John Woolley: Visionary Global Leader Crafting Success Stories Across Continents

Known for its commitment to providing guests with enriching experiences, JW Marriott hotels are designed to let guests focus on feeling whole – a respite from the outside world where they can rejuvenate in comfort and luxury. Part of the Marriott International portfolio, JW Marriott is a renowned luxury hotel brand established in 1984, and named in honor of J.W. Marriott, the founder of Marriott Corporation.

Following its first hotel in Washington, D.C., the brand quickly expanded its reach globally, with its first international hotel launching in Hong Kong in 1989. Today, JW Marriott boasts over 100 properties around the world, each offering a blend of modern luxury and refined sophistication with each resort telling a story of its own.

At JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, the unique selling proposition revolves around its captivating narrative and concept. Inspired by the transformation of a colonial 19th-century university, Lamarck University, envisioned by Bill Bensley, the resort offers an immersive and distinctive stay. From guestrooms converted from classrooms to buildings named after school faculty, and a bar reimagined from the Department of Chemistry, every aspect of the property tells a story.

“I’m confident that this innovative approach not only sets us apart from competitors but also creates lasting memories for our guests, establishing us as a standout destination in the competitive market,” says John Woolley, as both the General Manager and Dean of this remarkable university.

Delivering a Wholesome Experience

JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa’s approach begins with thoughtful design and storytelling. Every aspect of the resort transports guests to the enchanting world of Lamarck University. They complement this with a diverse range of activities and offerings that cater to different interests and preferences.

For its younger guests, the resort offers educational and interactive activities such as learning to grow plants at the JW Garden, or Treasure Hunt at Khem Beach. These experiences not only engage children but also foster an appreciation for the surrounding nature.

Adults seeking relaxation and personal enrichment can enjoy tranquil morning yoga sessions or unleash their creativity in workshops like scented candle-making. They also occasionally have “Yoga with the Dean” classes, where John – the Dean, also participates as a facilitator. Interacting with guests during these sessions has highlighted the significance of “fostering meaningful connections”. The Chanterelle Spa by JW provides a sanctuary for rejuvenation and renewal, offering a variety of treatments to uplift the guests’ spirits.

In addition, with shuttle service, the guests can enjoy vibrant entertainment and natural beauty that Phu Quoc island has to offer, boasting several renowned attractions. Sun World Hon Thom offers breathtaking views from its cable car ride and pristine beaches, while the iconic Kiss Bridge provides a romantic setting for visitors to capture unforgettable moments. The mesmerizing Kiss of the Sea Show showcases the beauty of marine life through captivating performances. Vuifest, a colorful festival

celebrates culture, music, and art, creating a truly immersive experience for all who visit. Together, these attractions form a harmonious blend of entertainment and environmental preservation in the stunning backdrop of Phu Quoc island.

The Dean: The Leader

Hailing from the US and spending his childhood on the Island of Jersey in the UK, John’s professional journey began in the late 1980s, working in the breath-taking world of adventure tourism in the Himalayas. During his time in Nepal, John came across a quote that resonates with him to this day: “Life is like a book, if you stay at home, you only get to read one page.” This mantra has inspired him to embrace new opportunities, take a risk or two, and continuously expand his horizons in both his personal and professional life.

For the past 24 years, John has had the privilege to work for the world’s largest hotel chain Marriott International, holding various assignments spanning the Americas, Europe and Asia Pacific. His Marriott career started in “The Big Apple” at the iconic New York Marriott Marquis in the sales discipline. His first international assignment was on the “One Happy Island” of Aruba which then led him to area sales and marketing roles in India, Australia and back to the Caribbean. After launching the European Convention Sales Network, for large MICE focused properties John took on his first General Manager role on “The Island of the Gods” at a magical hotel Courtyard by Marriott Seminyak Resort in Bali.

Then he moved a few kilometres east to the world of luxury hospitality and leading The Ladies & Gentlemen at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali through the pandemic. Currently, John has the honor of being General Manager at JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort and Spa a role that comes with the coveted title of Dean of Lamarck University (finally he gets to use his BA in Modern History!).

Making Work Fun

There’s a profound quote from JW Marriott, founder of Marriott International, that has been John’s guiding principle: “If you take care of your associates, your associates will take care of your guests, and the guests will come back.” It’s a simple yet powerful concept that encapsulates the heart of what the employees do at Marriott. “If you will it’s a Hotelier’s Hypocratic Oath,” quips John.

“We spend so much time at work we must have fun at work and not take ourselves too seriously,” he adds. As GM John introduced called the “OOPS Award”. This tongue and cheek program celebrates managers whose initiative that failed the most spectacularly. Rather than seeing mistakes as failures, they view them as opportunities for empowerment and growth. By recognizing and rewarding these ambitious endeavors, they not only encourage creativity and risk-taking but also cultivate a supportive environment where everyone feels empowered to learn and experiment.

