Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.
For months the trade has been wondering what impact the Marriott-Starwood merger will have on how the company interacts with retail travel agents, and now the picture is getting a bit clearer.
Marriott International plans to have one dedicated sales team that will sell across the eight luxury brands in its portfolio now that its merger with Starwood Hotels and Resorts has been completed, Travel Market Report has learned exclusively.
Tina Edmundson, global brand officer for Marriott International, said the new combined sales force will sell Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, Luxury Collection, W Hotels, Edition, Autograph Collection, JW Marriott and Bulgari. Currently, from the Marriott side of the merger there is a dedicated Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve and Bulgari team, with JW Marriott and Autograph Collection falling under Marriott’s global sales group.
Edmundson said the new structure is expected to be in place by Q2 or Q3 of next year.
The combined luxury portfolio includes 363 hotels currently open and operating in 61 countries, with another 180 in the pipeline. Additionally, Marriott will launch separate luxury operating groups on each continent that will combine all luxury properties in that area under one regional vice president. That vice president will in turn report to that region’s head for all Marriott brands, however, it will enable the luxury properties to leverage their footprint in specific regions.
Edmundson said all currently scheduled trade events, including advisory boards, are continuing with business as usual—and the trade remains a key focus, particularly with the luxury segment becoming a larger area of emphasis. Even with one cross-brand luxury sales team, she did not rule out that various luxury brands will continue their own unique efforts to support travel agents.
“The experience in a Ritz-Carlton and St. Regis is very different. We want to be very thoughtful. It may not be just one advisory (luxury) board,” she told TMR.
In terms of brand leaders, former Mercedes-Benz and current Ritz-Carlton executive Lisa Holladay is being tabbed to head Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bulgari and St. Regis. Mitzi Gaskins, whose background includes Apple and Delta Air Lines, and who currently heads JW Marriott, will add The Luxury Collection. Anthony Ingham, who comes from Starwood, will continue to oversee W Hotels, with Josh Fluhr taking the lead at EDITION. Herve Humler continues as president and chief operating officer in charge of The Ritz-Carlton, Reserve and Bulgari. Former Luxury Collection boss Hoyt Harper and St. Regis head Jim Petrus both left when the merger was completed. Leadership positions in the new, yet-to-be-formally-announced luxury sales and regional operating structures are not known yet, but are expected shortly.