When Marriott acquired Starwood Hotels, it became the largest hotel company in the world with 30 brands, more than 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms. They span the planet and range from modest accommodations to some of the top luxury hotels in the world. It’s this remarkable diversity which allowed me to cross the US on Route 66 without duplicating a Marriott brand, a fact that still amazes me, and is also why I have been a personal customer since my very first business trip way back in 2000. I work with many different hotel companies and brands, but Marriott holds a very special place in my travel heart and always will, not just for their kind hospitality, but for the width and breadth of their properties around the world. Working on two different projects with Marriott International in recent months, I have had the opportunity to stay with 12 of their brands just this year alone; a great reminder to me about what makes the company so special. One in particular, while not new to me, regained a place in my travel awareness as I was reminded about the subtle luxury offered by JW Marriott Hotels.
Making an Entrance with Hollywood Flair
Walking into the grand lobby of the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE, it’s hard not to feel like a movie star. The massive entranceway isn’t just elegant, but seemingly always a hive of activity, whether it’s guests checking in or others grabbing a bite at the restaurant. My visit in May was the third time staying with this particular JW Marriott property, so while I had an idea of what to expect I also know that every hotel experience is unique. Love it or leave it, but there’s no denying that L.A. LIVE is an exciting place to be. This massive sports and entertainment district surrounds the STAPLES Center and in addition to the sporting events on offer, there are clubs, restaurants, theaters and much more, which is why it’s always such an active place. In the middle of this experience are two Marriott brands, both the JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton, both part of Marriott’s luxury collection. And thanks to its location, the JW Marriott really is like a small city.
At the heart of any great hotel experience though is the room, and every time I’ve been a guest of the JW Marriott I’ve been surprised by the attention to detail. Even so-called “normal” rooms are large and teeming with amenities whether it’s the plush bedding or marble bathrooms. This most recent visit though I was on the Executive Level, the greatest benefit of which is access to the JW Marriott Lounge. While a big fan of hotel lounges, it was my first time visiting one at a JW Marriott. Offering a large and stylish space, it features everything I would expect from sodas and waters always available, along with snacks and heavy hors d’oeuvres at certain times of the day. If given the option, I always book access to these hotel lounges not just for their convenience, but for the value they add. I don’t have to seek out breakfast anywhere and my subtle dependence on caffeinated soft drinks is well sated without having to Google the nearest 7-11 location. I expected luxurious rooms and great food though, what I didn’t expect was to come to appreciate the neighborhood that the JW Marriott calls home.
Downtown LA doesn’t get the respect it deserves; probably due to the number of times it has had to reinvent itself over the decades. Today though it’s once again being revitalized, as I discovered on a fun food walk around the oft-neglected downtown core. Booking the tour through Marriott’s new activities portal, Marriott Moments, I was excited for the immersion into all things Angeleno and I hoped that this time I would actually come to like the city. Over the course of 3 hours, the guide took us not only to tasty restaurants and cafes, but also gorgeous spots hiding in plain sight. Whether it was old art deco theaters or vibrant murals painted on the sides of massive brick buildings, the tour did indeed open my eyes to how much fun downtown LA can be and why it’s the perfect neighborhood for the JW Marriott.
JW Treatment in Austin
As a travel writer, almost everywhere I go some well-meaning public relations representative hands me a flash drive full of fact sheets. To be honest, I’m fairly certain I’ve never actually opened any of these files. Ever. I do though have a large bag full of flash drives in case anyone needs a few. However, while staying at the JW Marriott Austin I heard a phrase that piqued my interest enough that I actually opened those files. The phrase in question was “JW Treatment,” and while I’ve stayed with the brand before it was my first time tripping over the term. In dry bullet points, the company defines it as the belief “that true luxury is created by people who are passionate about what they do.” Seems basic enough and makes perfect sense, but it is also ultimately what I have long described as being at the heart of any amazing luxury experience.
Yes, the JW Marriott Austin also has an incredible lobby, they have 7 bars, 3 restaurants, pool, spa and so forth, but none of that matters without exceptional service. I’ve long said that the trappings of luxury can be purchased, but the soul of luxury has to be earned. Service is a skill that is nurtured and inculcated in staff over time. It can’t be purchased, it simply has to exist. I’ve stayed at some hotels that have been called amongst the best in the world, and while they are pretty to look at their service was terrible. Those weren’t luxury experiences for me because the staff failed on nearly every level. Yes, I had a nice bed and the artwork in the lobby was nice, but none of that matters without the service element, which is what I think JW Treatment is all about.
That level of dedication was seen everywhere throughout my stay in Austin, from always being greeted upon arrival into the hotel, to the kind and friendly staff serving up food and drinks. Whenever I had a question, someone had an answer and a smile and although my stay there was brief, it was memorable. If you stop to think about it that’s unusual in the travel context. I shudder to think just how many different hotels around the world I’ve patronized, but it’s a fairly high number. But how many of those experiences do I really remember? Not many to be honest. In this instance, the JW Marriott accomplished their goal and when you add in luxurious rooms and a city location that frankly can’t be beat, you have THE go-to hotel in Austin. At least in my opinion.
I don’t often write about hotel brands. I write about individual properties and resorts, sure, that’s normal. But I was so struck by what I re-discovered during my recent JW Marriott experiences that I had to share my thoughts on this quietly important luxury brand. I was reminded by just how much fun it is to stay with them. Yes, they’re a luxury brand, but they’re not stuffy, they’re inclusive and welcoming. That means a lot to me when I show up in a fancy lobby wearing shorts and a Weezer t-shirt, and it’s this relaxed comfort that has earned a new convert.