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My Time with Marriott and What Inspired Me to Start My Own Company

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

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In my last role at Marriott International as Senior Director, Multicultural Affairs, I was responsible for developing tools and resources for Marriott associates and hotel properties to enhance cultural competencies in order to better serve the company’s broad diversity of guests, vendors, owners, and associates

Who would have thought that a finance nerd with a Marketing degree and acquisition and business development experience would be working in the Cultural Intelligence space? Allow me to share my story with you…

The year was 2008 and our hotels were in a tough economic time. Do you remember the recession?

I needed to make my sales goals, so I started researching my competition and where travelers were staying. I noticed a group of Indian travelers at a nearby hotel. I wanted them to stay at my Marriott Residence Inn property.

I worked closely with the General Manager to showcase cultural amenities and offer cultural experiences and within three months we had exceptional results. Despite having an outdated property and being further away in proximity to the client office, we were still able to attract new clients as we appealed to their cultural needs and desires.

15% increase in Indian clientele - 2,000 room night increase in 3 months

The results were incredible. Occupancy from Indian clientele increased from 15% to 30% in one year as we increased 2,000 room nights in 3 months. Our revenue soared. Once one company came to the hotel, others shifted their business as well as they heard of all the cultural amenities we offered (including Indian breakfast, Indian newspapers, Indian TV stations, Bollywood nights, and educating the staff on Indian culture). Of course, the ethnic food was enticing even for our non-Indian guests! Word of mouth is the biggest marketing tool in this culture. Later on, we adapted this approach for our Chinese guests and other multicultural guests and catered to their cultural needs. This recipe for success is transferable across many ethnicities.

This case study went to Marriott HQ in 2011 and one year later, Corporate created a position on the Multicultural Team and asked me if I could replicate this success for all Marriott hotels. I spearheaded a Culture Day program for the company in 2014. A Culture Day was an innovative program designed to help the market teams be more culturally competent when working with multicultural guests. This one-day presentation provided a deep dive into a chosen culture(s) highlighting business protocols, social protocols, customs, holidays and foods and best practices. The sessions served to assist the hotel teams to reach new business markets of multicultural guests and communities.

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After 14 amazing years with Marriott, I decided to begin my new company in August 2020 during the height of the pandemic. I am looking forward to sharing my passion and knowledge through my new company, Seva Global (pronounced “SAY-vah”), where we will help you grow your business through cultural understanding. My acumen of the business world and cultural intelligence have given me the opportunity to demonstrate how cultural competency leads to business results. This is an essential topic in a world that is becoming increasingly attuned to the importance of inclusion and diversity.

Cultivating Your Understanding:

Take a moment and reflect on something you have done in the entrepreneurial space, whether it be starting your own company, your own non-profit, or something else. What inspired you to do so?

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