Marriott’s Head of Global Operations Says Hotel Guests Want ‘More Out of Travels’

Travel may not be fundamentally different these days, but it’s certainly shifted, according to Erika Alexander, chief global officer, global operations, for Marriott International.

And that shift is more exciting than it is daunting, she said.

“Travelers still want wonderful experiences, great food and beverage, and clean hotels. They want us to be excellent at the basics,” she said. “They just want more of it now. … They want to get more out of their travels, and that’s the exciting shift that’s happened in the last couple years.”

Alexander spoke with Hotel News Now at the 2022 Hotel Data Conference.

Alexander said her job is “to understand what customers want and what they need, and to deliver,” and it’s what she’s been honing in her 31-year career with Marriott International.

Today, as guest preferences shift more quickly, Alexander said “it’s all about recognizing that different people need different things, and it’s our job to listen and respond.”

Case in point: Daily housekeeping services, which most hotel companies and brands halted at the start of the pandemic, have returned to varying degrees by brand and property around the world.

Alexander said that Marriott had to really listen to its guests, owners and franchisees to “translate those insights into improved experiences,” and as a result made some housekeeping changes. Daily housekeeping is back in play at the company’s premium and luxury brands, and every-other-day housekeeping is happening at the company’s select-service and extended-stay hotels.

But most importantly, Alexander said it’s really up to the guests, who can make or change their housekeeping preferences during pre-arrival or check-in.

Alexander said one of Marriott’s most exciting projects is a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050announced in September and in line with other global initiatives.

“All of us — whether you are a customer, a parent, an associate — we’re all thinking quite differently about what our role is in making sure we do our part to reduce carbon emissions in the country,” she said. “Our top customers are telling us they’re committed to reducing carbon emissions, and for them to achieve their goals, we’ve got to be part of that journey as well.”

Sustainability and reducing emissions have to be part of “every conversation we have,” she said.

It’s playing out in everything from adding electric vehicle charging stations to ensuring hotel guests have a clear line of sight into sustainability efforts at hotels.

Listening and thinking differently also influence how Marriott is approaching hiring and training, Alexander said.

In addition to supporting “a people-first company” by investing in workplace culture, employee pay and attracting workers to the industry and company, Alexander said Marriott has put a lot of work into thinking differently about jobs.

“How do you craft jobs in a way that makes them more appealing, that then creates more opportunity for growth and development, which is exactly what terrific careers are really built of?” she asked.

In addition to addressing those job shifts, Alexander said Marriott also weighs in the fact that so many new hires are joining the industry who have never worked in hospitality before.

“That means we have to focus on leaders creating an environment that draws out the best, that energizes people, and stay after it, because it’s an exciting place to be in an industry that’s growing,” she said.

For more from Marriott’s Erika Alexander on why the industry is more interesting and exciting now than ever, how Marriott is attracting and keeping employees, and ways the company is achieving its sustainability goals, watch the video above.

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