Consumers are hungrier than ever for new products, proving innovation has never been as important. That’s why hotel chains such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott Hotels & Resorts are investing time, resources and money into innovation labs — places where new ideas, and sometimes even wacky ones, are encouraged and welcome from everyone, including associates.

Across the industry, hoteliers are looking for unique and novel ways to spur future success. Innovation can take place with the simplest of ideas. For example, years ago Starwood Hotels became an industry leader by developing the Heavenly Bed concept. The hotel company took a basic hotel staple — a bed — and turned it into one of its most sought-after amenities. Years later, it took that simple premise and expanded it to its bathrooms with the launch of the Heavenly Bath. Undoubtedly, every hotel under the sun wishes it had been the first off the mark with those introductions.

Well, at a time of great change, how many innovations like that are being developed for future use? This month Hotelier highlights interesting innovations gaining attention (see p. 9).
Meanwhile, last month, I had the pleasure to meet and interview Bill Marriott, one of the hotel industry’s living legends (see story on p. 8). Certainly at 83 years old, Marriott has witnessed many of the biggest changes foisted on this industry. And, the company his father started in 1927 has been one of the industry’s leading change agents. One of the questions I asked Marriott during my interview was how he as a leader encourages innovation in his company? His answer was simple and succinct: “Take the ropes off.” Marriott went on to explain that you need to “have the freedom to explore,” citing his company’s one-million-sq.-ft. innovation lab called “The Underground” as a fun place, a stage of sorts, where the company can test ideas to determine new products and approaches.

Speaking of innovation, this month’s cover story features my interview from this spring’s Icons & Innovators breakfast series, featuring Zita Cobb, founder and innkeeper of Newfoundland’s Fogo Island Inn. Cobb has been nothing short of innovative, and inspirational, with the launch of her much acclaimed 29-suite property in the northeastern-most reaches of Canada. Her journey (see story on p. 10) speaks to determination, perseverance and above all innovation. More than anything, Marriott, Cobb and others like them prove that by pushing the boundaries, or as Marriott says, “taking the ropes off,” we can chart new directions for growth as well as approaches and opportunities never imagined. And, to think, it all starts with the germ of an idea.

Volume 27, Number 4


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