Bill Marriott: Sixty years a hotelier

BILL MARRIOTT may know more about the hotel industry than anyone on the planet. He has spent almost six decades working for the family group, now known as Marriott International, and still radiates enthusiasm for what he calls “the most fascinating business in the world”. Having joined the company in 1957, he was quickly made manager of its nascent lodging division. Fifteen years later he took over from his father, J. Willard Marriott, as CEO, and ran the company for 40 years. He stepped down in 2012, but only as far as a full-time executive chairman’s role.I met him recently to talk about his time in the industry and the changes he has seen. Much of what he said related to guests, their shifting patterns of behaviour and the way hotels have adapted. The impact of technology, in particular, has forced a fundamental rethink about what guest rooms and lobbies are actually for.“Today,” says Mr Marriott, “guests check in, they go to their room, drop their stuff. Then they go back to the lobby and hang out with friends or work on their computer.”As a result, lobby designs must now accommodate what he calls “this new desire to connect”. Take Courtyard, for example, one of the company’s cheaper brands. “In an old Courtyard hotel, two or three years ago, there was nothing going on in the lobby,” says Mr Marriott. “Today we have a bistro. And we have a lot of cubby places …

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