Marriott saves a family reunion

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What do a WWII Army Air Force B-24 aviator shot down over Germany and the Marriott hotel in Windsor, Conn., have in common?

The airman is the uncle of David Kazarian of Largo, Fla., who pre-arranged an entire extended family reunion with the hotel including rooms, meals, and meeting room – but miscounted.

More guests showed up than planned.

With the excitement of a once-in-a-lifetime reconnection of scattered loved ones waning from possible disaster, Marriott dug deep to pull it together perfectly.

Our modern and increasingly mobile society is traveling more and staying in one place less. I have memories way older than cell phones and internet (gasp) of extended family members who lived entirely in one community – and that was perfectly fine with them. Sadly, the ones I knew who traveled internationally for the first time did so due to war -– and some had a one-way ticket.

But Kazarian’s uncle, Lieutenant Harry Hintlian of Wilmington, Del., made it back. At 93, he has come way too far to miss out on any reunion.

A Pew Social & Demographic Trends survey reports most Americans have moved to a new community at least once in their lives. The same technology that facilitates family separation also provides us with reunion travel resources including Grouptravel.org – an online portal for pulling off successful family group travel with how-to’s and referrals.

And recognizing the opportunity for bulk hotel savings, HotelPlanner.com offers a one-stop-shop family reunion option to begin the reservation game. Grouptravel.com statistics indicate a potential 77 percent of savings for a two or more night stay at a three-star hotel -– but reserve early, and get attendance numbers right. Forty-two percent of those planning a reunion begin over a year in advance!

I agree with those who may feel society is becoming more impersonal, contributing to less enriching family connections. “I told our family that the only time we get together is when there is a funeral, and we should get together when people are alive rather than looking up from a pine box,” Kazarian noted.

He really made me think (it happens) — and is absolutely correct. When was the last time you hung out with family (you wanted to hang out with, of course) other than an obligatory holiday gathering or a dire circumstance? Months? Years? Why? Will they be around?

“So I got everyone excited and arranged for a family reunion at the Marriott,” Kazarian said. “I included my uncle Harry, cousins from New Jersey, some from Florida, my son and family from Reno, others from Rhode Island, and my daughters living in Connecticut.”

Kazarian means business. And so does Marriott. They even provide a reunion family party hosting guide, as well as an online event management tool.

“I made all the arrangements and carefully counted, but somehow completely forgot to add my daughters and granddaughters,” Kazarian continued. “The Marriott planned for 31 people and more than 40 arrived. It was clearly my screw up.”

Yikes. But Marriott didn’t care.

“The staff were quick on their feet and without any problems, made accommodations for the extra people,” Kazarian went on. “They even made special meals for the children (making them really happy) and looked like the whole thing was planned that way.”

With Marriott so unprepared and under no obligations whatsoever, coming up with spur-of-the-moment rooms and meals within a package arrangement is no easy task, and surely involved a flurry of complex behind-the-scenes juggling of room and food preparation. They clearly cared more about a quality experience for the veteran and his loved ones rather than being technically correct. And in the end isn’t this the kind of customer investment that makes a quality business?

Rather than reflexively affix blame (yes, it happens), we can also help by owning the oversight and sincerely asking for help, giving the front line a chance to do what they do best. You just might be surprised. Last, but not least, never underestimate the power of a thank-you letter. It is not only the right thing to do, but may well increase the likelihood of a similar outcome for the next person to pay it forward.

“It was a spectacular reunion because of the quick thinking people at the Marriott,” Kazarian concluded. “I sent Bill Marriott a letter about how well our reunion went because of the hard working people at that hotel.”

Thank you for also letting us know. And, thank you, Lieutenant Hintlian, for your service to our country.

Andrew Der

Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations

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  • James

    Took me a moment to parse that — it looked like the aviator was shot down over both Germany and a Marriott.

  • scoosdad

    It was great of Mr. Kazarian to express his gratitude for Marriott’s response to his particular problem, but it’s what big hotel chains like Marriott do all the time for groups large and small.

    He had maybe ten extra people show up, but I’ve been involved in large meetings at Marriotts and other large chains where dozens of last minute, unexpected people showed up for a meeting and also looking for a bed and to be fed, and they were. They specialize in handling the unexpected.

  • Bill___A

    That’s a nice outcome. Kudos to those Marriott staff who made it happen and of course we should all be thankful for those who bought and keep our freedom by serving in the military both in wartime and in peacetime.