BETHESDA, Md. — Marriott's Julius Robinson walks readers through Marriott's new vision for Sheraton's public spaces. The company brought its vision to life with a 4,200 square foot vignette at the recent NYU conference, allowing investors to experience the transformation plans firsthand. Robinson is senior vice president & global brand leader, Classic Full Service Brands at Marriott International, including Marriott, Delta and Sheraton.
They took an empty storefront a block and a half away from the conference, and recreated a lobby in that space. “Our owners and investors and friends could see the physical manifestations. Over three days, we hosted over 1,000 people. The response was incredibly strong. I kept expecting moments of skepticism, but the questions I heard most was, “When can I get this,” Robinson said.
“When we acquired Starwood, nearly half of the revenues that came through the company were Sheraton-driven,” Robinson told CLN in an interview. “It's the third largest Marriott brand in terms of revenue and the most global brand. It was clear that we wanted to put emphasis into that brand.”
He added that Sheraton was a brand that was represented differently depending on its location — in Asia it's a luxury brand, while in the U.S., Sheratons range from upper upscale to ones that need significant renovations. “Our opportunity to influence the brand is huge.”
Among the 1,000 people who visited the NYU vignette were some Canadian owners and operators, who had a positive reaction to the setup. Robinson also had an internal meeting with the Regional Team that includes Canada in front of 75 owners — and he is excited about the response.
Lobby concept: energy, productivity, community
To come up with the vision for Sheraton's lobbies, Marriott looked at how people interact in modern town squares — and how to recreate that energy and enthusiasm. Elements included a technological platform, foodservice opportunities, and opportunities for meetings. “People could meet others through the technological platform — connect to WiFi and become a part of the modern town square, with anything happening in that space. There are collaboration suites — two to three parts of the lobby with glass partitions.
“Guests can order food and beverage from wherever they are. There's a productivity table, where guests can sit and work, or engage with others, and take a break when they need it.”
Marriott expects the Sheraton brand to grow in Canada, as Marriott and Starwood settle in and adopt each other's revenue management and principles. The growth is not driven by design, but rather by synergies between the former Starwood and Marriott, Robinson said.
“The public areas are the primary responsibility today, but we are actually looking at all areas simultaneously, trying to pull things together in a unified way.”
Toronto is already part of the renovation — and Canadian owners and operators will be able to see, feel and touch the new lobby design at the Sheraton Centre. “If we can showcase elements there, it will have a halo effect on the brand,” Robinson said.
As for when other Sheratons will get the new look, it depends on where they are in their renovation schedule. Marriott will also be exiting non-performing hotels from the system; they removed 17 hotels last year and expect similar exits this year as well.
Next steps include getting hotels in various markets refurbished so that people can see how the components of the lobby vision relate to each other. Once they are well along the way, Marriott can then look at sending a more unified message to Sheraton guests around the world.
Canada currently has 19 Sheraton hotels, and are quite excited about a new-build property in Sainte-Hyacinthe, Que. “We are having active conversations regarding future Sheraton Hotels in Canada,” Robinson said.