Trade Talk: Bart Buiring of Marriott International

The Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at Marriott’s Asia Pacific division shares his insights on new properties in the pipeline, global sustainability initiatives, and more.

All photos courtesy of Marriott International

What notable hotel openings has Marriott International planned in the Asia-Pacific region this year?

We will open around 100 properties in Asia Pacific in 2022 across our portfolio of 30 extraordinary brands. In China, an exciting new brand entry is The Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Jiuzhaigou — a truly stunning hotel. We also look forward to the debut of W Macau – Studio City in late 2022. In the APAC region, our portfolio continues to expand in popular leisure and business destinations such as Seoul and Melbourne, with an AC hotel in Seoul and The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne. W Sydney will debut as the largest W hotel in the world in late 2022. Westin is expected to celebrate three new openings across Japan, Vietnam, and Philippines. And there are plenty of other exciting openings.

 

Last November, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts announced a new brand vision encompassing all aspects from the design to F&B. What changes can guests expect when they stay at a Sheraton in the future?

Sheraton celebrates a rich legacy of being at the heart of communities across the globe, and the brand’s transformation builds on this experience for guests to connect, be productive, and feel part of the local communities. The layered new design approach, balancing a sense of timelessness with a fresh and modern feel, aims to create an environment where guests feel comfortable.

The communal lobby concept and locally relevant F&B experiences are central to the new Sheraton experience. The lobby has been re-imagined as the “public square” of the hotel — an open space that invites people to come together, creating a sense of energy and belonging.

There are also flexible gathering spaces like The Studios that guests can book. Some hotels will feature gallery spaces and even a half basketball court, which can also be used for yoga and other activities, as part of the lobby concept.

Set to open in late 2022, W Sydney overlooks the popular recreational precinct of Darling Harbour.

Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy was launched in January 2021 as a way for guests to create a positive impact in the places they visit. What has customer feedback been like so far? And will the program be extended to more properties in the region?

The pandemic has accelerated the demand for purposeful travel. Research tells us that increasing numbers of people are becoming more socially aware and planning travel more carefully — choosing to do good and create a positive change. Guided by our sustainability and social impact platform Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction, Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy offers curated purpose-driven experiences that focus on three distinct pillars: environmental protection, community engagement, and marine conservation.

We will build on our pilot of identified 15 hotels across Asia Pacific later this year. So far, we have received overwhelmingly positive responses from our guests and hotel teams; many hotels were already creating their own meaningful travel experiences and they were eager to share their unique offerings to wider audiences across Asia Pacific under the Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy umbrella.

Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy offers meaningful travel experiences across the Asia-Pacific region.

Marriott International previously made a commitment to eliminate the use of single-use plastics across its hotels. How has the pandemic impacted the group’s sustainability goals?

Sustainability is firmly embedded into our business strategy and clearly outlined in our existing 2025 sustainability goals. Covid-19 had a material impact on our business and put some programs on hold, including the switch from tiny single-use toiletry bottles to larger residential-style bottles. We are ready to pick up what was paused and look for opportunities to go further. This year, we will fully eliminate single-use toiletry bottles across the globe. When fully implemented, the program is expected to prevent about 500 million plastic bottles annually from going into landfill. Recently, Marriott International also pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 as our latest commitment to climate action. This is one of our most ambitious goals yet, and an important step for us to do our part to help our communities and the environment remain resilient and vibrant.

A rendering of soon-to-open property The Westin Yokohama.

Taking care of one’s wellbeing is becoming increasingly important. What’s next for Westin? And how do you see its wellness offerings evolving in step with the needs of post-pandemic travelers?

Wellness travel is on the rise, driving demand for weekend getaways, spiritual retreats and off-the-beaten-track emerging destinations. The needs of travelers are changing and the pandemic has given many of us an opportunity to think about rebooting travel for the better. According to our research, three in four travelers say they want to travel to relieve stress.

Westin‘s wellness offerings are evolving in step with the needs of post-pandemic travelers in pursuit of enhancing personal wellbeing. The RunWESTIN program encourages guests to go explore and discover the surrounding areas like a local. Meanwhile, the Sleep Well program helps restore and balance their energy, to return to a clearer, calmer. and more positive state of mind.

With wellness and wellbeing an elevated priority for many travelers, Westin is expected to celebrate three new openings across Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The Westin Yokohama will debut as the seventh Westin property in Japan, while The Westin Cam Ranh Resort & Spa and The Westin Manila Sonata Place will open in late 2022.

An artist’s impression of a bedroom at The Westin Cam Ranh Resort & Spa in Vietnam.

The past two years have really thrown the spotlight on domestic travel and new opportunities in larger countries. Could you name some emerging destinations where Marriott properties are currently in development?

In 2022, we will continue solid growth in Japan and China’s lesser-known destinations. For example, Fairfield by Marriott will see openings in Japanese michi-no-eki (roadside rest stations) with nine new properties across prefectures including Nara, Hokkaido, and Hyogo. The new hotels are situated close to national parks, providing guests a gateway to secluded destinations and local gems across the country. Across Greater China, our footprint in Xi’an expects to more than double within the next five years.  Vietnam expects see the debut of several brands in the leisure destination of Cam Ranh in the next one to two years.

Marriott International’s #itstimeforbali campaign encourages travel to Indonesia’s Island of the Gods.

There’s a general consensus that short- and medium-haul travel will rebound first. Can you tell us about Marriott’s initiatives to encourage regional travel within Asia Pacific?

We are working with airline partners across the region and will continue to roll out marketing campaigns to inspire regional travel within APAC. For example, The Power of Travel campaign for Marriott Bonvoy celebrates the transformative power of travel in helping one connect, grow, and find common ground. When Phuket reopened its borders to international travel, we introduced several relevant offers and our #itstimeforbali campaign is ready to welcome guests once Bali reopens. We marketed the Maldives and our new properties including The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, and Le Meridien in source markets such as Russia, the United Kingdom, India, and the Middle East. We also launched new brand campaigns for St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton across the region.

An artist’s impression of a seating area at the upcoming W Macau – Studio City.

With the ongoing uncertainty over new Covid-19 variants, are we looking at a more gradual recovery in 2022? What is the outlook for regional travel and business in the next six months?

While the pandemic still brings uncertainty, we continue to see pent-up demand for domestic and regional travel. We have seen that where people can travel, they have gotten out to explore. In India, for example, we saw strong occupancy numbers in December across the country, with those figures even higher in key metro areas. We are optimistic about the future of travel!

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