With over 8,700 properties and 1.4 million rooms across more than 130 countries, Marriott is undeniably a titan in the hotel and hospitality industry.

A look into Marriott history provides an interesting lesson on the power of knowing your market but also not being afraid to diversify to grow and future-proof your business.

Our team at Business2Community has worked through multiple trusted sources to pull together a comprehensive history of the world’s largest hotel chain.

Read on to find out how Marriott has evolved and grown over the years to become the global brand we know today.

A History of Marriott Hotels – Key Dates

  • In 1927, John Willard Marriott and his wife Alice opened a root beer stand in Washington D.C.
  • Marriott opened its first hotel in 1957: the Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.
  • The company changed its name from Marriott-Hot Shoppes Inc. to Marriott Corporation in 1967.
  • In 1992, Bill Marriott Jr. decided to split the Marriott Corporation into two separate companies: one that would own hotels and another to manage them.
  • With the 2016 acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, Marriott became the world’s largest hotel company.

Key Takeaways

  • Founding and Early Years: Marriott started as a root beer stand in 1927, founded by John and Alice Marriott.
  • First Hotel: The first hotel, Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel, opened in 1957 in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Strategic Growth: Growth through strategic acquisitions, such as the 2016 purchase of Starwood Hotels, making Marriott the largest hotel chain globally.
  • Corporate Structure: In 1992, the company split into two: Host Marriott Corporation (property ownership) and Marriott International (hotel management).
  • Leadership: Anthony Capuano has been CEO since 2021, following the death of Arne Sorenson.
  • Ownership: Marriott family retains a significant ownership stake (15.491%), while institutional shareholders hold the majority (61.26%).
  • Innovative Practices: Introduction of various brands catering to different market segments, from luxury to extended stays.
  • Technological Advancements: Adoption of AI and other technologies to enhance guest experiences and improve operational efficiency.
  • Sustainability: Commitment to eco-friendly practices and community engagement.
  • Resilience: Successful navigation of challenges like the Great Depression, WWII, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Reward Programs: Integration of Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz Carlton Rewards into Marriott Bonvoy.
  • Global Impact: Significant influence on global tourism and local economies, with over 8,700 properties in more than 130 countries.

Who Owns Marriott Hotels?

Marriott Hotels is one of over 30 hotel and timeshare brands owned by Marriott International Inc.

The parent company operates across more than 8,700 locations and boasts more than 1.4 million rooms across its international network. Marriott International is a public company, with 61.26% of shares owned by institutional shareholders such as Vanguard Group Inc., BlackRock Inc., JP Morgan Chase and Co., and State Street Corp.  Nevertheless, the Marriott family still owns a large percentage of the company. John, Richard, and David Marriott own 15.491% of company shares at the time of writing.

Marriott International’s headquarters are in Bethesda, Maryland. The company was founded by John Willard Marriott and his wife Alice Marriott in 1927.

JW and Alice Marriott

Who is the Marriott CEO?

Anthony Capuano has been chief executive officer (CEO) and president of Marriott International since February 2021. He succeeded former President and CEO Arne Sorenson, who died while still in office of pancreatic cancer. Capuano joined Marriott in 1995 after initially being rejected for a role out of college and was heavily involved in the $13 billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

All the Marriott CEOs are listed here:

CEO Tenure
John Willard Marriott 1927-1972
Bill Marriott 1972-2012
Arne Sorensen 2012-2020
Anthony Capuano 2020-Present

Growth and Development of Marriott Hotels

founder John Willard Marriott began his company with a single root beer stand. From this humble start, Marriott has developed and evolved into a powerhouse in the hospitality industry. It’s recognized today as a top employer and often praised for its superior business operations.

Here are the main highlights in the company’s history from the very beginning in 1927 through to the present day.

1927-1957: Hot Shoppes Pave the Way for the Marriott Hotel Business

As newlyweds who had recently moved to the US capital from Utah, John Willard ‘Bill’ Marriott and Alice Marriott opened an A&W root beer stand in Washington D.C. in May 1927. Along with their business partner Hugh Colton, the couple found that cold drinks sold remarkably well during the summer heat but they had to come up with new products to sell during the cooler weather.

