Sep 14, 2023

Episode 115

Tina Edmundson

Tina Edmundson Marriott International


As president of luxury at Marriott International, Tina Edmundson oversees all aspects of the Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, BVLGARI Hotels & Resorts, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, EDITION, Luxury Collection, JW Marriott, and W Hotels Worldwide brands, reimagining the category through the likes of partnerships with Saks Fifth Avenue and the introduction of such concepts as the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection and the JW Marriott Masai Mara Lodge, the brand’s first safari-style accommodations.

But Edmundson, an industry veteran, first made a significant mark on the company as global brand and marketing officer, leading a portfolio of 30 distinct hotel brands upon the massive merger of Marriott and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Raised in Mumbai, India, where Edmundson’s parents worked for an airline before her entrepreneurial mother opened a string of beauty salons (Edmundson attended beauty school in London as a fallback plan, so she is also a licensed hairdresser), Edmundson graduated with a finance degree from the University of Bombay, and then ventured to the U.S. to pursue her MBA in hotel and restaurant administration at the University of Houston’s Conrad N. Hilton college.


Stacy Shoemaker Rauen: Hi. I am here with Tina Edmundson of Marriott International. Tina, thanks so much for joining us today. How are you?

Tina Edmundson: I’m well, thanks for having me.

SSR: So excited to have you here. Okay, so we always start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?

TE: I grew up in Mumbai, India.

SSR: Okay. Did you have any early memories of travel or hotels or anything that might’ve hinted where you might end up in your career?

TE: So we are a travel family, actually. Both my parents work for the airline. So my mom talks about the fact that I was on a plane before I could even walk. So yeah, I feel like that might have been the reason for my love for travel.

SSR: Were there any trips that you remember or something that sticks with you as a great early travel experience?

TE: Well, we took a lot of trips. My dad every summer got posted somewhere for 60 days or 90 days, and so we did a lot of trips to wherever he was posted. The ones that I remember most are maybe London and Singapore are the two that I remember, just maybe because I was a little bit older when this happened.

SSR: Right. And so you went to school in India, but then you went and got your MBA in hospitality management in Houston?

TE: So I had an undergraduate in finance from University of Bombay and came to the U.S. then to get a master’s degree in hotel and restaurant management.

SSR: So what made you decide to do that? What was the inspiration to come to that school and major in hospitality management?

TE: By then I had decided that I wanted to work in hotels. So a little bit of backstory has that my mother ran beauty salons in hotels in India. And so the other part of the story is that I was in and out of hotels since I was nine years old is when she stood up her first beauty salon. And at its peak she had five in different parts of both Mumbai and other parts of the country. And so again, I was in and out of hotels a lot and it looked fun. And at the time I was like, yeah, I think I want to go do that. So came to the U.S. because U.S. was the place that people at the time wanted to go study at. I had fully intended to go back home though, so I intended to come, do my couple years, maybe have a year of work experience and then head back. And as it turned out, I stayed.

SSR: Did you work? Did she put you to work in the salons?

TE: Not really. Well, this may be a little bit more information than you need, but I didn’t really in the early days, but when I was 17 and my sister was 16 or I was 18 and she was 16, my mom sent us to London to beauty school. And so I actually am a licensed hairdresser, believe it or not.

The Rome Edition, Marriott

The Rome EDITION; photo by Nikolas Koenig

SSR: What? That’s Amazing. That’s probably why your hair always looks so good.

TE: But her thinking was, you know what? If you needed something to fall back on, then we have these beauty salons and you can always come do this. But to be honest with you, I did the course and then never really did anything with it. I didn’t have a passion for it.

SSR: Yeah, well at least you have it in your back pocket. So was she in the airline business and then switched over to beauty salons?

TE: But back then you couldn’t continue to fly. At least she was a hostess. You couldn’t continue to fly once you were married or once you had kids or something in those. So then she moved to be part of ground staff, but she still up for the airline and then she quit the airline and stood up home with the salon.

SSR: Amazing. All right. I love it. All right, so you graduate, you don’t go home. Why did you not go home?