The main challenge for them in Phu Quoc is the lack of international direct flights. To tackle this, they need support from airlines and tourism authorities to establish direct routes from key international hubs. Additionally, investing in marketing efforts to promote Phu Quoc as a destination can help generate demand for these flights.

Balancing Innovation and Tradition

Balancing innovation and tradition in their cuisine and service at JW Marriott Phu Quoc involves

harmonizing the concept of Lamarck University, a 19th-century colonial French university, with the JW Marriott brand playbook. John and his team infuse tradition into their offerings through elements like the JW Garden, where guests can engage with nature and experience the essence of farm-to-table dining, reflecting the university’s focus on sustainability and natural living. Simultaneously, they embrace innovation by introducing unique creations like the Pho Cocktail, which blends traditional Vietnamese flavors with a modern twist, providing guests with an unexpected and memorable experience. “In our service approach, we prioritize delivering luxury while ensuring guests feel comfortable and at home. This balance is achieved by combining the sophistication and high standards of the JW Marriott brand with the warm, welcoming atmosphere inspired by the concept of Lamarck University,” says John.

A Motivated Staff

John keeps the staff motivated to deliver high-quality hospitality experiences through personal engagement and leading by example. He’s regularly on the floor, meeting both guests and associates, to provide immediate feedback and address concerns. JW Marriott’s comprehensive training programs, ongoing coaching, and positive work environment further empower the team to excel in their roles and consistently deliver exceptional service.

To foster a positive work environment, the management has instituted recognition programs like ‘High Note’ and the ‘JW Treatment Card’ for individual acknowledgment, as well as ‘Standing Ovation’ to celebrate associates who consistently go above and beyond, sharing their exceptional contributions across all JW properties globally. “This comprehensive approach not only tackles industry challenges but also ensures our associates feel valued, motivated, and fully aligned with our unwavering commitment to exceptional service and hospitality,” explains John.

Handling Customer Expectation

When it comes to handling customer feedback and complaints, John believes in a personal approach. He ensures to talk to customers directly, actively listening to their concerns. He values every piece of feedback and addresses issues promptly, prioritizing them based on urgency and impact. As most guests enjoy the fabulous breakfast, he uses the Tempus Fugit Restaurant as a forum to touch base with guests. Marriott also provides the staff with an array of tools and metrics to measure guest satisfaction. They use these tools to gain insights into what the customers are telling them, allowing them to identify trends and areas for improvement. “By understanding the majority of our customers’ feedback, we can focus on addressing common pain points and enhancing the overall guest experience,” says John.

Going With the Trends

One trend that John and his team at JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa are particularly focused on is sustainability, which aligns perfectly with their commitment to responsible tourism. They’re continuously exploring ways to integrate sustainability into all aspects of their operations, from reducing single-use plastics to implementing energy-saving measures throughout the resort.

The resort adheres to Marriott International’s Serve360 initiative, which provides guidance for its sustainable operations, ensuring it makes positive impacts on both guests and the planet. At JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay, the team is dedicated to sustainable practices that protect the environment and support local communities. Here are some initiatives they’ve implemented:

Reusable Glass Water Bottles: They used an in-house water system, offering filtered water in reusable glass bottles, reducing single-use plastic waste by over 120,000 bottles annually.

Locally Sourced Food: Their commitment to sustainability extends to their food sourcing practices. For example, the breakfast honey is sourced from Phu Quoc bee farms, promoting local economic growth and biodiversity conservation. They prioritize sourcing other food items locally, supporting nearby farmers, and reducing their carbon footprint.

Good Travel Program: As part of Marriott Bonvoy’s Good Travel program, guests can engage in meaningful travel experiences, such as participating in the coral reef farm. This initiative allows guests to contribute to coral care and restoration efforts, supporting marine conservation while enjoying their stay.

“As part of its sustainability initiatives, we’re excited to announce the upcoming Sustainability Culinary Week, branded as SEAGAN, taking place from June 5 to 10. During this event, we’ll be hosting chefs from our sister properties in the region, including JW Marriott Hanoi, JW Marriott Khao Lak, and JW Marriott Bangkok. This collaboration will showcase the best of sea- and farm-to-table delicacies, as well as innovative plant-based creations,” concludes John.

“Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after having an experience with you becomes your trademark.”

“Our commitment to excellence is recognized through awards like the Best JW Marriott Hotel Award in 2022 from Marriott International, showcasing our dedication to exceptional service and making us a top choice in the market.”