Meet Jennie Toh, Vice President of Brand Marketing and Brand Management for Marriott International in Asia Pacific. In her role, Jennie leads the brand, marketing and public relations strategies, brand development, product and guest experiences as well as driving appropriate representation and brand preference across the continent. Jennie ensures brand management and programming activities are aligned to the company’s brand strategies and global brand standards continue to remain relevant to the markets. Jennie is focused on the company’s strategy to win in the leisure segment through content creation and compelling storytelling to elevate the consumer aspirational appeal to the unparalleled portfolio of brands and Marriott Bonvoy affiliation. She is also responsible for executing relevant on-brand guest experiences in ways that are consistent with each brand’s vision and drive distinct brand differentiation, in order to optimise profitability in Marriott International’s extensive portfolio.
As one of the major players in the market, Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio in the Maldives includes 7 resorts across 7 luxury and premium brands, including The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa, W Maldives, Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa and The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort.
The islandchief spoke with Jennie Toh to know more about her role, consumer trends in the industry and the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio of resorts in the Maldives.
1. What motivated you to enter the hospitality industry as a brand marketing and management professional, and how did you get started in this field?
I began my career in the hospitality industry at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore back in 1997. I quickly recognized my passion for hospitality after that. Then I spent 15 years at the Rooms division, Quality assurance and Event management operations across The Ritz-Carlton Hotels in Bahrain, Bali, Tokyo, Shanghai and other parts of Asia. Now looking back at my over 25 years career with Marriott International, passion is the only way to move you forward in this business.
Prior to my current role, I was Vice President of Rooms, Spa, Loyalty & Brand Operations for Asia Pacific, in which I designed and developed robust Rooms and SPA programming. Since 2020, I have led the brand, marketing and public relations strategies, brand development, product and guest experiences, as well as drive appropriate representation and brand preference across the continent.
What I’m most passionate about is seeing how each of our brands come to life seamlessly at our hotels, from design to brand positioning, brand programming to marketing and PR, creating distinctive and meaningful experiences for our guests.
2. Are there any notable travel trends you’ve noted post pandemic and how Marriott International brands respond to them?
We are seeing a new willingness to embrace the now and act on those “bucket list” trips at top destinations such as Maldives, seeking out unique, remote, and off-the-beaten-path places. Travellers also tend to have longer stays – there has been a pent-up desire to travel, combined with a newfound flexibility when it comes to remote work or learning, which has resulted in travellers staying longer.
Another notable trend is the increased emphasis on wellness. Travellers are paying even more attention to their physical and mental health, looking for experiences to maintain their health and wellness while they explore the world. Westin, the company’s leading wellness brand, launched its refuelled Gear Lending brand program in early January this year, featuring the latest in high-tech recovery equipment by Hyperice and total body strength training equipment by Bala, so that guests can enhance their well-being while travelling across Westin Hotels & Resorts globally. Guests can experience Gear Lending at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, The Westin Yokohama, and The Westin Qingdao, to name a few.
3. What is Marriott International doing on the sustainability front?
Our commitment to sustainability – to preserve, restore, and enhance the communities and environments where we do business – is guided by Marriott’s sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction. In the Maldives specifically, we have implemented a wide array of initiatives that include installing solar panels on-site; growing our own vegetables at semi-automated hydroponic systems; converting seawater into fresh drinking water; and composting food waste. Sustainability is here to stay, and we will continue to identify more ways to reduce our environmental footprint.
Beyond hotel operations, the Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy™ program is an extension of our Serve 360 efforts to make a positive and sustainable impact for our local communities. Four of our hotels in Maldives participate in this program and the experiences range from helping to support traditional Maldivian lacquer craftsmanship with The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort; locate ‘ghost nets’ in the ocean to protect marine life with The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands; and plant coral frames to boost reef biodiversity with Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa and Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa.
4. The Maldives is renowned for its luxurious resorts and breath-taking natural beauty. How does Marriott International distinguish its brands and offerings in this fiercely competitive market, and how does the Maldives fit into Marriott's overall strategy?
Maldives is an oasis for anyone who enjoys clear waters, blue skies and sunshine, so it has always been one of the top international destinations for us. Marriott International offers an incomparable variety of brand experiences through our breadth of portfolio in the Maldives. Being a significant contender in the industry, we possess a collection of 7 resorts encompassing a combined total of 701 rooms. These resorts showcase an assortment of luxury and premium brands such as The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, St. Regis, W Hotels, Le Méridien, Westin, and Sheraton. Over the course of the previous three years, we proudly introduced two unique hotels, namely The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands and Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa.
Each resort has a unique location, brand programming, and tailored guests’ experience for its target audience. From Ambassadors of the Environment program at The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, to a multi-generational retreat at JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa, a luxury escape at W Maldives with one of the best house reefs, a family-friendly stay at Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa, or a wellness retreat at The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, located at a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve site.
As we continue to expand in the Maldives, more employment opportunities are created for the local youth, and loyal members providing even more options to explore and experience.
5. Marriott International has seven hotels in Maldives, how do you make sure each hotel stands for its own positioning and there is no dilution?
Marriott Bonvoy’s portfolio of resorts in the Maldives ensure that each of the seven hotels maintain their unique brand positioning through distinct programming and bringing to life the brand pillars.
The Ritz-Carlton Maldives, Fari Islands, for example, is iconic for its minimalistic architecture that is rooted in the shape of a circle that also represents the resort’s circle of island life with immersive cultural activities and is known for their legendary service that is highly personalised. Luxury lifestyle brand, W Hotels brings its style and vibrant energy to Maldives through its passion programming such as the collaboration with Cercle, hosting an unforgettable live concert at Gaathafushi—the private castaway island at W Maldives.
The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort caters to wellness retreats and offers daily activities and programs related to its pillars of wellbeing – Eat Well, Sleep Well, Move Well, Feel Well, Play Well, while Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa offers chic European experiences such as “Au Soleil”, a brand program that encourages a summer state of mind and for travellers to savour the good life. Additionally, Marriott Bonvoy offers exclusive benefits and unique experiences to members, further enhancing the differentiation between the brands.
6. Lastly, what advice would you offer to someone who is starting a career in brand marketing and management in the hospitality sector, and what abilities and characteristics do you believe are necessary for success in this field?
- Don’t be afraid to take the first step to learn new things.
- Be humble, listen and ask questions.
- Take a professional course in branding, marketing or PR. This will ground you with the principles, logic, and the ever-evolving jargons used by the gurus in marketing & PR. You must be diligent and creative if you want to be in this field.
- Lastly, the creatives, the brand languages, the programming experiences we provide to our guests often look stylish and so fluent. You need to know that it takes a lot of hard work to make something simple and flawless.
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