Marriott hosts The Exchange customer conference

Marriott International’s annual association and corporate customer conference, The Exchange, marked an optimistic milestone for the return of in-person meetings and events, one of the hardest hit segments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Held from July 13-16 in the heart of New York City’s Times Square at the recently renovated New York Marriott Marquis, the event brought together more than 1,000 customers, hoteliers and industry leaders to engage and rally around new approaches to doing business; discuss topics of importance to today’s customers, such as sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion, technology innovation and the state of the industry; and reinforce the importance and value of in-person connections and coming together again.

The event offered ample opportunity for customers to rejuvenate connections with hotel leaders and sales professionals, showcasing property openings, renovations and updates that have happened over the last two years across Marriott’s portfolio of 30 hotel brands in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. Customers also participated in New York City hotel immersion experiences designed to highlight the unique moments that pay tribute to various brands within the Marriott portfolio. These included holistic well-being sessions at the Lily Kwong-designed JW Garden at JW Marriott Essex House New York, complete with an immersion into the installation and a lesson on the mindfulness benefits of handwritten notes of gratitude that Marriott founder J. Willard Marriott knew so well; “Au Soleil Rose cocktail hour” on the hotel rooftop overlooking Central Park at Le Meridien New York, Central Park, inclusive of classic games, rosé and petit plates; and the opportunity to take part in a celebration of St. Regis history with a Champagne sabering and afternoon tea at The St. Regis New York.

“We consistently hear from our association and corporate clients how important face-to-face connections are to doing business—and how difficult those connections are to replicate virtually,” said Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott. “The collaboration, innovation and energy our customers and hoteliers experienced at this year’s Exchange, while addressing some of today’s most important issues for meeting planners, was as inspiring as it was productive. Working together, we are continuing to refine and shape what tomorrow’s meetings and events will look like.”

The three-day event showcased the company’s approaches to food and beverage, event design and how to quickly implement various levels of well-being protocols into face-to-face environments. This year’s event also introduced short, 18-minute Exchange Talks designed to educate, inform and inspire. Marriott speakers included Capuano; Liam Brown, group president, U.S. & Canada; Erika Alexander, chief global officer, global operations; Drew Pinto, global officer, global sales, distribution and revenue management; Julius Robinson, chief sales and marketing officer, U.S. & Canada; Tammy Routh, SVP, global sales organization; Denise Naguib, VP, sustainability and supplier diversity; and Brian Gilligan, SVP sales & distribution, U.S. & Canada.

“We are passionate about providing resources, creative solutions and innovative practices to help meeting professionals navigate a successful return to in-person meetings and events,” said Routh. “The meetings and events industry is resilient, and this was a large-scale demonstration of the inventive solutions and experiences that can come from being together. With well-being remaining front and center, The Exchange marked a pivotal moment for the industry—and we’re optimistic for what’s ahead.”

“Marriott works with me to understand my needs when it comes to planning an event, with direct access to senior leaders and property management to help determine how to pivot if needed,” said Pamela Prince-Easton, president/CEO, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. “It’s my job to ensure the decisions we make will benefit our attendees and, over the last few years, Marriott has been by our side every step of the way to revise and adjust where necessary. For us, it’s imperative that we partner with a company that listens to the challenges we face and provide detail-oriented solutions.”