SpringHill Suites: Accommodating the Next Generation of Business Travel

By Loren Nalewanski Vice President & Global Brand Manager, TownePlace Suites & Springhill Suites by Marriott | August 14, 2016

SpringHill Suites is part of the Marriott International family of hotels. The chain, geared toward the upper-moderate lodging segment of the hospitality industry, features all-suite hotels, each offering free hot breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, a fitness center and a 24-hour market.

In 1999, its first fiscal year, there were 34 total SpringHill Suites properties - six managed locations and 28 franchised locations. By 2006 that number increased nearly fivefold, with 153 properties. The 300th SpringHill Suites opening was in May 2013 in New York City. In 2016 the downtown San Diego property opened and was the 3,000th Marriott hotel to open in the select service/extended-stay category. As of 2016 there are more than 350 SpringHill Suites properties throughout North America.

Benedict Cummins, Publisher of HotelExecutive got the opportunity to converse with Loren Nalewanski, Vice President and Global Brand Manager for SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites by Marriott, for an overview of the SpringHill Suites brand and the direction it is taking.

Loren, can you tell us about your background experience in hotel brands, including your tenure with Marriott?

This year marks my 26th year with Marriott International. I started with the company in 1990, a year after graduating from Johnson and Wales University and a year working with Sheraton. I started as a front desk manager trainee with the Courtyard division. I spent the next few years working and learning my way through many different property management positions from coast to coast, including the General Manager role. In 1998, I transitioned from operations into Human Resources, where I was later appointed Vice President of Talent Management and Work Environment for North America. I very much enjoyed my time in this role, and spent a large part of my time establishing the Work Environment Center of Excellence at Marriott, and collaborating on the architecture of the associate engagement strategy in use today for Marriott International. In 2009, I was named Vice President of Global Operations Services where I led the teams responsible for the deployment of all operational programs, products and services, across all luxury, lifestyle and Marriott endorsed brands.

Today, I serve as Vice President and Global Brand Leader of both the TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites brands. With both of these brands being recognized by Forbes as "America's Top Franchises to Buy in 2016", it is no surprise that these are two of the faster growing brands within the Marriott Portfolio. We have a lot of exciting things going on with brand growth, partnerships and new brand-wide programs. I am honored and happy to be where I am within the Marriott family, and am looking forward to the exciting future ahead!

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.