Skift Take

Travel brands want to think they have a clear view of where competition is coming from, but it often takes distance to understand the true threats.

On day one of Skift Global Forum 2016 in New York City last month — our biggest gathering yet — Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson described the state of Marriott just four days after it closed its acquisition of former rival Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

The next morning we welcomed Starwood’s former CEO Frits van Paasschen, who ran the company until February of 2015, to speak about both the current environment for hotel brands but also what travel brands can do to better prepare for disruption of their sectors. Speaking, perhaps, to some of the challenges he faced at Starwood, van Paasschen said “The reality is that incumbents always underestimate the strength and power of disruptors. Part of that is cognitive bias, part of that is structural. In these large organizations, they are very focused on doing one thing very well. A lot of people have a vested interest in the world staying the way it was.”

As an outsider (van Paasschen has held top roles at Nike, Coors, and Disney prior to Starwood) and a brand expert, he was able to speak in both broad and specific terms about this disruption and the skills and tools companies need to have in order to get the right insight into where the next threats are coming from.

Read more coverage of Skift Global Forum 2016

At this year’s Skift Global Forum in New York City, travel leaders from around the world gathered for two days of inspiration, information, and conversation for panels such as this as well as solo TED-like talks on the future of travel.

Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2017 events, including our London event in April of 2017.

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Tags: branding, execs, marwood, sgf2016, skift global forum, starwood

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