Marriott apologizes after listing Taiwan and Tibet as countries in survey

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Marriott International on Thursday apologized for distributing a survey that listed Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries. The Chinese government reportedly blocked Marriott's website in response to the indiscretion.

Also, Marriott said one of its employees "liked" a Twitter post that suggested, incorrectly, that Marriott supported the characterization of Taiwan and Tibet as their own countries.

Marriott said that it took down and adjusted the survey and scoured its websites and apps to ensure that there weren't other cases where Taiwan and Tibet were listed as countries.

"We don't support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and we do not intend in any way to encourage or incite any such people or groups," Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson wrote in a statement on Marriott's website. "We recognize the severity of the situation and sincerely apologize."

The Chinese government reportedly blocked Marriott's website over the incidents. According to CNN, the Chinese government vowed to block both Marriott's websites and apps for a week.

Marriott is trying to avoid alienating a country whose citizens are the biggest spenders on foreign travel. In the third quarter of 2017, Marriott boosted the number of room nights sold to mainland Chinese travelers by almost 20%, Sorenson said on the company's earnings call in November.

Marriott last summer established a joint venture with Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba. The joint venture was designed to enable Marriott to market directly to Alibaba's customers, estimated at 500 million monthly active users. 

Also, China is a crucial market for Marriott's planned hotel growth for its select-service and luxury brands. 

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