Marriott is the flagship hotel brand of Marriott Worldwide, one of the best known hotel brands in the industry and one of the biggest upscale brands with more than 500 hotels worldwide. Most recently Marriott categorized their 31 brands and their flagship Marrott brand was defined as “classic premium”. Find out more about who they are and what to expect.
So, who are they? J.W. Marriott opened a root beer stand in 1927 and after growing the restaurant business, opened the first hotel in 1957 in Arlington, Virginia. Today, there are 536 Marriott hotels with almost 200,000 rooms around the world, making it the largest upscale brand after competitor Hilton! The vast majority of Marriott hotels is in the US, but you’ll find some all around the globe!
After the acquisition of Starwood, Marriott tried to bring some order to their brand portfolio and structured it into Luxury, Premium and Select as well as Classic and Distinctive. Marriott falls into the Classic Premium segment – while for example JW Marriott is considered Classic Luxury, Le Meridien is considered Distinctive Premium or aloft is Distinctive Select.
And this is how Marriott describes the brand: “Provides sophisticated spaces and experiences that keep the mind balanced, sharp and inspired.” and proposes “Travel Brilliantly
Let the journey of inspiration and innovation begin. Marriott Hotels is here to provide stylish new hotels and upgrades, trip ideas and travel content, and rewarding travel offers and opportunities. Travel is a journey. Let’s go together.” That’s some of the biggest hogwash in marketing terms of all the brands I have reviewed here. Fortunately, the development site targeting investors is a little more on target: “As the signature brand of Marriott International, Marriott Hotels is one of the most recognized names in the industry. Building on the brand’s longstanding tradition of hospitality excellence, Marriott Hotels continues to evolve with contemporary style and design and innovative approaches to delivering service and amenities. Marriott Hotels aims to be the leading global premium hotel brand among Generation X and Y travelers.”
While I agree on the longstanding tradition, becoming a leader in style and design is pushing it. There is a reason why they consider Marriott “Classic” and not “Distinctive” like Le Meridien or Westin!
What experience can I expect? I admit, I have a love-hate relationship with Marriott. As a business traveler in the US, I stayed at Marriott hotels frequently, and loved them for their general reliability. While they were far from stylish, Marriott for all their brands has some of the tightest brand standards in the industry, down to the jam they serve at breakfast!
Despite those brand standards, some of my worst service experiences in more than 20 years of travel were with Marriott hotels – I was only “walked” twice in several thousand hotel stays, both at Marriott hotels: The Marriott Salt Lake City was oversold and “walked” me to a flea-bag motel of the worst order on the edge of town. And a Marriott in Southern California wanted to walk me and only relented after I told them that I had a group staying and we all would leave – and gave me a room with a wet carpet!
I was not the only frequent traveler with bad experiences like that and Marriott has since established a service guarantee for elite members in their Marriott Rewards program – a unique enforcement of service levels in the industry: If a hotel doesn’t have the room you booked available, you are owed compensation – an approach that should eliminate the type of horrible service I experienced – as long as you know what you are entitled to – check out the Marriott Service Guarantee before you book!
So, with that history out of the way, what can you expect at a Marriott hotel? In general, Marriott hotels are full-service, upscale hotels and you can expect to find staff covering everything from bell desk to concierge services. Hotels will have restaurants and a bar, fitness centers and usually pools, as well as often shops and meeting facilities. Many also have club lounges that are available for Marriott Rewards Gold or Platinum members for free and others for a fee.
At older hotels, you’ll still find some of the most boring decors among upscale hotels, like the one below.
Fortunately, Marriott has embarked on a renewal campaign across their hotels with a much more contemporary design than before, resulting in newer hotels being more competitive with much fresher and modern designs like this:
Overall, I think the Marriott brand categories get it mostly right: At Marriott hotels, you get a classic, upscale hotel with full service and amenity offering, like at a Hilton or Sheraton hotel. If you want more style, go for a Le Meridien or Hyatt instead. For a better price, try a Wyndham or Crowne Plaza! Despite my personal bad experiences,
Marriott has some of the most stringent policies of all brands in place to get poor management at individual hotels in line, so you should do better on average than I did with your stays at Marriott hotels especially as an elite Marriott Rewards member.