Marriott International spent much of its time this summer putting out fires sparked by customers, meeting planners, and even the owners of the hotels it manages.
First there was the lawsuit filed against Marriott (along with Wyndham and Starwood) properties for not disclosing resort fees far enough in advance for guests to factor them into purchasing decisions. While only a dozen or so Marriott-affiliated hotels had resort fees, the chain has done away with the add-on charges. “We phased them out over the course of the summer,” says Roger Conner, vice president, communications, with Marriott International in Washington, D.C.
Then there was the complaint filed with the Department of Justice that alleged discrimination against the Midwest Federation of American Syrian-Lebanese Clubs, a longstanding customer. The Des Moines Marriott had faxed a signedto the group on September 5, 2001, to host its 2002 annual conference, but revoked its offer on September 11 — and refused to reconsider its decision throughout the following week.
In August, the parties reached a settlement that involved, among other things, Marriott paying $100,000 to endow a scholarship to be administered by the Midwest Federation. Lucy Slosser, a Marriott spokeswoman, says the contract cancellation was simply an economic decision to pursue another piece of business. “We sincerely regret that this misunderstanding occurred, and we want to stress that there was no intent to discriminate,” she says.
Marriott has several other sparks to extinguish. The company is contending with a lawsuit filed against it in April by CTF Hotel Holdings Inc., a Hong Kong — based company that owns about 60 Marriott-managed hotels. The suit alleges that Marriott overcharged for goods and services it received from third-party contractors and kept the difference, and that it accepted bribes from suppliers. Marriott denies the allegations.
In late August, yet another lawsuit was filed against the mega chain. Strategic Hotel Capital, which owns several Marriott-managed properties, charged Marriott with fraudulently concealing profits from three California hotels. The suit seeks unspecified damages and the right to terminate management agreements. Marriott also denies these allegations.