TE: Because I was doing this management training program and one day I was on a plane and I happened to sit next to a cute guy and it was Southwest Airlines, so very, very random. But the cute guy I ended up marrying and he’s from Louisiana, American guy. I didn’t think he’d do so well in India, so I thought that I’d better stay here.

SSR: So you started your career with Sheraton, which became Starwood, which now is Marriott. How did you get that first job? Was it through that management training program and why was it attracted to you?

TE: At the time, I was working for the Four Seasons Hotel in Houston because I was a teaching assistant for my finance professor at the college and he introduced me to his friend who was a controller. And so anyway, I was working at the Four Seasons Houston Center at the time. And I loved Four Seasons and I thought this is what I want to do. And they liked me and I was happy to continue to work there. But then we had career fair, which is career fairs, and at the time that we were graduating, so this was, I don’t know, April, may, right before we graduated. And I met the recruiter for Sheraton at that fair and we got to talking and he asked me if I was interviewing for Sheraton’s management training program and I said I was not. And he convinced me or he said to me, quite frankly, “Four Seasons is a great brand and a great hotel, but it’s small. And so somebody…” His words not mine, “Somebody would have to die for you to get promoted. And so you should really work for a bigger company where you would have more opportunity.” So I’m 22 at the time and I think this makes sense. I want to have opportunity and I want to grow. So that was it. I joined the management training program and the rest is history.

SSR: Was there any first work related reality checks or anything that you were like, oh wow, this is either what I love or this is going to be challenging, or just those first moments in your first few roles?

TE: The realization was that every time I had to move to a different job, it was something that I was unfamiliar with, so it was risky. And once I conquered that, I was able to move to the next thing. And so my big learning was that you have to take risks because without risk there’s no reward. And I think that held true for the next 25 years for me, where every time I have made a major move or every time I have wanted to advance my career, I’ve had to take a pretty big risk. And that would be when people ask, when young people ask my advice, I always go back there and talk about the fact that you really have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

SSR: Yeah, I love that. I mean, you did have so many roles. I mean some of them like VP strategic Hotel support for Sheraton, North America, general manager, the Western Philly, VP brand operations, W hotels, senior vice president, luxury brand operations, and global brand officer and luxury portfolio leader. Just to name a few. I mean, how do you think on top of that, of what you just said, how has that shaped you now as a leader too, having all these different experiences?

TE: I think it has made me better, to be honest with you, Stacy, because I think that it’s really important to have broad perspective. I have a 22 year old daughter. I talked to her about and I talked to our young associates as well, is that use the first many years of your career as you start out getting as much experience, have as diverse a experience as you can because that’s how you will find your passion. Once you find your passion, then you’re going to get really good at what you do because you’re just going to love it and it’s not going to feel like work because you love it so much and you’re going to bring so much of yourself into your projects, into your work, et cetera. So I think that’s shaped how I manage. I encourage my team to try different things, to go to different departments, to take on new projects because it’s all part of this learning experience.

SSR: I know it’s hard to pick a favorite, but was there one role that helped you find that passion that you were like, this is what I should be doing?

TE: I would say it’s the first time, it’s the job that I took after I was a general manager of the Western Philadelphia, which was a part of the W brand. So I joined as vice president of W and it was work I had never done before. I had been an operator for 14 years at that point, and I knew how to run a hotel. I had been a GM, the whole thing. And I stepped into this knowing that I didn’t know, but very eager to learn. I didn’t think I would be very good at it funnily, because when I looked at the people who excelled at it, I was like, I’m not like them. It surprised me how much I truly enjoyed it, and that was my entree into the brand and marketing world. But that’s where I found my passion.

SSR: Was it something you applied for or something that came as an opportunity because somebody saw something in you?

TE: A bit of both. So it was the general manager of The Western Philadelphia at the time. The hotel was owned by Starwood, so it was owned entirely if you will. The hotel was then sold, and so the hotel was going to become a franchise hotel. So if I wanted to stay with the company, I would have to leave that job obviously. And so I was exploring a couple of different options. I was applying for different positions. I had applied for a general manager position as well at another western hotel. And then this position came available and I applied for it. And it’s a little bit of both in that I had been with the company at that point for, I don’t know, 10 years or something like that. So people knew me. And so it was a marriage of the two things.

