Is Marriott International Growing Too Fast?

“I n the last few years, we have started from scratch or acquired many new brands”, wrote Arne Sorenson in this article. “I am often asked why we have followed this path. Doesn’t it get confusing for guests? Doesn’t it dilute what ‘Marriott’ means? Can’t you have too many brands?”

Sorenson — who is the president and chief executive officer at Marriott International — answered his own question: “The answer for us has been simple: No.”

Marriott International has indeed grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years — adding brands including but not limited to the following:

 

“These brands have joined a brand portfolio that includes iconic brands like Marriott itself, The Ritz-Carlton, which we have owned since the 1990’s (sic), and Autograph, a collection of full-service hotels with strong individual personalities.”

Is Marriott International Growing Too Fast?

Well, Mr. Sorenson, it is quite frankly irrelevant to me whether or not Marriott International has too many brands; but if my recent stays have been of any indication, I would suggest that Marriott International is growing too fast.

Please allow me to use two examples of stays at hotel properties which are part of the brands Marriott International has recently acquired — both of which were unremarkable at best despite their reasonable room rates — and you can click on the subheadings which display the names of the hotel properties to access more details about my experiences:

AC Hotel Coslada Aeropuerto

This hotel property has a complimentary airport shuttle service which — unfortunately, unlike many of its competitors — is only available by reservation. My arrival to the hotel room was greeted by a toilet in the bathroom which was not flushed; and when it was flushed, the water would not stop running.

I was moved to a larger room — but the chairs were too low in which to sit; the shelf in the closet was too high; the speed of the Wi-Fi service to access the Internet was spotty and inconsistent; there were stains on at least one bed sheet and one towel; and members of the staff were functional at best in providing basic services; but none of them were warm, friendly or all that helpful.

There were other issues; but the bottom line is that I do not intend to ever stay at this hotel property again — despite my opinion that it does have potential to be significantly better.

Protea Hotel Samrand

I had spent more of my time at the front desk at this hotel property than at any other in recent memory.

I booked my reservation through the official Internet web site of Marriott after successfully logging into my Marriott Rewards frequent guest loyalty program account; but there was no record of my membership number or my reservation at all. Befuddled from searching for my reservations while gliding the mouse of their computer over their new Marriott Rewards mouse pads, they were relegated to creating an entirely new reservation for me.

Due to the noise from raucous teenagers throughout the night, I was unable to get much sleep. They offered for me to stay another night at a discounted rate; but this time at a different part of the hotel property which was quieter. Why I was not assigned to a room at that part of the property in the first place — which is comprised of several separate buildings — is beyond my comprehension.

The second room was infested with ants; so I trudged yet again to the front desk — it was not exactly down the hall, as the lobby and restaurant are located in their own building separate from the buildings which housed the rooms — and was assigned a third room, which was finally satisfactory…

…had it not been for the stains on the bed sheet and my initially not being able to access the Internet, where I had to return to the front desk yet again to have that corrected.

I do have to say that members of the staff were far warmer, friendlier and more helpful than those of the AC Hotel Coslada Aeropuerto; but as with that hotel property, I would not consider staying at this one again in the future despite it also having potential to be significantly better.

As predicted and despite assurances from members of the hotel staff, my Marriott Rewards membership number was apparently never entered into my reservation — which potentially means that I would not receive the Marriott Rewards points which I earned and qualify for the current MegaBonus promotion. I sent in a request for a missing stay and still have seen no change in my Marriott Rewards account.

Note: I just checked; and my Marriott Rewards account is now correct — including the MegaBonus earnings as well. Scratch that one off of the list, as I believe in being as fair as possible.

I cannot tell you how much time I wasted overall on the Protea Hotel Samrand, which to me is similar to a Hampton Inn, where the guarantee of not paying for the room if I was not satisfied would have been invoked by them without me even so much as asking for it. I guess I should be happy with the discount.

Summary and Thoughts

In the almost nine years in which I have written articles for The Gate — as well as the greater than 12 years in which I was a member of FlyerTalk and later Milepoint — I have not once referred to myself as an expert in any way, shape or form, Mr. Sorenson; but I have stayed in countless rooms at many hotel properties over the years…

…and I am not going to be delusional and say that my limited number of recent experiences are a scientifically precise sampling of what I believe is wrong with Marriott International and its collection of hotel and resort properties which should be taken as gospel; but I will say that my experiences suggest that the quality and service aspects are not up to the standards which I expect from a multinational lodging company with a vast collection of properties located all over the world.

In other words, Marriott International needs to improve the management of its growth, in my opinion — or, at least, temporarily stop growing until all of its acquisitions are indeed up to consistent standards in terms of quality and service.

Bolstering my argument are recent stays in rooms in such countries which include Kenya, China, Oman, South Africa and South Korea under brands of the Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Preferred Guest and Hyatt Hotels and Resorts lodging companies, where my experiences were significantly better for the most part than those of Marriott International. I have yet to post my trip reports and reviews here at The Gate — and I do intend to post them — but as an example, I had a satisfactory stay at the Hilton Dublin Airport, which I have heard from some other people is typically mediocre at best.

I was at one time an elite level member of the frequent guest program of Marriott International, as it was once the lodging chain of top priority for me. This article — which I first wrote slightly greater than three years ago — explains why I currently do not have elite level status with Marriott Rewards and have no intention to do so in the foreseeable future.

The most frustrating part of my experiences, Mr. Sorenson, is that it really would not take much investment of time or money to improve the problems and issues I experienced; yet they were significant enough to cause me to think twice before staying as a guest in a room at another hotel property under a brand acquired by Marriott International over the past few years.

Bigger is not necessarily better, Mr. Sorenson. I am no expert in the lodging and hospitality industry; but I would recommend that the brands already acquired need to be improved and standardized better in terms of quality and service before growing Marriott International even more…

…or perhaps my experiences have simply been a coincidental anomaly due to my being unlucky with Marriott International all of these years.

“The key for any successful business is to understand its customers.” You wrote that in the aforementioned article, Mr. Sorenson; and in my opinion based on my experiences, the time to practice what you preach is long overdue — but what do I know?!?

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

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