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Marketing Research Proposal for Marriott International

Client: Marriott International – 

Background:  Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, LLC is now a subsidiary of Marriott International. Prior to its merger with Marriott, it was one of the world’s largest hotel companies that owned, operated, franchised and managed hotels, resorts, spas, residences, and vacation ownership properties consisting of over 6700 properties in 130 countries. In September 2016, Marriott International announced that it had purchased Starwood Hotels and Resorts for $13.6 billion, creating the world’s largest hotel chain.  Marriott’s current lineup of hotel properties includes: a Luxury brand such as St Regis, JW Marriott, the Ritz, Premium brand such as Sheraton, Marriott, Delta, le Meridien, Westin, Renaissance. Also, a Select brand including Fairfield, Courtyard by Marriott, and Four Points, and finally a Longer stays brand such as Residence Inn, Towneplace suites, and Marriott Executive Apartments.

Starwood Hotels developed a reputation as a brand for both affluent families and small corporate gatherings. Starwood also boasts one of the industry’s leading loyalty programs, Starwood Preferred Guest. Each property manages its own client database, storing data about each guest’s name and address, the dates of their initial and most recent visits, number of people in their last booking, and the amount spent during their last stay. Recently, Marriott’s management team has felt “out of touch” with the British Columbia [BC] market, and are concerned that they may be losing ground to competing properties. Before investing in any new hotel or resort properties in BC, the management team desires accurate information about the province’s economy, the BC hospitality industry, and the current or projected opportunities or threats posed by competitors.

In a recent e-mail, the General Manager for Marriott International explains: “We continually strive to be more proactive, especially in terms of staying ahead of the competition and fostering customer loyalty. First and foremost, our company prefers to compete in the corporate and tour operator markets that book greater than 50 double occupancy rooms per property per day. Furthermore, we need to secure our share of the demand for corporate meeting space bookings of 50 to 150 people over 1 to 3 day periods. Over the course of a year, penetration into these market segments can ensure that our facilities [e.g., guest suites and meeting rooms] operate above the required 65% break-even capacity, regardless of their location.”

In a follow-up conversation, the General Manager writes: “The BC interior, especially the Okanagan valley, is one of the fastest growing areas in BC; yet, we have only four hotels there! We need to evaluate whether there is an opportunity to expand in this region? If so, what type of property should be developed in order to meet the demands and needs of our market segments? And, furthermore, is the market size for these segments sufficient to warrant investing in a new Okanagan property? I suppose this line of questioning leads to further questions: where should it be developed? on the lakeshore, similar to our Westin Bayshore property? or, perhaps, at a mountain resort  [e.g., Big White or SilverStar], like our Whistler properties?”

“As you can see, there are many questions and few clear answers. Before making any decisions, we would like you to prepare a research proposal that details the nature of research to be conducted and your suggestions on how to best proceed with the research plan. The actual research should commence by March 1st, but we will need to finish the project within 6 months, so that the board can evaluate the proposal during our Fall budget meetings.”

Assignment Description

Team: maximum of 4 students

Assignment:  You have been hired to prepare a research proposal for Marriott International Hotels. Begin by identifying the information needs using exploratory research of secondary sources [e.g., websites, trends, and hospitality magazines] and then provide a clearly written problem statement with specific and measurable research objectives. Marriott’s management team also expects you to suggest a research design plan that will yield the information they need to make their expansion decisions. Specifically, what areas of research should be done and how would you proceed?

Remember that this is only a proposal for future research; do not create data collection instruments, such as surveys or questionnaires.

Deliverables for this assignment include:

  • A single-page transmittal cover memo, including your name[s] and student number[s]

Approximately 5 pages, research proposal [plus appendices] that includes:

  • brief industry analysis, highlighting some relevant PEST indicators
  • brief situational analysis [e.g., company SWOT and target market]
  • statement of the research purpose, problem or opportunity
  • 6 to 8 SMART research objectives [numbered RO1, RO2, etc.]
  • recommended research design, including brief descriptions of your sampling plan [who will you ask], data collection [how will you collect data], and analysis [what information will you hope to elicit]
  • project time line: outline the estimated time required to conduct each step of your research design, assuming a start date of January 1st

Additional Information:  Company Overview, Situational Analysis, Industry Analysis 

Here are some suggested Models/Frameworks to help you plan your research and writing:

  • PEST: Environmental analysis of political, economic, socio-cultural, and technological factors
  • 3Cs: Company [SWOT], Competitive [Porter’s Five Forces], and Customer [Demo/Psycho/Geo]
  • 4Ps: Product, Price, Place, Promo/Distribution

You need a general understanding of the company, industry, and competitive environment. While your task is not to research these areas in-depth, you need to establish the nature of research that will help you define and clarify the company’s problems or opportunities. Limit your environmental scan to the key topics in each area. Remember to cite and reference your sources in an APA formatted bibliography.

A recommended approach is to use the Internet and library sources to collect information as to:

  • PEST: what business, economic, socio-cultural, etc. factors might influence success? [Hint: Google topics such as room rates, convention planning, business travel, tourism trends, etc.]
  • SWOT: internal analysis and review of Marriott’s existing BC properties [i.e., standards]
  • Competitive Analysis: what competing companies/properties operate in the Okanagan marketplace and across BC? What are their key strengths and weaknesses?
  • What typical amenities have customers come to expect from Delta, Fairfield and Four Point hotels?
  • Customer Analysis: What is [are] the target market[s]? characteristics? size? buying trends?
  • Marketing Variables: Find information on the 4Ps that are important to Marriott’s customers


Your final assignment submission should contain the following information:

Research Purpose

  • Background: reference key points from your Company Overview and Industry Analysis Management Problem: what does Marriott’s management wish to address through research?

Marketing Research Problem: what should management be addressing through research?

  • For example, “Because x, y, and z, our research purpose is to determine a, b, and c.”
  • Remember: Symptoms identified by management are management problems [i.e., how can I succeed when companies are limiting their convention spending?] Your job is to clarify the marketing research problem [i.e., is their sufficient supply/demand for convention rooms over the next 5 years?]

Research Objectives: define the specific information needed

  • Try to produce 6 to 8 objectives for your research project. Ensure that each objective is stated in SMART terms, so the client knows what outcomes are desired and expected.
    • To determine the average occupancy levels in percent for comparable accommodation over the past three years in the Okanagan region.

Research Design: make sure your design collects the data needed to enable you to answer the marketing research problem and objectives you identified above. Make sure you include a timeline for implementing your proposed research design.

  • Secondary Research: List the URLs and some of the key sources/topics that you have found
  • Primary Research: Define the nature of any primary research you would propose; for instance, type of research, target population and sampling characteristics and size, purpose/rationale

List of References and Appendices

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