SSR: Love it. Did you like being at GM and living there and being part of the living breathing thing that is a hotel?

TE: I loved it. I loved it. I actually felt… It’s funny, I felt this huge responsibility for the 220 people that were employed at the hotel. I felt this responsibility to care for their families and them. And in that job, it’s funny because up to that point, even though I had worked in multiple different hotels and different positions, at the end of the day the buck stops with the GM. And so going into it, I’m like, “Oh, I know everything about this. It’s crazy. This is going to be easy.” It’s different. It’s different when you are the GM versus when you’re the hotel manager, you’re the revenue manager or whatever. Yeah, I thought every day was different because the different challenges, the guest interaction was amazing. Being a friend and a coach and a leader and a psychologist for your own staff is also a whole different thing. So it was fun. Fun experience.

SSR: Yeah, I’m sure. Okay. So you went to W and then it had other roles, but most recently you were the global brand and marketing officer for all of Marriott’s 30 brands, which is a pretty big role. What was that like and what were some of your favorite moments for the years that you were doing that?

TE: Yeah, so I became the global brand officer right after the two companies came together. So right after the merger, I was responsible for all 30 brands. And it was a little bit of a surreal experience for me because I had been with Starwood and then I had been with Marriott and then now I had all. So I loved my brands, like my babies. I knew them all intimately. I had worked in many of them, particularly on the Starwood side. So it was a beautiful thing. I loved it. For me, I would say the most… One of the things that I’m proud of, particularly during the integration is how we thought about how these brands sit together in this house of brands, if you will. So how would we bring them together? And then the reality is they were brands that competed with each other. And so how did we think about that and how do we then have some pretty clear swim lanes for the brand so that we’re not cannibalizing our own business?

But most importantly, how are we articulating it to a guest so that the guest understands the proposition for each of the brands? And that work was exciting, it was cerebral, it was a ton of research and it was different in different countries and different brands have different perceptions and brand health is different in different countries. And so that work was quite interesting and something I’m proud of. I did that for a few years. And then in January of 2020, believe it or not, I took on the marketing component for the portfolio as well. And I don’t need to tell you what happened in March, but it turned our whole lives around. And so the focus then was quite different because you know what happened to the hospitality industry at that point? And we had to really throw all the rules out of the window and start over and think about, okay, how are we going to operate in this new environment?

And really the not knowing was quite scary, but again, looking back, I think it all turned out well. And in a funny way, even though it was the worst health and financial crisis ever, and travel was the most affected industry, what we learned was that travel is not discretionary. It is a fundamental need. It’s primal. People need to travel, they need food and water. And I think what the pandemic has done is that it has raised the awareness in people of how important travel is to their wellbeing. And so I think it’s been super positive for the industry and we see that now, right? Because you hear all the stories about pent-up demand and et cetera, et cetera, but travel is here to stay.

The Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne

Atria bar at the Ritz-Carlton, Melbourne, with architecture by Cottee Parker; photo courtesy of Marriott International

SSR: Yeah. No, I couldn’t imagine what you had to go through trying to figure out how do you have brands and how do you market brands? No one is traveling. And to your point, not knowing when they would start to travel. Did you guys pivot into a survival mode until you could redo what you do well?

TE: Yeah. So we had a strategy actually. Through that we said in the beginning, so now think about March 17th or March 20th or 25th. Our strategy was in the beginning it was just to give people hope. And that was what we did is that all of the messaging was really about hope and inspiration. And then the second part of our strategy after that period passed and we saw what was going on in the world, it was like to do good. And so then we partnered with American Express and we did the rooms for the first responders, and then that was our focus. And then as the world got a little bit better and people started taking road trips, then it was like, okay, let’s help you take road trips and here’s what’s along the route and national parks. And people were going outside and beaches, and then people started traveling a little bit more. And so it really depended on the stage of the pandemic. And our marketing strategy moved with that. We got a lot of, again… We had to throw all of the rules out the window, but we really relied on data. We got information from TSA to see how many people were in airports, and we got Google search results to see how many people were actually searching for travel. And that’s how we actually decided what our go-to market plan was based on the data that we did have.

