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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Marriott Plans to Offer Regions His Hospitality

Marriott International intends to expand its hotel operations in Russia, says company head Bill Marriott Jr., who will visit Russia soon.

"We plan to expand our lodging portfolio in the country from the four properties we currently manage and franchise in Moscow," he said in an e-mail interview last week.

Marriott International owns 49 percent of the Renaissance Moscow Hotel, and three other hotels in Moscow operate under the Marriott brand name under a franchise agreement with Interstate Hotel Co.

"Russia is a very attractive market for hotel operators like Marriott who cater especially to business travelers who want and need a full array of support services in the hotel in order to be successful in their jobs," he said.

"Marriott International's global strategy is to be represented in all major gateway cities and established resort destinations with our upper-tier hotels and then to move into secondary markets with our other lodging brands," Marriott said.

He described the Moscow hotels as "operating to their potential" and as having developed their own customer base and position in the market.

"We are quite interested in establishing a presence in St. Petersburg and have been working on some projects there for some time. We also see some potential for our mid-priced Courtyard by Marriott brand in cities such as Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Kazan and Yekaterinburg in addition to both Moscow and St. Petersburg," he said.

He did not specify when the expansion might take place, nor did he release any financial data.

His company is not a real estate developer, Marriott said, adding that it owns fewer than 20 of the 2,200 hotels it either manages or franchises.

"In terms of development, we look for partners who are well respected by the local leadership and financial community, who understand our business and who are knowledgeable and experienced in doing business in the market," he wrote.

However, the firm, which expands its operations into several more hundred hotels each year, was not always so circumspect.

In his 1997 book, "The Spirit to Serve," which Marriott co-wrote with Kathi Ann Brown, he tells how from the late '70s to the end of the '80s Marriott became a multibillion-dollar U.S. real estate developer, "but with a firm commitment not to retain the real estate."

"Why wait around for others to build hotels and ask us to manage them when we could construct them, sell them and keep long-term management contracts? Why wait to be invited to the dance when we could build the ballroom and hire the orchestra ourselves?" he writes.

In his e-mail interview with The Moscow Times, Marriott, now in his late 60s, did not say whether he had similarly ambitious plans for Russia.

"The Spirit to Serve" tells how he travels some 240,000 kilometers a year visiting company enterprises.

"One of the most important things it allows me to do is counter the notion that big corporations are faceless machines," he writes. "If you're in the service business and your name is above the door, it's important for people to be able to link a face to the name.

"I want our associates [nonmanagement staff] to know there really is a guy named Marriott, who cares about them, even if he can only drop by every so often to personally tell them so.

"I also want to show our team in the field that I value their work enough to take the time to check it out."

The company, founded by Marriott's father when he operated a root beer stand in 1927, opened its first hotel, the Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia, in 1957. Since then, it has grown into an international hospitality company, with more than 2,300 operating units in 60 countries with 21 distinct brands and businesses.

The group's sales totaled $19.8 billion last year, 12 percent more than the $17.7 billion earned in 1999, and its profits rose 11 percent to $922 million.

Marina Smirnova, spokeswoman for the University of the Hotel, Tourism and Restaurant Business, said Muscovites know the Marriott brand well for its luxury hotels in Moscow, where it is a market leader.

Smirnova said Marriott has benefited from its close relations with the Moscow city government-linked firm Mospromstroi, which owns the buildings run under the Marriott brand name. But she added that she wasn't sure its current success would continue.

"The system of American management is very specific, and sometimes here it's better to have a European system that can be closer to the Russian mentality," she said.

Helene Lloyd, marketing director of Tourism, Marketing & Intelligence in Moscow, said Marriott's strategy for Russia appeared to be progressive.

"I think that their policy is to go into the market early on, because they know that one day this will be a big market," she said.

The Marriott chain's strong presence in the Moscow market also means many Russians know the brand and would be more likely to use Marriott hotels abroad, she said.

Marriott is doing the right thing by looking at expanding its operations into the regions, where until relatively recently there had been very few hotels offering standards that are acceptable to Western business people, Lloyd added.