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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Interview with Marriott senior executive: Bringing wonderful hospitality to Vietnam’s first Marriott Residences

By An Do

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Marriott Residences, Grand Marina Saigon, Lake – the first of Marriott Residences brand in Vietnam – was inaugurated in November 2023. It is also the first building to open in the masterplan of the world’s largest Marriott branded residence, underlining Marriott International’s position as the leading player in the branded residences sector. During an interview with The Saigon Times, John Hearns, Senior Vice President, Global Residential Operations of Marriott International, shed light on the company’s ambitious endeavor to introduce its refined and luxurious hospitality services to the promising market.

The Saigon Times: As far as we know, Grand Marina, Saigon is the world’s largest Marriott branded residential project and Lake is the first Marriott Residences in Vietnam. With the Lake grand opening, what could we expect in this property?

John Hearns: At Marriott, it is all about the experience.

We operate 120 residences around the world with 16 different brands. Each building, each project is different in geographic location, size, and the owner’s usage. The most important thing for us is to customize the experience for the local culture. How do those owners want to be treated? What are their habits? What specific thing or aspect do they desire us to provide in order to enhance the quality of life?

Our owners typically are affluent, categorized as either high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth individuals. They have financial resources to live almost anywhere they want, but they have chosen to live under our care, so we take that responsibility very, very passionately.

On top of the basics, such as protecting their privacy and making sure the building is safe and secure, our priority is always to create a unique lifestyle. I hope that while customers walk into the building, they feel the general warmth, the ambiance, the lighting, the furniture, the fixtures. I also expect that we will bring the building to life with this great Marriott service culture.

Our goal is not to run the condominium. Our goal is to serve an elite community. My job is to create events and activities that bring those noble individuals together. Eventually, when we have four different buildings, five different residences here, let us think of the prospect of hosting some great carnivals. We also operate 35 theaters in this building, each with 11 or 12 seats, enabling us to organize our own week-long film festival for the first time ever. We have hired a company to curate a set of video programming, including documentaries, animations, short films, and full length feature ones. Our owners can watch a film which may not be released in any theater outside. That is the difference. Our history is around hospitality, so the goal is to always create the ultra-exclusive experiences that people really enjoy.

Each building has a private theater with a curated set of movies for residents – Photo: MH

Could you elaborate on the term “hosts” used to describe the employees of Marriott residences? What is the rationale behind such a unique title?

We call our associates “hosts” because our goal is to host our owners in their homes, like the way they would expect to welcome their own guests here.

Probably the most important thing about Marriott is that we hire for heart and we train for talent. One of our top criteria for joining the company is that applicants should have a passion for hospitality. Do they really want to be in service to others? Are they individuals that get joy out of bringing smiles to somebody’s face?

We put all of our employees through a rigorous new hire orientation. On average, our employees go to over 200 hours a year in training, which actually takes two different levels. First, Marriott International Training provides all employees with some basic training. Then, within Marriott, one of the 16 brands that we are running, there is a training curriculum called “The art of hosting” that allows our associates to understand the differentiation between brands such as Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott. We make a big commitment to the training every year by providing competence certificates to our employees, ensuring that they continue to be exceptional in their job. Next year, when we open the JW Marriott Residences here, the services may look slightly different as it is indeed a different brand.

There is a good chance that our owners could stay in one of the 600 Marriott hotels around the world, and they already have understood what Marriott stands for. Thus, we want to make sure that when people walk in their homes, their feelings meet their expectations. Sometimes, in an appropriate way, we feel like we are the extension of our owners’ family. We are going to be there when they have the memorable moments in life, and we want to share our good wishes to them for special occasions.

When we look to our partners, in this case, Masterise Homes helps educate us on what is the required sizes and important design aspects of residential units. It is because they know the local market. We are so blessed with the partnership between Masterise Homes and Marriott International because we all have the same goals in mind.

Lake is now operational in District 1 with an exceptional and unrivaled view of the Saigon River – Photo: MH

What are Marriott’s potentials in the operation of branded residential projects, with Grand Marina Saigon serving as a benchmark

As I have mentioned before, we operate about 130 residences and 16 brands in 46 countries and territories. That is our legacy. In terms of branded residences, we have over 100 projects in the pipeline, 25% of which are not attached to a hotel, or standalone residences.

In Vietnam, the country is obviously providing us with a great opportunity. We are looking for the inauguration of our first JW Marriott Residences in Vietnam in 2024. We also have The Ritz-Carlton Residences in Hanoi, which is expected to be open next year as well. These developments will be part of our luxury collection here and also our largest branded residential portfolio in the world.

Marriott signed agreements to develop these properties in the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Now when everything is built, we are in the late fall or early winter of 2023. Most of my projects take between six and seven years, but we did this project in three years. It is nothing short of a miracle.

At Marriott, it is all about the experience. In essence, it is also a real estate purchase. People are spending quite a lot of money to buy real estate, and our job is to preserve and enhance that investment source. Our partner, Masterise Homes, also expects us to maintain this building at the highest level possible. Hence, we are going to bring not only great hospitality, but we are great managers of assets. We recognize that all of our owners have entrusted us to take care of their homes, just like the way we treat our own.

Thank you for the interview!

Grand Marina, Saigon is a 10-hectare development by Masterise Homes in a prime location in District 1, HCMC. With four residential towers and an office building, Grand Marina, Saigon is expected to host the world’s largest Marriott branded residential project featuring both Marriott and JW Marriott Residences. Following the opening of Lake, the next phase will be the opening of Lotus Park, followed by the topping out ceremony of Lagoon and Cove, both a JW Marriott branded residence, and Sea, dual branded Marriott and JW Marriott branded residences.

The completion of Marriott’s residences is a concerted effort of Masterise Homes and its design and construction partners globally, including Atkins–a multinational architectural design company headquartered in London, Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA)–an American international hospitality design firm, and Mace–a global consultancy and construction firm headquartered in London.


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