They decided to serve food and turned to tacos and tamales, naming their restaurant The Hot Shoppe. By 1928, Bill and Alice had opened their third restaurant and, the following year, they incorporated the business as Hot Shoppes Inc.

Under the Marriotts’ watchful eyes, Hot Shoppes Inc. evolved into a chain of restaurants. The couple were heavily involved in every aspect of the business, with Alice in charge of bookkeeping and Bill overseeing the day-to-day operations.

Hot Shoppe

Even through the Great Depression, Hot Shoppes did well in the Washington area, and, in 1937, Marriott made its first steps out of the restaurant industry. The couple’s food service management business led the way in in-flight catering, preparing boxed meals for several airlines flying out of Hoover Airport. Business was good and, in 1940, the pair opened five new restaurants.

The company also fared well during the Second World War, managing cafeterias at several government buildings across Washington D.C. Marriott was the listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1953 at $10.25 per share.

In 1955, the Marriott family diversified further, providing hospital meals to the Washington Children’s Hospital.

Twin Bridges Motor Hotel

Then, in 1957, the Marriotts opened their first hotel, the Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Over the coming years, Alice and Bill Marriott opened more hotels and continued expanding their chain of Hot Shoppes restaurants at the same time.

1957-1970: Growing the Business Through Smart Acquisitions

By 1964, the company owned 45 Hot Shoppes and four hotels and changed its name to Marriott-Hot Shoppes, Inc. to reflect the new direction.

Bill Marriott Sr. stepped back from running the business, but kept operations in the Marriott family, handing the presidency of the company to his son in 1964. Bill Marriott Jr. was ambitious and had plans to increase the pace of the company’s growth. With his focus initially on the hotel arm of the business, Marriott had almost quadrupled in size by 1970.

Bill Marriott Jr. concentrated on growing the company through both smart acquisitions and the establishment of new businesses. In 1966, Marriott went international for the first time when it acquired an airline catering facility in Venezuela. In 1967, the company acquired the Big Boy restaurant chain of 22 outlets and, the following year, Bill Marriott Jr. launched a fast-food chain called Roy Rogers.

Big Boy Restaurant

In 1969, the company opened its first international property, and its 11th hotel, in Acapulco, Mexico.

It was during this period that the company underwent another name change, this time to Marriott Corporation.

1970-1982: Establishing a Business Model for Growth

During the 1970s, Bill Marriott Jr. worked on modernizing the management structure, dividing the company into three main groups:

  • Food operations
  • In-flight services
  • Hotels and specialty restaurants

The three groups were further broken down into 16 divisions, meaning that Marriott Corporation didn’t depend entirely on any one industry for profits.

Bill Marriott Jr. took over the role of chief executive officer in 1972. He maintained his parents’ commitment to keeping the business under tight family control and was resolutely focused on cost control.

Another area where Bill Marriott Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps was in his approach to labor unions. Both Bill Jr. and his father believed that labor unions helped neither the company nor its staff. He was committed to keeping unions out of the business based on a belief that the company could be more flexible and responsive and that it could offer more attractive staff benefits without union regulations. This was demonstrated through the company’s profit-sharing plan and incentive system.

During this period, Marriott Corporation’s customers were largely more affluent travelers and the company specifically targeted business travelers who were often prepared to pay more for extra quality. Because of this, many hotels also offered meeting rooms and banqueting facilities, a practice that continues to this day.

Marriott Corporation continued to open hotels at pace across the US throughout the 70s, in both cities and suburbs. As the number of people traveling by air grew, Marriott also began to open new hotels near airports.

In 1976, the company also entered the theme park market, opening two Great America theme parks: Six Flags Great America in Illinois, and Great America in Santa Clara, California. These were both eventually sold in 1984.

