By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
J.W. Marriott Jr., who will soon be 75 years old, is not a computer enthusiast. He takes notes on legal pads during meetings. While visiting some 250 hotels around the world each year he jots down his thoughts on note cards, then slips them in his jacket pocket.
Not that long ago, if someone would have used the word "blog" around him, he wouldn't have known what they meant. But even after five decades in the hotel business -- he opened the company's first hotel with his parents exactly 50 years ago -- the chief executive of Marriott International is ready for some new responsibilities.
Today he becomes Bill Marriott, blogger.
"I'm venturing into uncharted territory as I launch this blog," Marriott says in his first post, which can be found at blogs.marriott.com. "A year ago, I didn't even know what a blog was -- until my communications team began telling me about all the blog traffic on travel and tourism. Now I know this is where the action is if you want to talk to your customers directly -- and hear back from them."
Marriott's entry into the blogosphere is another in a series of steps he has taken to keep his Bethesda company -- and himself -- relevant in the fast-changing hotel industry, which is adapting to a more urbane breed of traveler who communicates via the Internet and demands a sophisticated lodging experience. The hotel chain has updated its room furnishings and is retooling its lobbies as places for people to eat, drink, work and socialize.
Marriott's blog doesn't mean he is taking on a relationship with a computer. He is dictating his entries into a tape recorder. A transcription will be placed on the Web, and audio of the entries will also be available. Though chief executives in other industries have blogs, some have been criticized as being just more corporate PR. But Kathleen Matthews, Marriott's spokeswoman, insists: "This is going to be Bill Marriott's blog. It's not going to be the corporate blog. He's going to decide what he wants to say."
Topics will include, among other things, riffs on trips he takes, how he runs the company, his thoughts on customer service and what he learns from his employees. He might comment on current events, including his ideas on immigration reform.
His first entry, running at nearly 700 words, wasn't the sort of chatty, revealing posting often found in a blog. But Marriott hinted he'll have a story or two to tell in the future. Toward the end, he writes: " . . . a lot of people ask me how a root beer stand that started in 1927 has grown into a global business and how we've managed that growth. It's a great American story with some truly funny anecdotes. One of these days, I'll tell you about my father's passion for astro-turf-- and it wasn't on the football field."