JW Marriott Hotels introduce ‘wine ambassadors’

Sometimes you just need a good glass of wine, but how do you know what label goes well with the bar food of your choice? Helping to heighten the wine-tasting experience for its guests, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has introduced a Wine Ambassador program at its worldwide hotels.

The JW Wine Ambassadors represent the highest level of wine expertise at the individual hotel. The program will combine live tastings, written materials, online educational resources and the sharing of tasting notes. Marriott International is training JW Marriott associates on how to appropriately prepare a wine tasting, and before being designated a JW Marriott Wine Ambassador, volunteers must complete two certification programs: a comprehensive approach to beverage education, including spirits and beer, and a custom online curriculum created by The Academy of Wine. To ensure that each ambassador’s wine expertise remains current and relevant, all ambassadors participate in monthly tastings across the globe, tasting wines of different brands but of the same varietal. Monthly tasting notes are then shared with their peers in 19 countries on a wine ambassador website .

Says Mitzi Gaskins, Marriott’s senior director for brand management,

“Our Wine Ambassadors are passionate about wine. They love their jobs. They are eager to share their knowledge by telling stories that help personalize our guests’ wine-tasting experience and deepen their understanding of the wine being savored. Ultimately, our goal is to be thought of as a wine destination where our guests can appreciate wines at all price levels through our ambassadors’ obsession with quality and attention to the little details, whether they’re in the lobby lounge, dining in one of our restaurants or at a catered event.”

JW Marriott Marquis Miami to build 50,000 square-foot indoor sports, entertainment complex

JW Marriott Marquis Miami is feeling the heat, and building a 10,000-square-foot NBA-approved arena to quench its fever. When the hotel debuts in October, the new two-story entertainment facility will feature a basketball arena, as well as a full-size tennis court, world-renowned Jim McLean Golf School, Rik Rak Spa & Salon, virtual bowling alley, Met 2 Fitness and more.

The multiplex entertainment facility will take over the hotel’s 19th and 20th floors, which it will share with the 44-room Hotel Beaux Arts Miami, an art-infused, urban retreat located directly above the JW Marriot Marquis Miami.

According to Marriott, the entertainment complex will host an array of recreational activities including competitive and leisure sports, fitness, beauty and rejuvenation. There will be a high-tech 3D media room, and a furnished pool deck, which houses a heated stainless steel pool and whirlpool. The Jim McLean Golf School will offer skilled personal instruction, virtual golf simulators, two putting greens, lounge seating, a Pro Shop, and sweeping city views.

The basketball arena will have a multi-use portable floor system — the same flooring used at the Miami Heat’s home stadium, the American Airline Arena — that transforms into an NBA Approved Basketball court, a tennis court featuring the identical surface used at the Sony Ericsson Open or carpeted event space.

For those less sporty guests who still want to take part in the action, there will be a billards room and a virtual Bowling Alley that offers different themed lanes.

On the 20th floor will be the hotel spa, or as the Marriott is calling it: a sanctuary for wellness and relaxation. The full-service spa will also have a beauty salon and fitness center.

Looks like Miami is poised to be more than just beaches and bikinis come October.

Five signs that the hotel meeting business is recovering

Business meetings are back in style. Group customer is on the rise for the hotel business, signaling that the corporate crowd Is getting back out on the road. Joining the party are other groups, such as associations, sports teams, religious groups, social organizations and the military, according to USA Today.

The U.S. Travel Association is predicting a 7 percent increase in meeting and convention spending this year, with a forecast of $90.7 billion. Last year, this measure fell 15 percent, as the effects of the financial crisis and subsequent recession led to cancelations.

To get the big bucks back in the door, hotels and convention bureaus have been rolling out favorable pricing and sweetheart deals, and it’s starting to work.

So, how do we know this sector’s coming back? Here are five hints:

1. The meeting planners say so: A June survey by Meeting Professionals International showed 61 percent of respondents saying “that they’re seeing more favorable business conditions, including attendance, budgets and number of meetings,” according to a USA Today report. Only 15 percent responded this way in August 2009.

2. Hotel groups say so: InterContinental Hotels Group has announced that its group and corporate revenue climbed 10 percent in the first half of 2010 relative to the same period in 2009. Denihan Hospitality Group’s eight New York City hotels are showing an increase in group revenue of 26 percent year-over-year.
3. Even Grand Rapids has good news: The JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan has sold more than 1,500 group room-nights so far this year, up 20 percent from last year.

4. So does Fort Lauderdale:
In this Florida town, group revenue is up 30 percent at the Harbor Beach Marriott. Corporate deals are still down from last year, but other groups are more than making up the difference.

5. Hotels understand what’s going on: Even though the market is coming back, hotels realize that they still need to price aggressively. Notes George Aquino, general manager of the Grand Rapids JW Marriott Everyone’s felt the turmoil of 2009. We don’t want that to happen again.”

[photo by msprague via Flickr]

Courtyard by Marriott helps guests count calories

Courtyard by Marriott is getting into the spirit of dieting. The hotel chain is revamping their menus and offering additional information next to items, including calories and fat count.

The “calorie count menus” will be available later this month at The Bistro – the hotel’s food and beverage outlet. The Bistro, which is located in more than 150 hotels in North America and plans to double by the end of the year, focuses on a grab-and-go dining concept that offers guests a variety of options for breakfast and dinner.

Courtyard by Marriott says the move put the hotel brand “on the forefront of the U.S. healthcare reform bill, which will require all chain restaurants in the U.S. to post calorie counts on their menus.”

As part of the menu additions, The Bistro will also offer healthy options like low-carb, low-fat muffins and salads. For those wanting a little more fat content, there will still be BBQ ribs and beers available.

The new menus at The Bistro are just another way Marriott International is helping guests live a healthier lives. In 2007, Marriott announced it was eliminating trans fats in fried foods and deep frying oils, and in 2006 Marriott went “smoke-free” at all hotels. Guests at Marriott Hotels & Resorts and JW Marriott Hotels can take part in the Fit For You program, and at Renaissance hotels, the Eat.Drink.Balance program offers options for low fat, low cholesterol and carb conscious foods.

We applaud this initiative by Marriott and look forward to seeing more hotels help guests live healthier lifestyles. In the meantime, we’ll look away while you grab a double-fudge brownie before bed.

JW Marriott plans 40 hotels in India by 2013

Executives at the JW Marriott offices are busy planning the future. First came the announcement that JW Marriott plans to double its hotel presence in Europe by 2015, and now the hotel group plans to add another 40 hotels in India by 2013.

So, just where does the luxury hotel brand plan to put all of these hotels?

“We will be opening five JW Marriott hotels in Chennai, Bangalore, Pune (two) and Chandigarh by this year-end,” JW Marriott Group’s Area Vice-President for India, Malaysia and Pakistan, Rajeev Menon told the Press Trust of India. Additionally, Menon said Marriott plans to open two Marriott Courtyard hotels in Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

With new hotels means new jobs, and according to Menon, the JW Marriott will be helping to boost the employment market by hiring an additional 3,000 workers to service the additional 10,000-plus rooms the Marriott company plans to open in the next few years.

The JW Marriott India properties will feature all the luxury amenities customers are used to including spas, fitness centers, on-site restaurants and bars, swimming pools and in some cases, private night clubs.