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Last week Marriott International achieved a significant milestone by opening its 1,000th hotel in the Asia-Pacific region with The Ritz-Carlton in Melbourne. It is a significant milestone, chief sales and marketing officer for the region, Bart Buiring is thrilled with the hotel’s massive footprint and has plans of opening two hotels every week in APAC, with 100 new properties in its 2023 pipeline.
For our newly launched series ‘The CMO’s MO’, where we do conversational and crisp interviews with leading marketers of the region, Campaign sat down with an optimistic Buiring as travel has bounced back to normal. Having worked with the brand for more than 23 years, with an equally long-tenured and engaged team, Buiring tells Campaign that “coming to work is a fun and fabulous opportunity.” And this is not CMO speak, he assures us, “I genuinely mean this.”
Scroll below for the full interview where we touch upon his marketing outlook, work culture in the hospitality industry, favourite campaigns and personal trivia.
1. What are the three biggest marketing challenges for your brand right now?
Portfolio affiliation. Connecting our 30 fantastic brands including The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Edition, W Hotels, to Marriott Bonvoy, our leading loyalty program. Consumers are aware of our distinct individual brands and Marriott Bonvoy separately, but not necessarily the fact that they are linked.
Cut through the clutter. The APAC marketing environment is dynamic, competitive, and somewhat saturated. We want to creatively cut through all this noise to reach even more customers through personalisation, cool campaigns and being relevant when they search for travel inspiration or are ready to book a stay.
Content. Just like all marketers today, we constantly look at creating larger amounts of short form video content for use across multiple platforms like Tik Tok/Douyin, Instagram, YouTube etc.
2. What are the three biggest opportunities for your brand?
Reconnecting with the China team after 3+ years of closure
Travel is back. It’s aspirational and almost everyone wants to explore new and exciting destinations. Since the travel restrictions lifted in China, outbound travel presents an amazing new opportunity for us, and we are excited about the possibilities this presents.
Second our growth and further strengthening our footprint. We expect to launch about 100 new hotels across Asia Pacific this year. We will open our 1,000th hotel in Asia Pacific in 2023. This is a cool milestone for our associates. Growth means opportunities for them. The luxury space is particularly thrilling; we expect to open 14 luxury hotels in APAC this year including The Ritz-Carlton Melbourne, W Sydney, JW Marriott Jeju, and many more.
Partnerships. We are always looking for like-minded partners to find opportunities to provide more value to our Marriott Bonvoy members—whether through co-branded credit cards or strategic lifestyle partnerships in the sports, entertainment or media space.
3. Where are you investing your marketing budgets this year? In what areas are you increasing or cutting spend?
We will try to strike the right balance between inspirational content and digital performance marketing. We will experiment with some new media collaborations and storytelling. A key focus that is front and centre this year is of course Marriott Bonvoy and our exciting partnerships with F1—Mercedes Petronas, Manchester United, Gay Games, Tennis Australia and others. Brand launches in key markets including Ritz Carlton Reserve in China and key openings are also high on the list of our spend priorities. Recent brand launches like Fairfield in Japan and our new credit cards in Korea and China are also marketing investment opportunities.
4. What do you feel separates your brand culture from others? The 95-year-old Marriott culture of putting people first. “Take care of your associates and they will take care of the customers, who will come back time and again” is our founder’s philosophy and this makes Marriott International such a great place to work. And because of the service that our team members deliver, a great place to stay.
5. What needs to change in the industry when it comes to working culture? Work life balance is something that we can all continue to be better at. Work to live versus live to work is important. The hospitality industry is a great industry, but we do work long and sometimes irregular hours and that is something our HR teams are looking at by creating more flexibility to attract more diverse workforce.
6. Tell us one personal thing about yourself that others might not know. I was born in The Netherlands, have lived in Hong Kong longer than in my home country. Have been with Marriott for 23 years now and started as F&B Director in India. I have four rescue dogs. That’s three personal things.
7. Trendjacking the metaverse train: is it for your brand or not?
I adopt a wait and see approach. We have done some pilots that worked pretty well and most recently for our Moxy brand. I am a bit more sceptical than some of my younger team members.
8. What kind of a CMO are you? Answer using maximum three adjectives.
From a recent holiday in Japan
Learner, listener and coach.
Here’s a back story for those adjectives: I started in Operations. My first job with Marriott was leading the F&B team in India. My previous job was that of a chief operations officer. I took on the CMO role three years ago and had to learn a lot to get to grips with the nuances of marketing, digital, content, brand management etc. The learning curve was very steep.
9. Name another brand (can’t be yours) with amazing customer experience that you really admire. Why is it great?
Singapore Airlines. Outstanding customer service. Consistent. Excellent aspirational marketing. I also have great admiration for LEGO. Their product, innovation and marketing are world-class. I think they also do a great job with partnerships most recently with Louis Vuitton. Brilliant.