Born in Denmark and raised in Spain, Louise's international upbringing and a chance sighting by her dad for a hotel degree program drew her to hospitality. She worked her way up through sales at Marriott, with stints in Barcelona, and London, and the corporate HQ in Maryland, spending a big chunk of her career working on the Ritz Carlton portfolio, where she also became a Certified Culture Ambassador. Now based in Miami, Louise oversees Marriott International's sales and distribution strategy as well as field marketing for hotels based in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America. She chats with us about finding her confidence, learning to lead, and trends she's seeing in some of the hottest hotel markets in the world!
What was your first job?
Waitress at a beach restaurant in Marbella Spain.
What got you into hospitality?
I wanted to be a global citizen, and make the world my home. So I had to find a profession that would allow me to work anywhere. Looked at law, architecture, and interior design. My father saw a small ad in the newspaper for a hotel degree and it seemed to be a perfect fit.
You’ve been working for Marriott for most of your career. How have you risen up the ranks?
I had worked for a competitor brand during most of my university degree to pay for living costs. While still finishing my degree I sent out my resume to the five large hotel companies. My interview with Annie Brooks, at Marriott in London, was memorable and the option of working in Barcelona, Spain was enough to seal the deal. I started in a Global Sales role, then joined The Ritz-Carlton at Hotel Arts Barcelona, leading a large team and it sparked my passion for developing my leadership skills. From there, I left briefly for love and moved to Jordan, left for lack of love, and moved to London where I had a chance to rejoin The Ritz-Carlton in Global Sales. Back in love, I took an MBA and became a certified speaker for The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center as well.
After nine years I decided it was time to explore another continent and moved to the US and it happened to be the very year that Marriott acquired Starwood. That led to many opportunities as my global experience and expertise in luxury and enterprise wise as well as my language skills led me to secure a role leading our Global Sales team in the Caribbean & Latin America. Three years later I was keen to learn more, grow more, and contribute more, and actively started pursuing opportunities. I currently have the privilege of leading our sales and distribution strategy as well as field marketing, for our hotels based in the Caribbean and Latin America as well as our sales teams based in the US and region that focus on these hotels.
Have you had mentors or sponsors that helped you get promoted?
Absolutely and they have been critical to my personal and professional success. I have had a life coach and a business coach for many years, both external to Marriott. My life coach is my worst kept secret! She has now worked with so many friends and colleagues.
My life coach is my worst kept secret! She has now worked with so many friends and colleagues.
Within Marriott, since moving to the US I have certainly learned the value of having mentors and sponsors to help guide and support you. I personally mentor several colleagues both formally and informally depending on their preferences. It is your achievements and reputation that lead you to that next promotion, yet mentors and sponsors help to open doors and prepare you.
What is a challenge you had to overcome and how did you do it?
As a young child, I was incredibly insecure. My parents tried to start me horse riding so that I could find a hobby that I was comfortable with the hope that would give me confidence in the world. Despite falling off daily and crying that I never wanted to ride again, I was always begging my parents to take me back the following day. By 8 I was competing yet had to organize it all by myself, registration, horse transportation, vet, classes, you name it. By 12 I was teaching and the rest is history – I managed to change my personality to what most would now describe as a very outgoing, social, and sometimes even too loud a personality.
Have you ever failed on a project and what did you learn?
I fail nearly every day at a project or task. Yet my personal mantra is to just move forward and take all the rich learnings with me onto the next project. I am an avid learner and dedicate a lot of time to listening to business books, and reading articles on leadership, sales, marketing, digital, business, and current and foreign affairs. I seek to learn in order to share learnings and enhance the performance and knowledge of others. I try my best to lift up those around me by sharing learnings.
What tips would you give to other women on navigating a career in sales & marketing?
Women I mentor often talk about a lack of confidence, yet their track records and achievements show anything but a lack of confidence. Owning your talent, your strengths, and your interests is critical, you will always be best at what you already have a natural talent for. There are as many sales and marketing approaches as there are personalities.
Women I mentor often talk about a lack of confidence, yet their track records and achievements show anything but a lack of confidence. Owning your talent, your strengths, and your interests is critical, you will always be best at what you already have a natural talent for.
Resilience, tenacity, and sales intensity are definitely critical. So is curiosity, interest in learning, and great questioning. And personally, I believe that empathy is a magic wand for women especially. Strategically managing your career is advice I wish I had taken into consideration earlier in my career as well as seeking mentors and coaches outside of my natural environment. Expanding horizons is essential. Taking on challenges and just keeping on moving forward is so vital. We can be such hard judges of ourselves.
How large is your team at Marriott?
