Marriott unveils rehab for 81-year-old Sheraton brand

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Marriott said 25% of Sheraton owners have committed $500 million to the renovations, which will transform lobbies into town square-style gathering areas.
Marriott said 25% of Sheraton owners have committed $500 million to the renovations, which will transform lobbies into town square-style gathering areas.

NEW YORK -- Marriott International on Monday unveiled the latest rehab of the 81-year-old Sheraton brand, which has struggled for decades to maintain consistency and relevancy around the globe.

The company said 25% of Sheraton owners have committed $500 million to the renovations, which will transform the lobbies into town square-style gathering areas with what Marriott calls coffee bar-bars (the coffee bar will transform into a regular bar in the evening), partially open small meeting rooms, communal work spaces with locking drawers, and sound-proof privacy booths where guests can duck in to make quick phone calls.

The guestrooms will be modernized with a focus on larger bathrooms and a desk that can be raised or lowered to function as a sitting or standing work station, even a dining room table.

The renovation is the latest in a string of attempts to upgrade the brand, which Starwood admitted in 2007 it almost gave up on. But the brand constitutes 42% of the portfolio of hotels Marriott acquired when it bought Starwood two years ago and is now Marriott's third-largest brand.

The Sheraton New York Times Square.

With 444 hotels in 72 countries, it is the most global of all of Marriott's 30 brands, said global brand officer Tina Edmundson. But it also is likely its most troubled.

"From the moment we closed the Starwood merger in late 2016, the revitalization of Sheraton has been a top priority for our company," said Arne Sorenson, president and CEO of Marriott International. 

Long known for having a more luxurious product overseas than in the United States, Starwood for nearly a decade worked to upgrade and make the Sheraton brand more consistent globally, including a $4 billion effort in 2008 that included plans for a major purge of subpar hotels.

But those attempts were disjointed, said Julius Robinson, senior vice president and global brand leader at Marriott.

Edmundson said her team traveled the world to meet with Sheraton owners on every continent before finalizing the concept.

"We knew that the way to restore this incredible brand was focus and collaboration with our hotel owners," Sorenson said. "We wanted to build on Sheraton's rich legacy of sitting at the heart of communities across the globe, but also to create a differentiated positioning and compelling proposition for our owners.

"With our Sheraton transformation plan, we've put together all of the pieces of the equation to work cooperatively with our owners to set this iconic brand on a new, disciplined and successful path. We are ready, our vision is clear and the energy is robust for Sheraton."

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