Theme Park Ride

1982-1988: Understanding the Market and Entering New Sectors

Thanks to careful planning, Marriott Corporation came out of the economically turbulent late 1970s and early 1980s relatively unscathed. The company announced plans to buy back around a third of its stock in 1980. In 1982, Marriott acquired the Gino’s Hamburgers restaurant chain to later be converted to Roy Rogers outlets and an airport food and retail company, Host International. The latter purchase made Marriott the largest operator in the sector.

Marriott Corporation continued to build new hotels during this period. However, Bill Marriott Jr. recognized that the hotel division would be unable to grow at the desired rate if it stayed solely in the upscale market. Marriott embarked on three years of research and planning in 1980 to discover what customers were willing to give up in exchange for cheaper rates.

In 1983, the research led to the launch of Courtyard by Marriott with the first hotels located in St Luis and Atlanta, Georgia. Courtyard hotels didn’t offer the usual Marriott trappings of bellmen, room service, or luxurious conference facilities, but maintained the high-quality rooms the chain was famous for.

courtyard by marriott

The research team also found evidence that suggested potential openings in other segments of the travel accommodation market, including vacation timesharing. Marriott Corporation entered this market with the acquisition of American Resorts Group in 1984, making it the first branded hospitality company to enter the timeshare industry for some years.

Timeshares are almost always bad for the consumer because they end up paying more for less, but they are fantastic for businesses for the exact same reasons.

By 1989, Marriott had four timeshare resorts in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and Orlando, Florida.

Another lightbulb moment for Bill Marriott Jr. was when he realized that the corporation could grow more rapidly if it didn’t own its hotels. From this point, Marriott Corporation had a preference for building hotels to be sold on but managed by the company, driving faster profit growth with minimal risk.

In 1985, Marriott Corporation bought the Howard Johnson Company, immediately selling the hotels to Prime Motor Inns and keeping 350 restaurants. The subsequent acquisition of Saga Corporation in 1986 made Marriott the United States’ biggest food-service management company.

As the company continued to expand its hotel division away from high-end hotels, it entered the luxury extended-stay market with Marriott Suites. The first opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 1987. Later that year Marriott Corporation accelerated its growth in this area with the acquisition of the all-suite hotel chain, Residence Inn Company. The company also began to test the water in the economy hotel sector, with the opening of the first Fairfield Inn in Atlanta.

A Residence Inn

In 1988, Marriott opened its 100th Courtyard hotel in Chicago. By this time, the company had 12 Fairfield Inns and 130 Marriott Suites. Across all its brands, the Marriott Corporation’s business boasted more than 470 hotels.

1988-2000: A Controversial Split Generates Extensive Growth

In 1989, Marriott Corporation announced a significant restructuring of the operation, including the sale of its airline catering and restaurant businesses. It also revealed plans to buy back 10 million shares. The company sold its Roy Rogers restaurants to Hardee’s Food System for $365 million. Marriott In-Flight Services was snapped up by a group of private investors known as Caterair International for around $550 million.

Following the restructure, Marriott Corporation was able to focus on its three key business units of hotels and accommodation, food and services management, and airport food and beverage operations.

Also in 1989, right before the Soviet Union collapsed, Marriott opened its 500th hotel: the Warsaw Marriott in Poland. It was the first hotel in Eastern Europe to be Western-managed and also the tallest hotel in the city, pictured below.

Warsaw Marriott

A 1986 tax law change, however, led Marriott Corporation into a tricky situation. The change significantly reduced real estate tax relief which meant the company’s approach to building hotels to sell on was no longer viable. Not able to make as many sales as he would have wanted, by the early 1990s, Bill Jr. found himself faced with a hefty debt burden which left the business unable to expand.

As a result, in 1992, Bill Marriott Jr. decided to split the Marriott Corporation into two separate companies: one that would own hotels and another that would manage them. In 1993, Host Marriott Corporation was established to own the properties, and Marriott International Inc. was formed to manage the various Marriott hotel brands.

The move was somewhat controversial, with Host Marriott Corporation taking on the majority of the company’s debt. Free from the burden of this debt, Marriott International went on to acquire businesses and launch new brands at an aggressive pace. When it was formed, Marriott International managed around 760 hotels and other accommodations, but, by 1997, the company had added another 600 properties to its portfolio.

