Michael Wang on Shaping Design with Innovation


Throughout more than two decades with Marriott International, Michael Wang has expanded the portfolio of this globally renowned hotel chain from 16 hotels when he first joined the company in 1997 to over 794 hotels in the continent today, including his strategic involvement in pipeline projects across 23 counties and territories.

Michael Wang

In addition to managing the Global Design Asia Pacific offices including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney and Mumbai to helping support the rapid growth of new development of projects in the continent, Michael also plays a key role working on developing and executing strategies and innovation initiatives to help owners to speed up the design process and save on investment cost. He also steered the Marriott E-Cornell University Certification program for Hotel Planning and Design in 2019. And since 2014, he has been conducting bi-annual “Hotel Design and Planning 101” courses throughout Asia to share his expertise and knowledge about hotel design.

Recently, Michael had a chat with Indonesia Design about his current role, Marriott’s latest innovation, and what sets the hotel chain apart from others in the hospitality industry.

Can you tell us about your role in your current position as senior continent head of Global Design Asia Pacific at Marriott International?I’m in charge of overseeing design and project management-related activities for 24 global brands of Marriott International in the Asia Pacific. I’m also playing a strategic partner role advising the continent leadership team and it is also my responsibility for executing strategies to effectively respond to the changing development and business needs of the brands in the region.

What are the key factors that differentiate Marriott from its counterparts?
As I have previously mentioned, we have 24 brands for owners to choose from with all tiers of hotels, from Select Service to Luxury brands. We also have complete design prototype packages for all of our Select Service brands and for our Sheraton and Westin brands.

I’m very excited about our newly introduced suite of solutions for select service brand portfolio. Leveraging the building information modelling (BIM) platform, the solutions feature an intelligent cloud and 3D reference throughout the life cycle of a project, from early planning through design development to construction and operations. BIM prototypes can create an entire virtual hotel in days instead of the months normally required.

Another advantage of using BIM technology is virtual ‘fly-through tours of a proposed hotel, with visualisations of every design element shown in detail. This allows hotel owners to view in real-time their entire hotel without having to wait for manual design renderings or construction. So, owners can save substantial time and money in building their hotels. This is the first innovation for a hotel operator to take on and we are very proud of it. The Moxy Osaka Shin Umeda in Osaka, Japan, is one such hotel that has successfully utilised Marriott’s proprietary BIM platform.

Speaking of Marriott’s brands, how do you set a standard on each category or brand?
This is a critical process for my team to follow, in order to manage all of our brands and have clear distinctions between each brand, especially after our acquisition of Starwood that brought 11 brands into our portfolio to manage. We have “swim lane” alignment documents for each brand. Currently, Marriott is a family of 30 brands, which are different from each other. This way, we can have a clear distinction for the brands. That’s how we define “swim lane.”

How do you synergise design with operations?
Design is more than just an aesthetic aspect. Design is fundamental in the hotel business, as it creates customers’ first impression and has the impact on guest experience. We customise the design in each brand. With our new BIM platform, customisations to rooms and furniture layouts are now easily editable. To deliver service that exceeds guests’ expectations, the synergy of design and operations is undoubtedly crucial. Our team of operations provides expertise that enables them to run daily operations that are more streamlined, efficient and better aligned.

Please share about Marriott’s IoT (Internet of Things).
We piloted the design of the hotel guestroom that incorporates all of the technologies to make it a smart room. Here, we use voice activation, Alexa, for many key commands and synchronisation with our mobile apps to provide guests with touchless control and personalised services, all at their fingertip.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the design aspects of the Marriott hotel chain?
There are specific initiatives for hotels that are open to meet the social distancing and maximise touchless measures. As far as hotels being designed, we are implementing all touchless technologies for elevators, public toilets and doors. We design spaces that meet social distance recommendations. We also consider the design for when the pandemic is under control and hotels are back to normal seating capacity.

What advice would you like to convey to designers (architects, interior, lighting and landscape designers) in designing hotels?
Great hotel design is meant to draw the guests into space and create a visual narrative that they can remember long after they check out. Design is important for the guests, the brand and the owners.

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Aulia R. Sungkar
Writing has always been his passion and endeavour since his college years in the 1990s at the University of Arizona. Flash forward, the Jakarta-based writer and entrepreneur has contributed hundreds of various writing pieces to esteemed publications and does copywriting projects for corporate clients from many industries.