After acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts in September 2016, the Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott became the largest hotel company in the world, with more than 6,000 properties across 120-plus countries. Marriott’s portfolio of 30 brands includes ultra-luxury hotels, including Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and Edition; independent collections (Luxury Collection, Design Hotels, Autograph Collection, Tribute Portfolio); and business-traveler stalwarts, like W and Aloft. Marriott also now has the industry’s most formidable loyalty program, which allows the 87 million combined members of Marriott Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest to transfer points and book rooms across 29 of its brands. This rapid integration is part of Marriott’s broader effort to prioritize customer relationships, which helps drive direct bookings and allows the company to customize its marketing efforts.
Marriott is unique among competitors for steadily investing in design thinking and co-creation--processes that have enabled new, tech-centric guest experiences. The company has rolled out a design-thinking lab at one of its hotels for crowdsourcing customer feedback; an IoT “room of the future” meant to showcase how new technology might improve the travel experience; and an app by the esteemed design and technology firm Work & Co. that lets customers customize their stay and chat with service representatives. The app has had more than 12 million downloads, and it generated an estimated $2 billion in gross bookings in 2017.