Ritz Carlton Vienna

In 1995, Marriott International spent $200 million on 49% of The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, a leading brand in luxury hotels. The launch of Fairfield Suites by Marriott followed in 1996, an all-suite economy hotel brand. In 1997, the company launched Marriott Executive Residences in Europe and the Middle East, specifically targeted at long-stay international business travelers. In the same year, Marriott International also introduced TownePlace Suites by Marriott, another brand aimed at extended stays.

Also in 1997, Marriott International acquired the Renaissance Hotel Group in what was the largest acquisition in the company’s history. This acquisition of 150 hotels in 38 countries doubled Marriott International’s overseas presence and gave it another full-service, luxury collection hotel brand in locations right across the globe.

Taking the firm’s ownership to almost 100%, Marriott International acquired a further 49% stake in Ritz Carlton in 1998.

2000-2024: Marriott Becomes the World’s Largest Hotel Company

Always looking for new opportunities, Marriott International began a partnership with Italian luxury goods designer Bulgari at the start of the 2000s. The first Bulgari Hotel and Resort opened in Milan in 2004 with further hotels planned for Beverly Hills, Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, and Bali.

The joint venture saw the design of the hotels led by Bulgari, with service, sales, marketing, and reservations managed by Marriott’s Ritz Carlton luxury brand team.

Bulgari Hotel

Another partnership with renowned boutique hotelier Ian Schrager came a couple of years later. Edition, a new lifestyle boutique hotel brand, began operations in 2010 with the first hotel in Hawaii. In 2009, Marriott International launched yet another luxury hotel brand, Autograph Collection.

Noticing a gap to serve Millennial travelers, Marriott also launched Moxy Hotels. Designed to be a stylish but affordable brand, the first Moxy Hotel opened in Milan in 2014.

In what Marriott called the start of a new era, the company acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016. This $13 billion purchase made Marriott International the world’s largest hotel company, with over 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms across some 110 countries.

With this acquisition, Marriott opted to combine the various brands’ popular reward schemes for frequent travelers. In 2019, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest, and Ritz Carlton Rewards were merged to create Marriott Bonvoy.

Marriott Bonvoy Advertisement

In 2018, the company began construction of a new headquarters building in downtown Bethesda, Maryland. The building opened in 2022 with the cafeteria called the Hot Shoppe in a proud nod to the company’s roots.

Although groundbreaking with its Polish operations in years gone by, Marriott became embroiled in scandal in the country in 2021. It stood accused of unfair labor practices including systematically underpaying employees, evading taxes, and breaching environmental standards. At the time of writing, the legal proceedings were still outstanding.

There was also a call to boycott the hotel chain due to its decision to host a right-wing extremist group at one of its properties. Moms for Liberty has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “anti-government” and has even quoted Adolf Hitler in its literature in the past. The hashtag #BoycottMarriott was trending X, formerly Twitter, in July 2023 when the group ran an event at a Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia.

What Hotels Does Marriott Own?

As the world’s largest hotel company, Marriott has consistently retained its leading position in the industry by expanding its portfolio. After acquiring Starwood Hotels and Resorts in 2016, Marriott International Inc. covers all segments of the hotel industry from luxury to extended stays.

The company’s global portfolio includes some 30 hotel brands. Broken down by sector, here is a complete list of Marriott Hotel brands:

  • The Ritz-Carlton
  • St. Regis
  • JW Marriott
Distinctive Luxury
  • Ritz-Carlton Reserve
  • The Luxury Collection
  • W Hotels
  • Marriott Hotels
  • Sheraton
  • The Marriott Vacation Clubs
  • Delta Hotels by Marriott
  • Westin
  • Le Méridien
  • Renaissance Hotels
  • Gaylord Hotels
  • Courtyard
  • Four Points
  • SpringHill Suites
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites
  • AC Hotels
  • Aloft Hotels
  • Moxy Hotels
  • Protea Hotels
  • City Express
  • Four Points Express by Sheraton
Longer Stays
  • Residence Inn
  • TownePlace Suites
  • Element Hotels
  • Homes & Villas by Marriott Bonvoy
  • Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy
  • Marriott Executive Apartments
  • Autograph Collection
  • Design Hotels
  • Tribute Portfolio Hotels
  • MGM Collection with Marriott Bonvoy

The most recent Marriott logo has two parallel lines to symbolize its two areas of business: hotels and restaurants. The logo shares some similarities with that of its parent company, specifically the style of the letter M.

