the company’s New Caledonia and Fiji properties hosted by Sheraton on the Park earlier this week. 

“That’s quite a journey when you consider Marriott Legacy hotels, that’s Marriott’s brands prior to the Starwood take over, we only had six hotels down here.”

Not to mention, the hotel giant has been carrying out a range of revamps on said legacy hotels, including Sheraton Mirage Gold Coast and Port Douglas, Brisbane Marriott, and Sydney’s Sheraton on the Park which will be launched as Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park.

And that extends to Fiji, where next year we’ll commence a $130 million renovation of the Sheraton and the Westin on Denarau,” he said. 

Sheraton Resort & Spa, Tokoriki Island, Fiji

Known for their innovative tech solutions, including Alexa butlers and facial recognition check-ins, Hunt said Marriott has a very heavy back end to their business, not only in the tech space but also in their innovative culinary teams.

“Take the Sydney Harbour Marriott, big 600 room hotel, a little bit old-fashioned in its public areas so we completely revamped it,” Hunt told us. 

“We wanted to revamp the lobby so we created a great restaurant concept called Sylvester’s and then put in a new bar in the laneway called the Three Bottle Man.

“We’re trying to make sure our front facing food and beverage venues are relevant to all demographics.”

We have 30 brands across our 6,800 hotels and we’d like to think there’s a brand for every different type of guests.

“We’re the largest hotel company in the world but we really want to be the best.”

This means a big focus on taking care of their customers as individuals with a more personalised service.

“We want to understand our guests more and more, which is activated above property in the cloud but also on property,” he said.

“With our guest’s permission, we gather data so we know that if you like almonds and you like red wine, there’s no point in giving you white wine and a bowl of fruit.

According to Hunt, this starts with their loyalty program which, at 110 million strong, is the largest loyalty program in the world.

That’s a lot of data.

“We’d like to get to the stage where we can anticipate the needs of our guests before they have to ask.”