SSR: That’s amazing. And I remember too, going back a little bit, you were on the cover of our People issue right after the merger and after you took on the global brand officer. And I remember a conversation that we had then to your point about creating swim lanes because everyone’s like, ‘Oh, too many brands. Marriott’s not the largest. How many is too many?” But I think what you and I talked about, and I’d love to hear what your take is now today, especially with all the, I feel like a new brand is launched every couple months that having so many brands really allowed you to have those swim lanes and really dive into the guest experience and what it meant and what local was and what the design was and what the service was for each of the brands. Where before less was more, but now with more is more than. You could create a better identity, if you will.

TE: Your memory is really good and I’m quite impressed. Now I still believe that, right? I believe that there is no such thing as too many brands. What there is, I think where the danger is if the brand doesn’t resonate, it’s not relevant, doesn’t mean anything to anyone, then you’re wasting space. And I think that the example I might have given you is in our collection brands. So we have a tribute portfolio, we have autograph collection and luxury collection, and that allows the brands to stay more pure. So Luxury Collection is five star and it should be a luxury experience. And Autograph collection is four star, and it should be that experience. And those are the requirements of the standards that guests have come to expect. And Tribute Portfolios is one step or half a step below Autograph Collection. So by having the ability to have all three in the collection space, it allows us to more clearly put the hotel in the brand that it belongs to versus trying to squish them together and say, ‘Oh, it’s good enough.’ And so you’re swimming, but then not so clear because you’re not going to have that level of quality in each of the niche brands.

SSR: You’ve been and branding now for a few years, let’s call it, what do you think is the most important thing people should think about for a brand? When you said when it doesn’t resonate with anyone, that could be the death of a brand, but in terms of branding 101, what do you think should be the first question or thought or purpose in creating a brand?

TE: So it goes to this question of what is a brand? To me, brand is a promise, and it’s the promise that you are making to the customer about your product or service. And it comes to life for us in three ways. It is the product. So it’s the physical hotel, it’s the room, it’s the decor, it’s all of that. It’s the service. And that comes to drive through your talent and your culture, how you train and the culture that you’re creating at the hotel. And then it is also about the programming. It’s the music, it’s the scent, and it’s the sensory elements if you’ll. And the promise that you’re making to the guest is that you will deliver on the entirety of that holistic experience. And the best brands of the strongest brands are the ones that are able to deliver on that experience consistently. Because when you don’t deliver on that experience, you break the promise and once you’ve broken the promise, it creates a level of mistrust in the mind of the consumer. And they feel, well, I’m not sure that I’m going to get that when I go to this brand or when I buy this experience if you’ll, and so that I feel is the most important thing. So to have a promise that resonates with your consumer and then the ability to actually deliver that promise I think is better.

SSR: And so you have a new role now as president of luxury. Congratulations. Now, you’re overseeing the brand experience, service, operations, and marketing across eight brands, right? What is a typical day for you, or what are you working on day to day now that you have a more focused, I guess, role?

TE: As I’m sure is with you as well. There’s no formula for the day and the same thing doesn’t happen on any given day. So last week I was out on the West Coast doing hotel tours and I spent time with our hotel general managers and the teams there because I wanted to one, see them. I hadn’t been out west in a little while. I also had the opportunity to see some model rooms that are for upcoming renovations and then also visit with owners that are opening new hotels with us. So that was last week. Two weeks ago, I was in Madrid looking at the comp set and seeing what else was being built and also talking to some of our hotels that had just opened. So it really just depends on the day, it depends on my location today. And this whole week actually, I’m in the office and we’re talking about our plans for 2024. That’s part of the day. The other part of the day is talking about how we’re doing versus our scorecard. How are we doing from a service perspective, how doing from a revenue perspective, what we think the forecast is going to be. I also have a couple open positions so I’m interviewing candidates for jobs. So depending on what’s on docket is how my day goes.

SSR: What is your vision for luxury hospitality for these brands and how do you think that has evolved or changed over, call it the last five or so years?