Marriott International Inc. however uses a different font and introduces black in place of the emblematic red color.


Historic Logos

  • 1957 – The letter M has been used in the logo since the very beginning. The original red shade was lighter than what we see today and the name was accompanied by a symbol of two narrow triangles which look a little like the wings of a butterfly topped with a small black crown.
  • 1989 – This updated logo is similar to that of Marriott International. It again has the name Marriott in red but also includes a small circle emblem at the top and the words ‘Hotels, Resorts, Suites’ below.
  • 2013 – The most recent logo features a large letter M in dark red with Marriott below in black.

Marriott’s Technological Innovations

Marriott International has been at the forefront of leveraging technology to enhance guest experiences and improve operational efficiency.

The company employs artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline operations, personalize guest interactions, and optimize room pricing. For instance, AI-driven chatbots assist guests with reservations and inquiries, providing instant support and freeing up staff for more complex tasks.

Additionally, Marriott uses data analytics to predict guest preferences and tailor services accordingly, ensuring a more customized and satisfying stay.

These technological advancements not only enhance the guest experience but also drive efficiency and cost savings across Marriott’s extensive portfolio of properties.

Sustainability and Social Responsibility

Marriott is committed to sustainability and social responsibility, implementing various initiatives to reduce its environmental footprint and engage with communities.

The company has set ambitious goals to reduce water and energy consumption, minimize waste, and source sustainable products.

Marriott’s Serve 360 program focuses on 4 pillars:

  1. Nurture Our World;
  2. Sustain Responsible Operations;
  3. Empower Through Opportunity;
  4. Welcome All and Advance Human Rights.

This program aims to support local communities through volunteer efforts, disaster relief, and partnerships with non-profit organizations.

Marriott also emphasizes the importance of diversity and inclusion, striving to create a welcoming environment for guests and employees alike.

Marriott’s Global Impact

As the world’s largest hotel chain, Marriott International has a significant impact on global tourism and local economies.

With over 8,700 properties in more than 130 countries, Marriott plays a pivotal role in shaping travel trends and hospitality standards worldwide. The company’s extensive network supports local businesses, creates jobs, and boosts economic development in various regions.

Marriott’s influence extends beyond hospitality, as it often partners with local governments and organizations to promote sustainable tourism and cultural preservation.

Through its global reach, Marriott continues to set benchmarks for excellence and innovation in the hospitality industry, driving growth and development on an international scale.

The Future of Marriott Hotels

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the global hospitality sector, but Marriott has recovered well. Marriott’s luxury collection hotels appeal to a population that has been largely unscathed by the cost-of-living crises impacting many people across the world.

In 2023, Marriott International’s CEO Anthony Capuano said:

The strength we continue to see in pricing the luxury tier is really encouraging. The wealthy around the world have a ravenous appetite for traveling, and we see that in the performance of our luxury portfolio.

The company is also harnessing the power of the latest technology, such as AI in tourism, to make guest experiences even smoother and improve operational efficiency. Marriott has also launched partnerships with adjacent industries such as transport and insurance to make sure it stays ahead of the game and offers its customers the best experience.

After strong financial results in 2023, Capuano said, “In 2024, we expect another year of solid growth and significant shareholder returns. We expect to return $4.1 billion to $4.3 billion to shareholders after factoring in $500 million to purchase the Sheraton Grand Chicago.”

With all this in mind, it seems that Marriott will continue to thrive and adapt to the changing environment for many years to come.


Where did Marriott hotels start?

Who are Marriott Hotels owned by?

What are the 4 pillars of Marriott?