That's especially true now at JW Marriott, which on Monday
announced the launch of the Family by JW program, a series of experiences and
personal touches for children ages 5 to 12 and their parents.
"We're looking at how do we make our experiences, how
do we make the design of our hotels actually even better for that type of
travel, and making it be the place that people want to choose because they
accommodate families," said Mitzi Gaskins, JW Marriott's global brand
leader, at this past weekend's launch event at the Essex House in New York.
The initiative consists of exclusive on-property
experiences, such as hands-on cooking classes with hotel chefs and off-property
outings in conjunction with JW Marriott partners. The Essex House launch
weekend, for example, included a pizza-making party with Essex House executive
chef Andrew Burriesci and a pre-opening tour of the interactive and
kid-friendly exhibits at the Guggenheim Museum.
Such activities will vary across the 80-plus JW Marriott
hotels around the world.
"There's all kinds of different activities, whether it's
on the beach or whether it's culinary inspired," Gaskins said. "We
leave that up to the hotels."
For example, at the JW Marriott San Antonio, she said, an
experience might entail a close encounter with snakes and sloths.
The personal touches start upon check-in, when kids receive
an explorer's journal featuring the Family by JW mascots, Billy and Allie, who
are named after JW Marriott founders J. Willard and Alice Marriott. Gaskins
said the program honors and was inspired by the Marriotts.
J. Willard Marriott, she said, "welcomed all kinds of
people into his house, whether it was a doorman or the president of the United
States. He treated everybody exactly the same."
So, following his example, JW Marriott seeks to treat
traveling families, well, like family.
"This is a brand that really is leaning in a lot to
family and multigenerational travel," Gaskins said.
Gaskins explained that a hotel such as the Essex House,
which is centered on business travel during the week, could effectively pivot
to focus on family travel on the weekends. Other JW Marriott properties, she
said, already have a "ton of family travel," including Los Cabos in
Mexico and Camelback and Desert Ridge in Arizona. The upcoming JW Marriott
Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort will be near all the Disney theme parks, Gaskins
Business-focus notwithstanding, the guestrooms at the Essex
House, which underwent renovation in fall 2017, are ideally suited for
rambunctious little kids. The elegant, comfy suites decorated in muted tones
are homey, and the rooms are supremely quiet, a boon for neighboring guests.
The staff at the Essex House was also very responsive to families' needs, and
members routinely engaged the children in conversation, eliciting shy smiles,
and ensured their needs were being met.
In their guestrooms, families can expect welcoming touches
and surprises to delight the little ones. At Essex House, pint-size travelers
were welcomed by a toy fire pit and camper tent. And parents were pleased to
see a sink step stool by Bloom Baby and kids' robes and slippers to match their
own. Bloom Baby also provided the book "Letters From New York," to help
bedtime go down a bit more smoothly.
An in-room family-style dinner of oven-roasted organic chicken with rainbow veggies and mashed potatoes at the JW Marriott Essex House. Photo Credit: Hector Fadraga
The Family by JW program is divided into three themes:
creativity, activeness and culture. On the creativity front, the travel journal
encourages children to explore their surrounding through both self-guided and collaborative
For the activeness pillar, JW Marriott built upon its
partnership with the Joffrey Ballet to develop the Get Up and Wind Down
routines, a series of in-room, guided exercises and stretches to help the kids
get up and at 'em in the morning and ease into bed in the evening. At the Essex
House, one active experience involved a picnic and mapped tour of Central Park
at the hotel's doorstep.
The program will explore the culture theme through meals and
culinary activities from destinations, making the most of the diversity of
locations in the JW Marriott family.
Family by JW puts nutrition in this culture pillar, but it
could be a fourth theme. The highlight of the revamped menu is the new in-room
family dinner. The meals are delivered family-style and guests make up their
own plates, encouraging families to circle around the hearth and eat as they
might at home.
The menu focuses on ingredients from organic farms and
sustainable fisheries, and it offers a guide to nourishment that lists all the
vitamins and nutrients a growing body needs and what menu items offer them.
The program is rolling out at all JW Marriotts in the coming
weeks and months as the hotels develop the activities they will offer.
The developing program will build upon and leverage existing
partnerships, such as with the Guggenheim and Joffrey, while looking to build
additional connections, particularly on the level of individual hotels.
"We'll continue to explore different things as we
continue to evaluate or focus," Gaskins said. "Stay tuned."
The best part for parents (and travel agents with parents
for customers): The program will require no opt-in or additional expense.
Features such as the Joffrey exercises and the bespoke travel journals, along
with surprises such as in-room tents, will be offered by default. For
activities such as the pizza-making party, the hotels will invite guests with
children to participate.
"As long as we know that you have children coming, the
program will be launched that way," Gaskins said.