Direct reports are 8 yet I have nearly 100 associates above property and 300 Directors of Sales & Marketing at the property level. It is a spectacular team. So resilient and so dynamic. It's an absolute privilege to work with them.
What do you think makes a great leader?
An enabler of their team’s performance. Genuine, empathetic, inspirational, motivational, adaptable, and strategic.
What is your personal philosophy on leadership?
A poet wrote this phrase for me a few years back following a conversation about my purpose, and it sums up my philosophy on leadership :
“the most precious gift is the one that you pass along to an eager hand a stretched wing to now uplift”
How do you balance your life?
As far as family, I don’t have children yet I have nieces and a nephew that I adore and I am very involved in their lives. They live in Spain. My other half lives in London, UK and he is a broadcast journalist, prior to that he was an archeologist. So balance for me is finding time to chat with them given the time difference and most of my vacation time is used to spend time with them and my parents who live in Denmark. I work hard and play hard. I have many hobbies and interests and have learned over time that I am also a better person when I am practicing my hobbies actively as it creates more balance. So I make time for my hobbies in the same way that I make time for business meetings. When traveling I take time to explore the architecture and interior design, culture, and museums of a destination as these are passion points for me.
What are the big trends you are seeing in the Caribbean and Latin America?
It’s the preferred travel destination for most these days and that is an absolute joy to experience. Caribbean, Mexico, and Costa Rica resorts were the first to recover from the pandemic and the customers are now exploring further afield. I am excited for them to visit Peru, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil among others.
Leisure demand is at an all-time high. People are keen to explore bucket list destinations, return to loved destinations and explore new destinations in the region. Our Luxury hotels have seen incredible demand for suites, villas, and residences. The desire and appetite to travel have been ignited and there is a sense of urgency to explore, enhance one's wellbeing, and travel with purpose. Marriott International has more than 300 hotels in 38 countries. We offer a perfect fit with a brand and location for every occasion. Personally, I love gastronomy and we have creative Food & Beverage, fresh takes on authentic flavors presented in delightful ways. The immersive cultural and gastronomic experiences with extraordinary options across our diverse portfolio of luxury, premium and select hotels.
Did you coin the term - GLEISURE? I love that. What other booking pattern shifts are you seeing?
"Gleisure" is the group version of "Bleisure" business + leisure that we already started seeing grow pre-pandemic. Now, what we are seeing is that group attendees have friends or family members travel with them too and they are enjoying the leisure facilities at the hotel while the group attendees spends time in meetings or other. We are also seeing guests arrive earlier or stay longer to enjoy the destination or simply take advantage of working from anywhere, joining the trend of the digital nomads. Times have changed and it's fascinating to see how we are all adapting our travel plans and patterns. I find myself doing the very same thing. I am off to a meeting in Brazil next week and arriving earlier and staying later to enjoy a little more of Sao Paulo and Rio respectively. Late June, my other half is joining me in Mexico while I am at a team meeting. We are blending our lives now more than ever.
What is the trend of “urban leisure”?
The craving to learn and grow, explore bucket list destinations and have more immersive experiences has led to many customers wanting to explore more cities after they have satisfied their craving for beach and crystal blue waters. The interest in culture, gastronomy and nature is leading to more guests exploring options in urban cities. We see this in Mexico City as an example. Mexico City has more museums than any other world capital and the gastronomy is absolutely spectacular and so diverse. You can also visit the Teotihuacan pyramids all within a long weekend and a short flight from the US. It truly is hard to beat.
Talk to us about Marriott moving into the all-inclusive luxury space and also competing with Airbnb on rentals, is Marriott wanting to be everything to everyone? What are the risks of that strategy?
We want to be where our customers want us and our decisions are very much data-driven. Before entering the All-Inclusive segment in 2019 we had done years of research into customer behavior and trends and were ready when the time was right. We knew for example that All-Inclusive was the second most popular vacation type for US adults in 2019 and that 89% of Gen Y wanted to take an All-Inclusive vacation. Today we have 28 All-Inclusive properties located across eight markets (Mexico - Riviera Nayarit & Cancún, Jamaica, Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, St Lucia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Grenada and 3 brands (Autograph Collection, Delta, Westin); we expect to open the Westin Porto Galinhas, Brazil in June 2022, and have some exciting projects in the pipeline, among them a W All-Inclusive in Mexico, a Marriott All-Inclusive in Jamaica, and a Luxury Collection in the Dominican Republic.
After the pandemic, demand for All-Inclusive has been up, just as leisure demand has grown and it is going more upmarket, with more guests seeking an All-Inclusive luxury experience. Hassle-free, convenient vacations are very much in.