Marriott International, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAR), is tapping into the world’s top influencers to help shape and guide its evolution as a leader in luxury and lifestyle and hospitality. With an eye on identifying key trends and what inspires millennials and next generation travellers, the company hosted its Cultural Game Changers international thought leaders’ forum at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.
The forum was chaired by Bronwyn Cosgrave, best-selling author, curator and cultural commentator, who led an insightful discussion with a broad section of international and regional visionaries in art, design, fashion, film and the media including Dana Farouki, art patron and philanthropist; Kinda Ibrahim, Director of Media Partnerships, Twitter MENA; Danielle Perissi, Head of Documentary & Factual Entertainment and Marketing & Communications at Image Nation Abu Dhabi; Khulood Thani, designer, BINT THANI and Suzanne Trocmé, design expert and editor-at-large for Wallpaper* Magazine.
Also in attendance were creative and cultural leaders and visionaries including Ali Al Sayed, comedian and philanthropist; Anjali Srinivasan, award-winning designer; Aya Mousawi, co-Founder of The Moving Museum; Basel Abbas, artist and winner, with Ruanne Abou-Rahme, of The Abraaj Group Art Prize, Basma Al Bakree, designer; Canda Elgiz, The Elgiz Museum, Istanbul; Coline Milliard, Associate Director Carole/Fletcher Gallery; Khalid Shafar, designer; Ovais Naqvi, Senior Vice President, The Abraaj Group, Rosemin Manji, TV personality and founder luxury management firm RR&CO, and Vilma Jurkute, Director, Alserkal Avenue
This is Marriott International’s second Cultural Game Changers forum and the setting, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, proved to be the springboard for a lively discussion about the shaping of a world-class regional arts and cultural scene which is informed equally by local craft and innovation.
“Bringing together an extraordinary group of big-picture thinkers and creative talents is not only stimulating and challenging, but it is an important part of Marriott International’s commitment to leadership in the next generation luxury and lifestyle space,” explains Tina Edmundson, Global Officer, Luxury & Lifestyle Brands, Marriott International.“Understanding the vision and motivations of those who are shaping today’s global cultural landscape is vital to us, as we evolve in our relationships with the guests and travelers we serve around the world.” [Image: Image, Tina Edmundson, Global Officer, Luxury & Lifestyle Brands, Marriott International.]
“Dubai is a natural choice for Cultural Game Changers. If you look at the vibrancy and the multicultural scene and the energy in the art, film, media and fashion world, it is extremely creative. It is changing the game, which is what Dubai does,” said, Alex Kyriakidis, President & Managing Director, Middle East & Africa, Marriott International. “We are committed to evolving our brands to meet the expectations of our millennial guests, and the ideas shared among these leading influencers at Cultural Game Changers are a great inspiration to us as we craft new travel experiences.”
In the same way that Marriott International is focused on creating authentic, local travel and hotel experiences, Khulood Thani explained how details, technique and telling a story are vital to her design process. Close collaborations across different creative disciplines, especially with architecture have informed and influenced her designs, connected her work to the city, and are key to maintaining a credible brand position. “We are purely inspired from our own city, Dubai, ”said Thani.
Issues of identity for brands and for artists and filmmakers alike arose in discussions about challenges faced in presenting work from the region to an international audience. Danielle Perissi, referring to the ground-breaking social-action documentary films being produced by Image Nation Abu Dhabi, explained how there are pre-conceived expectations about content produced in the region, and how successful co-production partnerships with international studios have assured Image Nation a seat at the table next to leading entertainment players. “Our core remit is to build a generation of filmmakers…we are building an industry,” said Perissi.
Dana Farouki added how contemporary visual artists from the region often resist an association with their origins in favor of adopting an international profile to counter expectations about regional, socio-political motivations in their work.
Kinda Ibrahim reinforced how in MENA, Twitter is “a typical part of everybody’s life on daily basis” and how the company’s mission is “to make Twitter relevant for everybody everywhere.” She noted how in Saudi Arabia, Twitter is entrenched in people’s culture, and has been a game changer in giving users a platform where they can communicate in ways they could not communicate before. For Marriott International, social media is a great mechanism for getting guest feedback and allows the company to engage in a vital one-on-one dialogue with its guests – an invaluable, direct dialogue. “You can’t put a price on it,’’ said Edmundson.
“We gathered a group of individuals who are working at the forefront of contemporary art, design, fashion, film and social media,” adds Cosgrave. “They are creating a new cultural story for the Emirates. There is a cultural revolution happening right now in the UAE and Marriott International brought together some of the key players who are integral in making art, design, films and fashion, which are inspired and produced in the region, yet are world class.”
A first-time Cultural Game Changers partnership with Twitter allowed users around the world to actively participate in real time in the forum by watching it live on Periscope@JWDubaiMarquis and to interact with the Cultural Game Changers Dubai panelists by posting their ideas and questions on Twitter. The partnership is prompted by Twitter having recently opened its Dubai headquarters, which is the first office in the MENA region for the California-based social media company. MENA is one of the fastest-growing markets for Twitter.