TE: So I know I’m biased, but I think that we have the best luxury portfolio in the industry, and I’m very proud of the eight brands that are part of Marriott International. I think that we are well positioned to serve the modern luxury traveler. We have brands that appeal to different segments within luxury, whether it is aspirational luxury, or I’ll call it ultra uber luxury. We have brands for every trip, purpose and travel need. I think when you talk about how has luxury changed, I would say that luxury was once prescribed. It was what I told you it was going to be. Today it is much more about what the individual wants. Luxury is defined by the luxury traveler, it is what I want. And it’s also moved away from this notion of being exclusive to this notion of being inclusive. So luxury is very much now inclusive. It’s moved away from, you hear a lot of the… It feels so cliche-ish actually to say, oh, it’s not about things. It’s about experiences.

Yeah, it’s about experiences, but what is the experience? Well, it’s the entirety of your journey, if you will, and how you feel at the end of the day. And that is more of what we are seeing. So it’s gone from acquisitive luxury, which is acquiring goods and things and showing off because that was the thing in the day to more of, we call it meditative luxury, which is more of being proud of the experiences that you have and the memories that you’re creating with friends and loved ones. And by the way, we’ve seen that even people say, “Oh, people’s behavior has changed since the pandemic.”

It hasn’t actually changed, it’s accelerated. It was happening anyway. It just feels more heightened now that we’re in this post pandemic world. And then when you asked about what’s next or what’s the vision, I think it is about continuing to innovate. It’s about continuing to be able to offer interesting experiences within our portfolio. I think we have brands that are very trusted because we’re able to offer that consistency and sense delivery across our luxury brands. And I think that’s wonderful, but it also gives us permission to be in some spaces that we hadn’t thought about before. So we just opened the JW in Masai Mara, which is in Kenya, and it’s 20 private tents. I haven’t been yet. I can’t wait to go. But getting into this tented lodges and camps, it’s really exciting. And funnily enough, right after we opened it, and it’s got a ton of PR around it, we signed a second one because this is what people want to do these days, is they want to go experience those once in a lifetime things.

Bucket lists have become to do this basically. We also launched the Ritz Cotton Yacht collection, I’m sure you know about October of last year, which is also super exciting for us. So continuing to innovate in that, in spaces that are adjacent to our hotel travel, I think is really interesting. Of course, there are tons of cities and countries where we’re not in yet, and we want to make sure that we continue to grow organically. We want to make sure that we are continuing to elevate the guest experience. We want to make sure that we are making our experiences and our brands stickier for the high net worth customer so that they feel a propensity and a preference for our company.

SSR: And so to do all this, do you work with all the different divisions, marketing and operations and design to make sure that everyone’s talking to each other and on the same page moving forward? Is that a big part of your role?

TE: Absolutely. And that’s why we have now luxury dedicated operations and luxury dedicated design, spa, retail, the whole thing, all of the touch points of the guest experience so that we’re marching to the same tune and we’re bringing it to life, the guest in the most appropriate way. In the particular brand for sure.

SSR: Where do you see wellness? You mentioned spa falling into all of this because again, I think it’s something that was already happening, like you said, but it was definitely accelerated with the pandemic. People now understand how much buildings can affect their wellbeing and travel can affect your wellbeing and food, everything how much affects you? How are you looking at that from a luxury lens?

TE: So wellness is hugely important to your point. It’s not just physical wellness, it’s mental wellness, it’s holistic wellness would be a better way to say it. So it’s about nutrition, it’s about movement, and it’s about mind. So it is an area that we are very, very focused on. The other one is sustainability. Those two, again, to your point, have just been accelerated and people are just much more aware of it and are demanding it, frankly. And we see it much more in the luxury space.

The JW Marriott Jeju Resort & Spa, designed by Bill Bensley

The JW Marriott Jeju Resort & Spa, designed by Bill Bensley; photo courtesy of Marriott International

SSR: And is that something you all are talking to your owners about? Because I feel like it has to start there for at least on the sustainability front, to make sure it’s in the building and the entire process from the get-go.

