Skift Take

Marriott thinks it can make America(n) towels great again.

At a time when the health of the U.S. economy and job market are being heavily debated in this year’s presidential elections — and one candidate has come under scrutiny for manufacturing branded products for his hotels in China — Marriott International says it is making a patriotic commitment.

The Bethesda, Maryland-based company announced that every towel and bath mat in each of its guest rooms at nearly 3,000 U.S. hotels will soon be made in the U.S., a first for the American hospitality industry.

The pledge to have only “Made in USA” bathroom textiles takes the concept of locally sourced to a national scale, and at no extra cost to Marriott. Marriott’s annual order of 2.6 million bath towels and 4.9 million hand towels from Cincinnati-based Standard Textile will support manufacturing communities in Thomaston, Georgia, and Union, South Carolina, adding a total of 150 new jobs at the company, as well as throughout its supply chain.

Previously, Marriott’s U.S. properties used towels produced in Jordan. The new towels will be made with 100-percent cotton fiber grown in the U.S. Because the new towels don’t have to be shipped overseas in 300 container shipments each year, Marriott estimates this will result in significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions–and shipping costs.

Scott Mitchell, director of design and development for Marriott, says the hotel company approached Standard Textile four years ago with a proposal to use only U.S.-made towels in its U.S. properties, challenging the company to do so without costing Marriott more money than it was already spending in Jordan. While Marriott won’t disclose exactly how much it is spending on the towels, it says technological developments undertaken at Standard Textile’s plants, as well as more efficient procurement of raw materials have made this a cost-neutral initiative.

“It had to be everything U.S. and for it to be cost-neutral,” Mitchell tells Skift. “The elimination of ocean freight is a big component. Utilizing their technology in the new plant and coming up with new ideas and ways to manufacture—from the weaving machines and cutting and sewing—they automated a lot of things. What may take 300 people to do in Jordan they are able to do with 150 people in the U.S.” Because all of the cotton used to make the towels is grown in the U.S. instead of being shipped in from around the world, the cost of yarn is also lower, he adds.

Another thing to note: While all towels will be made by Standard Textile, they will vary in quality according to their respective hotel brands. So, in other words, the Made in USA towel you find at the Courtyard by Marriott won’t be exactly the same as the one you’d use at the JW Marriott.

Mitchell also notes that the textile plant in Jordan that used to manufacture towels for Marriott’s U.S. properties remains in operation. “They took the capacity we were taking up in that plant and they’ve moved that to do other things,” he says.

A Marriott spokesperson also says that this change may take two years or longer to fully roll out nationwide as properties replace their old towels with the new ones.

Going forward, it’s not clear if Marriott will adopt this same sourcing strategy at its hotels in other regions. “At this point this isn’t a huge broad initiative,” Mitchell says. He notes that most of Marriott’s China properties use linens sourced from China, and that the company is looking into local sourcing of textiles and other products in Europe and South America.


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Tags: amenities, marriott

Photo credit: All of Marriott International's bathroom towels will be manufactured in the U.S. from now on. Standard Textile/Marriott International

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