Conversions fuel Marriott’s growth in Europe

Marriott International plans to add nearly 100 properties and over 12,000 rooms to its portfolio in Europe via conversions and adaptive reuse projects - the conversion of existing buildings into a hotel - by the end of 2026. 

On the IHIF main stage Satya Anand, president EMEA, Marriott International, was interviewed by Sophie Perret, managing director, HVS.

He said that since the company sold off its real estate in the early 1990s and adopted an asset light business model, its growth and success had been dependent on its wide and diverse community of owners.

Anand explained how the brand addresses the needs and concerns of its owners. “We have an owner advisory council that meets four times a year; franchisees, owners of different brands in different geographies. We reach out to them, or they volunteer. We spend two days together and they bring up the topics and we work through these points. It’s not always easy to listen. Sometimes they are very direct, but I’d rather have that and make changes rather than pretend everything is fine.”

Marriott also has specific councils to deal with distribution and technology.

Marriott’s new midscale brand, Four Points Express by Sheraton, is designed for conversions. Following the recent opening of Four Points Express by Sheraton Bursa Nilufer, Turkey, the brand is expected to add five properties across the United Kingdom and Turkey by the end of 2025.

“Conversions with Marriott offer owners and franchisees the opportunity to leverage our well-established brands, competitive affiliation costs, the company’s powerful revenue generation engines and Marriott Bonvoy – our award-winning travel programme with more than 200 million members,” said Anand.

Regarding sustainability, Anand said: “What we have focused on and asked our hotels to do in the near term is to have green certificates for all our managed hotels and we are extending it to our franchised hotels too. Secondly, we want to make sure they are working on a food waste programme. And third, we want to make sure they have an energy audit and build on that.”

He singled out three properties where the owners are paying great attention to sustainability. “We just opened St Regis Red Sea Resort in Saudi Arabia. I was concerned about opening in this pristine location and they walked me through that. They have a huge solar farm set up and batteries that store energy. There are 1,000 square metres of nursery, so it is a self-contained ecological resort.”

The Hotel Arts, a 44-storey, 483-room Ritz Cartton hotel on the seafront of Barcelona, is undergoing a multi-million-dollar refurbishment. “The owners have been very thoughtful about sustainability. This is a large-scale renovation that sets new standards,” Anand said.

The third example was Cosme, a Luxury Collection Resort, on the Greek island of Paros. It is a small family-run business, which operates the following policies: no disposable plastics, no food waste, no buffets, all locally procured ingredients.

Speaking about meeting the ever-evolving demands of both owners and customers, Anand highlighted safari lodges and yachts as examples of Marriott “going outside our comfort zone.”

He said: “We recently made our first venture into luxury safari lodges and we’re hugely excited about that because it’s a completely new space for us. When we opened our first lodge last year, we were blown away by the input from our customers and also from the owners. So we’re expanding the model further with more safari lodges underway in Kenya and Tanzania. It’s just one example of how we grow and use new opportunities to be where our customers want us to be.”

Another example is the branded Ritz Carlton yacht, launched in 2022. By 2026 Marriott expects to be operating three yachts.