TE: Yeah, and again, this is not new. We’ve been at it for many years. In fact, by the end of this year, we will have residential style amenities so you don’t have the little bottles, and we’ll save that, all of that plastic. We’ll be complete, I want to say by the end of this year, for all of our hotels. We’re looking for solutions for water in all of our hotels so that we don’t have any more plastic. So again, all of those things had been in play. It’s just much more of a focus now and it’s been accelerated.

SSR: You’ve mentioned a couple examples, but is there one new innovative thing that you’re really excited that you’re working on or rollout that you can’t wait for?

TE: There is, but I can’t tell you about it.

SSR: Dang it. That’s not fun.

TE: Yeah, because we want it to be a big thing.

SSR: Yes, no. All right. Well, I’m glad. Let me know when that happens. But you also mentioned retail, and I know that partnerships have become something that many brands are focusing on, and I actually think it’s the new retail is how different fashion and goods brands are partnering with hotels to really tap into their affluent customer. Is that something you guys are working on? Are there any exciting partnerships in your portfolio that you are looking forward to or proud of that have recently launched?

TE: Yeah. Gosh, what was it? A couple of months ago we launched a partnership for our luxury brands with Saks Fifth Avenue, and we have a shop, pop-up shop in a couple hotels. We have one in Laguna Miguel, and I’m going to say 10 that will open later this year. So to your point, again, yes, it’s work that we have been doing for the last many years. We have a partnership with Mercedes, AMG Mercedes Petronas and so we do the F1 collaboration and races with them. We have, let’s see, St. Regis has a partnership with the Vilebrequin. JW has a partnership with Layla Gohar. So every brand has a particular passion and partnerships that we are looking at. It’s definitely something that I think benefits both the partner as well as the brand. We just need to make sure, I think the most important part of it is that it has to feel like it is enhancing that guest experience because if it feels like it’s forced, it just doesn’t work. And so finding the right partner is critically important for us.

SSR: And how do you go about that? I’m sure there’s so many people that want to work with you all, but I guess there’s no right formula per se, but is it just that gut feeling? Is it just comparing the people that you both serve? How do you decide that?

TE: Yeah, a little bit of both those things. Stacy. One is we want to make sure that the guest profile is aligned. So the type of guest that we have is also the type of guest, the customer that the partner is going after. So yes, profile has to be aligned. And then a couple lenses that we look through is, will it enhance our guest experience? So will a guest feel like this is a value add or will it feel forced and salesy? If it’s the latter, we don’t want to do it. And then what is the requirement? So if it is a very heavy lift on the hotel, then is it what the effort or not? So again, it’s a bunch of different things and it depends on what type of partnerships. So the partnerships that happen at the hotel level, I want to put something in the mini bar, beauty product in the mini bar. That’s one type of partnership. Or I want to do a above property, like a Mercedes Petronas partnership, which has nothing to do really with the hotel, has to do with the brand. And it’s a more of an umbrella type of partnership. So it depends.

SSR: Is there a part of the job that you find the most rewarding?

TE: Yeah, I mean I think it’s the reason that we’re in the business. I think the people part and spending time with guests and spending time with the teams, both internally, our internal team or the teams at the hotel, I think is the most fun part. Last week I was in San Francisco and went to a customer event and just having drinks and dinner with customers and hearing what the experience is like. It’s so fun because it’s so easy to talk about travel. I mean, you can literally talk to a stranger about travel and people become so animated and are so eager to tell you about the best places they’ve been, worst places they’ve been, and just it helps you add to your own bucket list.

The JW Marriott Madrid, with architecture by Arvo Arquitectura de Juan

The JW Marriott Madrid, with architecture by Arvo Arquitectura de Juan; photo courtesy of Marriott International

SSR: Yeah. Do you ever sit and watch people move in your hotels and how they use the space?

TE: I do. I used to do that a lot more earlier in my career. But yeah, I love doing that. Actually, just sitting in the lobby. I don’t like sitting in my room, to be honest. Even if I’m working, I like to be alone and yet with people. And so I’ll often sit in a lobby or in a lounge and work and to see the choreography of the space and how it comes to life and how people actually use the space.

SSR: What’s the most challenging part of your job?

