BT: We’re here in Seoul at the finals of Project: Aloft Star Asia-Pacific, an American Idol-style competition. What’s Aloft’s involvement?
FULKERSON: Each year, Aloft holds the Project: Aloft Star global competition, which is always looking for the next rising music star. The winner walks away with a single released by Universal Music Group to help kick start their career and 100,000 Marriott Rewards loyalty points to spend on exclusive experiences and stays at Marriott International hotels worldwide.
BT: How does this fit in with the philosophy of the Aloft brand?
FULKERSON: Aloft is a youthful, tech-forward brand for music makers and music lovers featuring regular live music performances by local emerging bands at W XYZ bars. Aloft is always innovative and was the first of our hotel brands to launch room service orders placed via texted emojis.
BT: What can travelers expect when they visit a Courtyard by Marriott in the Asia-Pacific region?
FULKERSON: It’s still a business traveler-focused brand, but in Asia it takes things up a notch with amenities like chef-driven restaurants, executive lounges offering breakfast and evening cocktails, and more multi-functional spaces for guests to mix business and pleasure. In addition, there is a growing number of Courtyard resorts in both Bali and Siem Reap, showing the brand’s potential for leisure guests. There are more than 50 Courtyard hotels open in the Asia Pacific region and the brand has more than 280 hotels in the global pipeline. With more than 1,100 hotels in 50 countries and territories, Courtyard is the largest brand in the portfolio, based on number of hotels.
BT: Fairfield by Marriott has a particularly interesting history for Marriott. How did it get started?
FULKERSON: It’s a brand that is undergoing a transformation at the moment, but will continue to be a practical, value-conscious product marked by its warm hospitality. Its roots stem from the Virginia farm where the Marriott family would often welcome friends and families for get-togethers. It is the definition of hospitality and really a hallmark of all of the brands in the Marriott International portfolio.
There are more than 900 Fairfield hotels around the world including more than two dozen already open in Asia alone, with 50 more soon to come. In fact, the brand’s largest hotel, the Fairfield by Marriott Seoul, just opened next to Seoul Station. The hotel lets guests stay at the core of the capital, while giving convenient access to the high-speed railway that connects travelers to numerous cities across Korea. This includes the seaside city of Busan, where we will be opening two Fairfield hotels in the next two years. That is pretty impressive growth from the family farm back in Virginia.
BT: Is the Asian market a target for Marriott International’s Classic Select brands?
FULKERSON: There’s really no one-brand-fits-all and we think there’s space for all our brands in the rapidly growing Asia-Pacific market. Four Points by Sheraton has especially strong potential thanks to its stylish and comfortable accommodations and the brand’s Best Brews program, where guests can relax with a pint of local craft beer, is picking up momentum as craft beers are becoming more popular across Asia. Four Points tends to be more business traveler-focused, but we’re seeing almost half of future growth focused in this space. There are more than 260 properties currently open around the world, and expect more than 65 percent of its pipeline to open outside the US – nearly half in this region.