“Welcome to the center of the universe,” joked Leon Goldberg, complex director of sales and marketing for the New York Marriott Marquis and Sheraton New York Times Square, upon welcoming an intimate group of media to the city last week on a 48-hour trip.
If not the center of the universe, the Marriott Marquis is indeed at the center of Times Square—and the heart of New York City. Showing my age (but sparing you the “m” word), I was at first wishing for the chance to experience a more boutique hotel that plays off the melting pot of cultures in the city. But only a few hours into my stay, I realized the Marquis, which opened in 1985, is everything you want in a big-box hotel—and nothing that you don’t. Here are a few ways the Marquis and two other New York hotels in the Marriott Convention & Resort Network surprised me.
> The sheer size of New York is unmanageable.
This was only my second visit to New York, and memories of my previous one—a business trip with a former company—include long cab rides, two full days spent trying to get my bearings, and a general feeling of being overwhelmed. Rather than the streets making me “feel brand new,” as Jay Z and Alicia Keys promised, they made me feel quite dirty and lost.
This time was different. With the assistance of the extremely hospitable team at both the Marriott and Sheraton properties, our group—and meeting planners, too—could own a little slice of Times Square. The hotels are only about six blocks, or a 10-minute walk, from each other. Thanks to a program nicknamed “Times Squared” by Goldberg, groups can have room blocks and meeting space in both, allowing participants the chance to get out, earn some steps and explore a little bit, even with jam-packed agendas.
Another way groups can make Times Square their own is renting out one of the dozens of huge video boards that run 24-7. Goldberg says putting the names and faces of award winners on the screen during a conference gala or banquet is a popular option. With this setup, New York City feels a little bit smaller.
> New York is only for large meetings.
Contrary to what some might expect from a 1,965-room hotel, leisure guests make up about 70 percent of the room volume at the Marquis annually. That means 30 percent is group, and of that, 84 percent is meetings of less than 100 rooms. “Small meetings are our bread and butter,” says Goldberg. The same is true at the 1,780-room Sheraton, where Director of Hotel Sales Dan McCarron highlights the hotel’s ability to easily switch layouts of its 60,000 total square feet of meeting space to accommodate small groups. “New York is not always nimble for flipping, but it can be done here at the touch of a button,” says McCarron, referring to the Sheraton’s high-tech Metropolitan Ballroom.