TE: Well, there’s parts of the job that people like, and maybe I should do that one again. I don’t know. Maybe the most challenging part of the job is making sure that we are able to react quickly. We’re a big company and I want to make sure that we don’t miss opportunity, that we’re nimble enough to move fast. And that can sometimes be a challenge.

SSR: Has there been one project or accomplishment over your impressive career that you’re most proud of?

TE: I think we spoke about that before. I would say it was the integration of a Starwood and Marriott.

SSR: Which couldn’t have been easy. I mean, you’re dealing with so many different people and jobs and brands. I mean, that must have been quite a challenging time that seemed to figure it out, work out.

TE: I think that the human part of it was probably the most challenging. There was definitely from a broader company perspective, there was the systems integration and all of that. The technical part is definitely challenging, but the human part was challenging too, because it’s just tough. Change is hard. And learning a new culture and learning how it works, same industry, but different culture is tough. So it was important for us to be super sensitive at that.

SSR: What keeps you passionate? You mentioned talking to customers and guests. Is that what keeps you passionate? Is it the challenge of redefining and evolving? I mean, what are some of all the above?

TE: I think I’m self-motivated. I’m passionate about people. I’m passionate about our industry. I love travel and I want it to be beautiful and I want it to be better. And I want people to have amazing memories. And I don’t know, it just drives me.

SSR: Is there a place you want to travel that’s still on your bucket list?

TE: Well, I have so many places still on my bucket list. I’ve never been to Marrakesh on my list. I’ve never been to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands which are islands outside of India. It’s on my list. So those are my coming soon ones. I recently actually in December of last year, I went to Egypt for the first time, which was really amazing.

W Prague hotel Czech Republic bar rendering

The bar at the W Prague; rendering courtesy of Marriott International

SSR: What did you find special about it?

TE: Well, for one, I’d never been, I had only seen pictures and videos and et cetera. I took my mom for her, it was… Her 80th birthday happened during COVID, and so I took her three years later, but still, but we spent some time in Cairo. We have the most amazing St. Regis in Cairo. If you ever go, must stay. And then we did a river cruise with Abercrombie and Kent on the Nile, and it was truly amazing. I mean, to see pictures just don’t do justice. This is why travel is here to stay, right? It’s just you can’t experience, you can’t feel the emotion of the space. And when you’re looking at things that are 3,000 years old, you have to see it in person.

SSR: Speaking of experiences and moments, has there been one that was very transformational for you? One hospitality experience?

TE: I think that that one, I think being in… It’s on my mind just because it’s so recent, but maybe my trip to Egypt was great. About five years ago, I had taken my husband and my daughter to Turkey, and that was amazing as well. And those two maybe stand out most for me.

SSR: Yeah. Has it been hard, I mean, you as a woman in this industry, rising through the ranks, GM, I mean, has there been mentors along the way? Do you find it more challenging to be a woman doing what you do, or it is just you were self-motivated and pretty good at what you did that wasn’t?

TE: It’s never that easy, right? I mean, if we’re all being super honest, it’s never that easy. So of course I had role models along the way. My first general manager, when I was a management trainee, the general manager that I had in my first position was a woman, and her name was Lynn Doherty. And she was a great role model. And as a young person, you see that and you’re like, “Hey, I can do that.” Because you can see yourself in those positions. So no, it definitely hasn’t been easy. I don’t think it is easy in any job actually, because of the role that women play in society, even in your family. And I have a wonderful husband and he’s very helpful, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to balance a lot of things. And that’s the other thing, that there’s no silver bullet. There’s no easy answer, no how to book. You just have to figure out what works for you and ask for help. I think that’s maybe one of my biggest lessons learned is sometimes I think we think that we have to do everything and you actually don’t. You should ask for help. Particularly, I mentioned earlier, my daughter is 22, but when she was younger, it’s hard, right? Because you want to be home with the kids and guess what, when they’re sick, they want you, they want mom. So it’s not easy, but I would say we just all have to find our own way to succeed.

SSR: I think that’s a perfect place to stop. Thank you so much for spending the last hour or so with us, really means the world. And congrats on all your success in your new position.

TE: Thanks so much, Stacy. I really enjoyed it. It was fun talking to you.