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Marriott launches LGBT campaign to shift brand perception

By Michael Finnigan

Mormon businessman Bill Marriott, who transformed his father’s restaurant business into a global lodging company, has put aside the religious values of his church to launch a marketing campaign celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) inclusion. 

Launched this month, the campaign, which features transgender model Geena Rocero and gay basketball player Jason Collins, includes a series of billboards and a dedicated website where customers are invited to share their travel stories on social media using the hashtag #LoveTravels.

The Mormon religion that Marriott and his family belong to is opposed to same sex relationships, and in 2008 the church donated money and resources to a campaign to repeal Californian legislation that legalised gay marriage.

However, Marriott has been vocal in the past about keeping his religious beliefs and business acumen apart. In a 2008 interview with USA Today, he said: “The Bible that I love teaches me about honesty, integrity and unconditional love for all people. But beyond that, I am very careful about separating my personal faith and beliefs from how we run our business."

Kristine Friend, senior director of Marriott’s segment marketing, told reporters that the campaign aimed to “shift perception of our portfolio brand”.

It is not the first measure the hotel chain has made to welcome gay customers. Late last year, it signed up to sponsor the 2014 Gay Games, a sports and cultural event based on inclusion and equality.

According to tourism trade association Out Now, the LGBT tourism industry is expected to exceed $200 billion (€148 billion) in 2014, and LGBT expenditure on travel accounts for approximately 13% of the total global spend.

Marriott Internationl posted revenues of €9.2 billion in 2013 and operates in 72 countries.

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