How one “like” on Twitter upset Marriott’s business in China

Aka why geopolitics matter

New York Weekend Edition /
Mar.March 04, 2018 12:54 PM

(Credit from back: mkhmarketing/Flickr, Pixabay)

Doing business in China requires knowing the country’s politics and geography as Marriott International learned the hard way.

The incident, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, occurred in early January when Marriott emailed its rewards-program members a survey which asked them to select their country from a list which included Tibet, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan — the first three of which are part of China and the latter, Taiwan, is claimed by Beijing. The insinuation that any of the territories’ independence amounts to “subversion of national sovereignty” under China’s new cybersecurity law which empowers authorities to monitor and respond to offending online content.

“What companies are up against is what we understand to be a legion of young, talented online technicians that scour the internet for compliance issues,” said lawyer and former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China James Zimmerman to the Journal. Marriott’s problematic survey is one such example of the thousands Chinese regulators have flagged since last fall.

But the hotel chain’s issue didn’t end there: the survey sparked a flurry of tweets to boycott Marriott and, amid the storm, a Tibetan separatist group tweeted a “thank you” to the hotel chain for supporting their case for sovereignty and Marriott’s rewards-program Twitter account liked the tweet.

In response, Chinese authorities brought hotel representatives in for questioning and, for one week, the hotel chain had to stop taking online bookings for its 300 hotels in Greater China — Marriott’s largest overseas market. (The hotel chain also fired the social media manager who liked the tweet and terminated their contract with the vendor who prepared the survey.)

The head of the hotel’s Asia-Pacific division, Craig Smith, issued a statement in response to the Journal: “We made a few mistakes in China earlier this year that suggested some associates did not understand or take seriously enough the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Those incidents were mistakes and in no way representative of our views as a company.”

According to the Journal, Delta Air Lines, Zara and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz have similarly run awry of Beijing in online marketing efforts. [WSJ]Erin Hudson


Related Articles

arrow_forward_ios
Seth Weissman, Financing
Urban Standard wants to rescue property owners from high interest rates
Urban Standard wants to rescue property owners from high interest rates
From left: Michael Dell with 25 Water Street, Alex Sapir with 261 Madison Avenue and Marc Holiday with One Madison Avenue (Getty, Edge Funds, Sapir Organization, SL Green)
Office properties (yes, office!) got Manhattan’s biggest December loans
Office properties (yes, office!) got Manhattan’s biggest December loans
Salim Assa with 15 West 55th Street
Troubled Midtown rental saga headed for a foreclosure finale
Troubled Midtown rental saga headed for a foreclosure finale
Atlas Hospitality Brokerage president Alan Reay (Atlas Hospitality Brokerage)
Listen: Inside the looming distress across the hotel market
Listen: Inside the looming distress across the hotel market
Businessman arguing with buildings
The bickering bros: Jemals escalate battle over portfolio
The bickering bros: Jemals escalate battle over portfolio
Vornado Realty Trust chairman Steve Roth and 401 Seventh Avenue (Getty, LoopNet, Vornado Realty Trust)
Vornado eyeing NYC’s casino sweepstakes
Vornado eyeing NYC’s casino sweepstakes
A photo illustration of The Artisan Hotel at 1501 W Sahara Ave in Las Vegas (Getty, LoopNet)
Las Vegas to get its first cannabis-friendly hotel
Las Vegas to get its first cannabis-friendly hotel
A photo illustration of Cineworld's CEO Mooky “Moshe” Greidinger (Getty)
Regal Cinemas to close 39 U.S. theaters following bankruptcy
Regal Cinemas to close 39 U.S. theaters following bankruptcy
arrow_forward_ios

The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

Loading...