Retiring Bill Marriott on Porn, Light, and a Muddled Mitt Romney

The Associated Press’ Scott Mayerowitz interviews Bill Marriott who at 80 years old is stepping down as CEO (though remaining Chairman) of Marriott. He still owns 10% of the company worth $1.2 billion.

Scott reports that Bill Marriott drove the company’s foray into hotels and out of restaurants (like Big Boy and Roy Rogers). You get the flavor of an old school hands on guy from the piece, averse to debt and conservative in management style. That’s certainly reflected in their hotels, and even in their loyalty program — which still seems to attract a fervid fan base in spite of offering one of the least reward elite levels (the most stringent requirements for top tier status at 75 nights, yet specifically excluding suites from the upgrade benefit and only promising ‘subject to availability’ late checkout requested on day of departure for Platinums).

Marriott thinks that Mitt Romney – who was named after Marriott’s founder and who has sat on Marriott’s board – has too complicated a message.

And offers a bit of an interesting admission on in-room porn, he describes removing it as ‘the right thing to do’ yet concedes Marriott is removing porn because revenues are declining in the face of iPads and other devices (what bigger cliché’ is there than free porn on the internet?).

I’ve always been concerned about (pornographic) movies in rooms. In the next three or four years, we won’t have any more of those. That’s something we’ve had a real problem with because the Church is very, very opposed to pornography, as it should be, and we are for families. But the owners of our hotels were making a lot of money. In fact, the only movies that make any money are pornography.

…It was the right thing to do. The other side of it is if they want that stuff, they can get on the computer. So, the demand for them has gone way down. It was a good time to exit.

In fact, Marriott’s in-room porn offerings were precisely what undermined some Utah obscenity prosecutions — if Mormon-owned Marriott was offering porn in rooms in Provo, and there was even a greater than average uptake of porn in those rooms relative to the rest of the country, it could hardly be argued that porn shops in town were violative of community decency standards. Indeed, the Deseret News the confluence of declining porn revenues with Marriott’s decision to (very slowly) phase out in-room porn.

Perhaps the most interesting thing is the prediction of where hotel rooms will be going in the future:

Bathrooms are going to open more into the rooms because people want light. We’re thinking of a glass wall. You could flip a switch and the glass becomes opaque; flip the switch it goes clear. We’re going to full floor-to-ceiling windows wherever we can so when you pull the curtains back, you just don’t look through a small window. You’ll see the whole world.

As they say, read the whole thing.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Bill has done a tremendous job with Marriott and we all wish him well.

    I appreciate the fact that he admitted a few things:
    1) Offering pornography is the wrong thing to do
    2) They ignored the need for more unique hotels for too long
    3) The need for revamping some aspects of a room, like windows and natural light – those things make a difference are are not hard or expensive to do

    I like the direction the Marriott brand is heading – now if I could only figure out the value add of the Courtyard brand…

  2. Sounds like total hypocrisy to me ; so you start losing money on porn movies cuz people are viewing it on the internet and then decide to leave. If you were against porn so much…why didn’t you exit before? Business is business, and when it comes to making money, these so called ‘family-friendly’ candidates will sell their own mothers for a buck.

    Reminds me of when the ayatollahs in Iran made caviar ‘haram’ (forbidden), but when they found out the Black Sea was full of it, they overturned their ruling and made it permissible . Hypocrisy will never go away.

  3. “I’ve always been concerned about (pornographic) movies in rooms. In the next three or four years, we won’t have any more of those.”
    Kind of reminds me when Michael Corleone tells Kate that the family will be legit within 5 years in the Godfather movie. It just never happens.

  4. Bill H. : I think its fair to say that they may be running the business like the Corleone’s hehehe

  5. Thank god for Marriott turning to the Church for business decisions/directions and their declining porn profits
    I know I won’t be a sinner should I decide to stay in their hotels
    I’ll sleep better at night now
    I hope they also fire all those associates who may have watched any of those immoral indecent movies they once featured
    They shouldn’t have a choice going forward
    Thank You Marriott the brand of heroes
    No more Hyatt or Starwood for me!

  6. Is it bad that I would place all religious materials into a garbage can whenever checking out of Marriotts (not that I’ve stayed at one recently)?

  7. Carberrie: yeah I wouldn’t do that personally…Its kinda disrespectful to whomever that follows that faith (Bibles)…because at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be offended by someone putting a Quran into the garbage. I think though if they want to maintain inclusiveness, they shouldn’t place any religious material(s) in the rooms. If they do, then they should have a rack with Bibles, Torahs, Qurans, etc….

  8. Gary, your blog sure has some cynical readers.

    Carberrie, I can’t believe you can be THAT offended by a piece of religious literature in a bed stand. Do you do that will all Gideon Bibles in all hotel rooms you stay in? Or just The Book of Mormon? Religious bigotry is alive and well, folks.

    I can provide some insight into the psyche of a Mormon business leader: the Mormon religion has particularly stringent standards which we try to follow as best we can. With the persecution we received in the early days of our religion as well as the criticism of our missionary program, we try to be particularly sensitive to not impose our standards on those not of our faith. Hence, Bill being personally opposed to porn but not seeing any legitimacy to ban it in a business.

    Although I will say that Bill should have initially stood up and disavowed as porn in any hotel with his name on it. True, it complicates things by not actually owning the vast majority of the hotels, but still…

  9. My parents (long gone now) used to be friends with a man who sold gear to commercial fishermen. That man was president of our temple. Some of the gear he sold included clam rakes and lobster traps (of course, clams and lobsters are not kosher).

    I asked him about it when working for him one summer. His answer was that Kashreth (Kosher laws) apply to cooking, storing and eating the food, but not any part of the fishing, processing or packaging.

    All in all, it was a good lesson on the need to draw a line between personal beliefs and business dictates.

    I think Bill and my father’s friend would have agreed on that point.

    Taking it one step farther, Bill Marriott prohibiting soft core porn in all Marriotts would be the same as a Catholic owner insisting the the restaurants only serve fish on Fridays, or a Jewish owner insisting on Kosher food or a Muslim insisting on following Halal, etc.

  10. I see above that some post mentions “PERSECUTION the Morman Religion received in its early days?” HARDLY. You guys killed hundreds of defenseless woman and children. Out and out murder. Reprehensible. Yeah. Google Mountain Meadows Massacre and educate yourself. Yours is not a religion. It is a bunch of hypocrites believing in garbage. What a bunch of loonie toons. That goes equally for the Catholics too with their covered up pedophilia. And all organized religions that act without concern for the poor and downtrodden. Remember the “eye of the needle” We are done with you all. Now nearly 20% of the voting public characterized itself as NON-affiliated. No wonder. Thanks to social media, the word is out. We are just starting to educate ourselves and at some point, this movement will reach critical mass and we will be able to shop for socially conscious corporations when spending our hard earned dollars. Definitely, I will never stay at a Marriott again, now that I see they only got out of porn because the money was not coming in as fast and because they want to support candidates who are hypocrites like the Board of Marriott apparently is. Losers.

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