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July 3, 2017updated Jul 05, 2017

Tina Edmundson of Marriott on the Evolving Hotel Brands

By Lauren Jade Hill

By Lauren Jade Hill

As the global brand officer of Marriott International, Tina Edmundson works with 30 of the group’s diverse hotel brands, including Ritz Carlton, The Luxury Collection and W Hotels Worldwide, playing an integral role in their development and sustainability. In an interview with Elite Traveler, Edmundson gives an insight into the evolution of these brands and the future of luxury hotels.

What impact have you had on Marriott International since becoming global brand officer?

One of the areas I spent a lot of time on was the creation of Marriott International’s brand architecture. All of our hotel groups offer a distinct point of view as well as diversity. Helping to define each brand and the role it plays was not easy but the outcome is rewarding because I feel like we got it right.

I have been with Marriott for eight years, but prior to that I was with Starwood for 18 years (before the merger of the two groups), so I have a deep knowledge of the brands, which is a value that’s both tangible and intangible. With a total of 30 brands, we have a strong platform on which to build new immersive travel experiences and push boundaries.

On a more personal level, I believe the travel industry is based on the idea that people enrich their lives by seeing more than just their backyard. I grew up in Mumbai and my family traveled extensively during my childhood, so travel has always been in my blood. I strive to make sure that at the core of every experience we create, we are doing our part to promote the positive impact of travel.

What do you think your greatest achievement has been with Marriott International?

The newly created brand architecture helps provide clarity on the breadth of brands we have, which fall into the categories: Luxury, Premium, Select and Longer Stays. Within these categories, we have divided our portfolio of brands into classic and distinctive brands. Classic brands represent time-honored hospitality for the modern traveler while our distinctive brands provide memorable experiences with a unique perspective.

I am also spending a lot of time on setting hotels apart by highlighting nuanced differences. For example, at The Ritz-Carlton, it is all about creating moments that inspire indelible memories, often rooted deeply in the local culture. At St. Regis, our guests favor the brand’s rituals, such as the St. Regis Bloody Mary, Jazz Legends and sabering, which are all elements that are innate to the St. Regis history and recreated in a modern yet timeless way. The Ritz-Carlton truly facilitates the destination in extraordinary ways, while the St. Regis is the destination, and should be the best of that location.

What sets Marriott International apart?

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I believe our strength lies in the unmatched diversity of our portfolio as we offer the largest and most compelling range of properties in hospitality. This allows our guests to pick the hotel that best suits their travel needs. We see great strengths and synergies in guest loyalty and owner satisfaction.

In our luxury brands group alone we offer a network of 365 landmark hotels and resorts in more than 60 countries through eight brands that include The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, EDITION, The Luxury Collection, JW Marriott, and W Hotels. And by making a point of celebrating the distinct nature of each one we are able to provide an unrivaled variety of personalized luxury travel experiences.

This diversity and geographic breadth gives us a global perspective on luxury and allows us to better cater to the luxury traveler, whose needs are momentary, dependent on where they are and how they feel. We know that at the core, people want to feel looked after, with their needs anticipated, so no matter which hotel you choose, the foundation is built on good, solid, personable service.

What further aspirations do you have for the brand?

I am on a mission to make Marriott International the world’s favorite hotel company. To do this I believe it is increasingly important for us to lead in the digital space and further cultivate the spirit of innovation in general. I will also continue to focus on growing our brands while ensuring the individual spirit of each remains intact. Between our eight luxury brands, we are scheduled to debut 30 hotels by the end of 2017. 

How do you think hotel guests’ expectations have evolved over recent years?

Increasingly, people are looking to experience something new, see something they have never seen before, and feel as though they are a part of something truly special when they travel. There needs to be a genuine spirit of service which feels authentic and real, and the profile of the business traveler and luxury leisure traveler continues to blur; today’s over-scheduled travelers are incorporating smaller transformative moments into a business trip, business leaders are talking about getting a better night’s sleep in an effort to be more creative, honeymooners are seeking high-octane activities from heli-skiing to kite-surfing, and millennials are approaching mindfulness with a fresh mentality.

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