Hotel scion: Marriott may expand in Hawaii
By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Robbie Dingeman
One of Debbie Marriott Harrison's jobs as senior vice president of government affairs for Marriott International is lobbying government to ease restrictions on travel to the U.S. from various other countries.
"While travel has gone up almost 20 percent worldwide, it's gone down 17 percent in the U.S.," she said. And that's a result of travelers' perceptions that the U.S. process is inefficient and a barrier.
International travelers consistently feel they are not treated very well, she said.
"It's unfriendly and there's not enough staff."
Harrison pointed to Brazil, which she said has experienced a 49 percent drop in the number of visitors it sends to the United States. She said that's because with only four U.S. consulates in all of Brazil, it's very difficult to process the right paperwork.
With the dollar low against other currencies worldwide, she said the U.S. should be picking up more visitors, not discouraging them.
"The dollar is so low right now we're a real bargain," she said. "We should be getting more of our fair share. And we're not."
Harrison was in Hawai'i over Thanksgiving with her family, meeting with hotel officials from the chain that still bears the name of her grandfather.
MORE MARRIOTTS HERE?
Harrison, 51, lives in Maryland, and works in Washington, D.C. to lobby for a friendly and easier visa process.
She was interested to see the growth in the number of tourists in Hawai'i from China despite visa restrictions from that country. She sees room for far more growth there.
On this trip, Harrison combined business with pleasure. "It is our favorite place to come for vacation," she said. Her husband has done two Ironman triathlons on the Big Island.
But Hawai'i also is a favorite for the Marriott hotel chain, and she said she expects more expansion here, especially in the timeshare market but also in hotels.
"We don't have all of our brands represented: Renaissance, a few more Ritz-Carltons."
The company is unusual in that all the family members — her dad, her husband and her brothers — play a role in some form. Harrison said it keeps her family close.
RAISING A FAMILY
Harrison said her own involvement in the business moved to the background over the past 20-plus years when she was raising her five kids, the youngest a daughter who is now a senior in high school.
She also was heavily involved in the community, especially with mental-health awareness. Her two oldest boys are identical twins who were diagnosed as bipolar at age 14.
They are now 27 and also speak out about seeking appropriate treatment for the disease.
Ed Hubennette, Marriott International's vice president for Japan, Hawai'i and the South Pacific, said the company is continuing to grow in Hawai'i and worldwide, with 23 brands throughout the world.
"We have a full-time developer here, which we didn't have before. That's a new job for us in the last six months," Hubennette said.
In l981, the Maui Marriott Hotel at Ka'anapali Resort opened as the chain's first in Hawai'i and the 100th Marriott hotel overall. Harrison said today there are more than 3,000 worldwide. The Maui property has since converted to vacation ownership and is now known as Marriott's Maui Ocean Club.
MARRIOTT IN HAWAII
Marriott has these 10 properties in Hawai'i with two more in development:
Maui — 548-room Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua - 1992
Kaua'i — 356-room Kaua'i Marriott Resort - 1995 (Marriott's 1,000th hotel to open)
Kaua'i — 232-villa Marriott's Kauai Beach Club - 1995
O'ahu — 387-room JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina - 1999
O'ahu — 1,310-room Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa - 2000
Maui — 388-unit Marriott's Maui Ocean Club - 2000
O'ahu — 300-villa Marriott's Ko Olina Beach Club on O'ahu - 2003
Kaua'i — 231-villa Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club on Kauai - 2003
Maui — 546-room Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa - 2004
Big Island — 555-room Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa - 2004
Marriott International has two projects under construction: Kapalua Bay at the Kapalua Resort on Maui, which is a joint venture between The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and Maui Land and Pineapple Company, Kapalua Bay consists of 84 whole ownership and 62 fractional accommodations. Kauai Lagoons is a 520-acre oceanfront resort development by Marriott that will offer a mix of accommodations, including The Ritz-Carlton Residences; The Ritz-Carlton Club; and Grand Residences by Marriott.
Reach Robbie Dingeman at email@example.com.