Marriott International late last month announced that long-time Marriott executive Brian King has been appointed president of the company’s Caribbean and Latin America region effective January 2021.
King, in his new role, will head one of the fastest growing regions for Marriott, a region that right now includes 268 properties across 34 countries and a new all-inclusive platform that’s growing with plans to build seven new all-inclusive resorts in the region.
King, in an interview with Travel Market Report this week, said that he was excited to take on the new challenge.
“I am really excited about that part of that world. Over the years, I’ve spent a good amount of time within the Caribbean and Latin America region, but what I am most excited about is each individual country and each individual culture,” he said.
“I’d like to see a region’s culture reflected in our hotels. Bringing in the culture of the country into the hotel that the guests are going to spend the night ignites interest and excitement for the customer. I am thrilled to be able to meet and spend time with the associates and learn about them and what makes their hotel and their region special.”
King also comes on as Marriott continues to launch its all-inclusive experiences in the region, something told TMR is “very important” to Marriott as the company dials up its leisure capabilities.
“We have a huge resort footprint there,” he said. “Especially loved by our Bonvoy members who save up their points and want to go the Ritz Carlton in Aruba or JW Marriott in Cancun. It’s a major feeder market from the U.S. and it’s ripe for growth opportunities.”
King is truly a lifer with Marriott. He began his almost three-decade Marriott career as an hourly associate at Marriott’s Great America, the amusement park in outside of Chicago, IL that was owned by Marriott until 1983.
“The only nametag I have ever worn says Marriott,” King said. “When somebody stays at a company for a long time it gives you two advantages—you see the arc of the company and you learn you will only survive if you don’t stand still. Our core values at Marriott are enduring, this is a 92-year-old company that is going through the worst crises in company’s history,” but, he added, “because of the core values we have we are able to survive this tidal wave.”
In the late 80’s, King would move to Marriott’s lodging division shortly after the company purchased the Residence Inn chain. He was part of the foundational team trying to get Marriott into the extended stay business, a segment, which, to this day, Marriott is still operating in.
King would get more heavily involved with the trade when he moved to a position at Marriott’s corporate headquarters to help redesign the reservation system into something that could accommodate more than just one brand.
“I think about in the early days, we used to have separate loyalty programs for each of our brands,” King said, speaking about the system that would eventually become Marriott Bonvoy.
His most recent role, managing the global sales organization as Global Officer leading 9,500 Marriott associates, “has very strong connections to the travel partners and then all of our corporate buyers around the globe.”
Advisors and travel’s future
While COVID-19 has caused a fundamental shift in the travel industry, the role of travel advisors is still vital and, King said, perhaps more important now than ever.
“A great travel agent who has expert knowledge about the market or a flight route or ground transportation, you cannot replace that,” he said. “Because a customer might read some copy in the internet they will never find the nuances and tricks of the trade and only a good travel advisor can help with.”
Now, with traditional travel on the backburner for a lot of consumers but the desire to travel still there, “suddenly people are not flying, they want to go on a vacation but they are not ready to get on a plane yet. So now we have these great travel agencies working on things like luxury RV solutions and helping folks with ground transportation and family road trips. They are able to bring forward solutions because of their expertise.”
King also believes that the current pent-up demand for travel will be a boom for both advisors and for the entire travel industry.
“Travel will rebound and when it does, I think it’s going to explode. As much as people have liked being home with their families, they want to get out. And when it’s safe to do so the industry is just going to explode.
“We’re fighters. We’re not going to be victims of this. We’re going to be victorious.”