two marriott voyagers plan boston pride
Courtesy of Katie & Colton

When Colton left the sunny beach of his native Florida to join Marriott’s Voyage Program, he was probably not expecting how far and how fast his moxie would take him. Today — barely a year after graduating from college — Colton works as a Room Operations Voyager at the W Boston, where he has already made an unforgettable mark by deciding (and succeeding!) to make the W Boston one of the Boston Pride Parade’s main sponsors.

Feeling inspired by his previous HR Director, Colton noticed the hotel hadn’t participated in the Boston Pride Parade since 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and felt a strong desire to bring back Marriott’s presence.

“As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it was important to me to reignite this tradition and make a meaningful impact during my Voyage program,” says Colton.

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His team member Katie — who worked as an Event Planner Voyager before recently leaving the company — shared his enthusiasm, and together, they threw themselves into arranging the hotel’s involvement in the Boston Pride Parade again.

“The teamwork and dedication we poured into this project was incredible, and I couldn’t be prouder of what we accomplished!” says Colton.

two marriott voyagers plan boston pride

Courtesy of Katie & Colton

“My motivation comes from a genuine desire to create a more inclusive and equitable society, both within the workplace and the community,” says Katie.

Katie and Colton’s story is the perfect example of how ideas and drive are not only valued at Marriott, but celebrated, no matter your age or level of experience. From meeting with council members, to connecting with nonprofits and even curating special Pride cocktails for the event, these two voyagers felt the confidence, empowerment and support to bring their idea to life.

Can you walk us through some of the key steps you took in organizing and executing the support for Boston Pride at the W Boston?

Colton: One of the key steps was connecting with experienced Pride event organizers within Marriott. We had countless one-on-one meetings and team calls to ask questions and map out our next steps. Next, we reached out to our partners at the organization Boston Pride for the People and collaborated with leaders from the Boston Junior Business Council to arrange our sponsorship. This process involved a whirlwind of coordination and communication, bringing us into conversations with amazing individuals we might never have met otherwise.

Katie: Colton and I spent months planning and organizing this project alongside supportive MI leaders. We received amazing feedback, and we were able to get seven hotels in Boston to provide two complimentary rooms each for the Boston Pride for the People staff which secured Marriott as the official hotel sponsor of the Boston Pride Parade.

We reached out to the HR Directors of each property to assemble a dedicated team to manage various aspects of the event, including logistics day of parade, volunteers for the booth, support within the parade, etc. Another key step we took during the organization of this process was ordering Marriott Bonvoy merchandise: Pride T-Shirts, banners, branded fans, bracelets, flags, and totes.

Colton and I didn’t stop there, because we wanted to get our W Boston hotel guests involved as well. We connected with our amazing Assistant Director of Food and Beverage to curate three special Pride cocktails offered during the entire month of June: the Stonewall cocktail, the Out and Proud, and the Born this Way, which were featured on A dollar of each drink was donated back to Boston Pride for the People in support of the LGTBQ+ community.

two marriott voyagers plan boston pride

Courtesy of Katie & Colton

What were some of the challenges you faced in pitching the idea, and how did you overcome them?

Colton: One of our biggest challenges in pitching the idea was deciding the scale of our involvement. We could either purchase our space in the parade and festival or collaborate with Boston Pride for the People by providing rooms for organizers and headliners, securing our spot as an official sponsor. Since it was our first time organizing an event like this, we were unsure how enthusiastic the Junior Business Council would be about going big. Thankfully, they were incredibly supportive and jumped at the chance to be a sponsor, which fueled our excitement and commitment to making this event unforgettable!

What has been something surprising or unexpected in this process?

Colton: The turnout we experienced was really unexpected! We had heard that in previous years getting people involved had been a real challenge, with lower-than-expected numbers. This year, however, we were blown away by the enthusiasm. So many people signed up ahead of time and showed up on the day of the event that we reached the maximum number of participants allowed to walk in the parade. It was an incredible and unexpected surge of support that filled us with pride to work for Marriott!

two marriott voyagers plan boston pride

Courtesy of Katie & Colton

How did Marriott and the W’s culture contribute to your confidence in pursuing this initiative?

Katie: Marriott and the W’s culture heavily emphasize diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, which significantly contributed to our confidence in pursuing this project. These core values align perfectly with the goals of participating in the Pride Parade, and I knew that advocating for this cause would resonate with our leadership and team members. The W brand’s vibrant and inclusive culture, along with its values of boldness, originality, and inclusivity, reinforced our belief that our team would embrace this opportunity. This inclusive atmosphere and knowing that our company values align with the goals of the Pride Parade gave Colton and I the confidence to push for this initiative. The enthusiastic response we received only confirmed that our culture truly supports and values these principles.

What advice would you give to other associates who want to take similar initiatives in their workplaces?

Colton: Don’t be afraid to dream big! As voyagers, Katie and I initially felt our plans were too ambitious for our roles. However, we were thrilled to find immense support and the freedom to pursue our vision. While we couldn’t bring every idea to life, the experience of going through the process and being part of something much larger than our program was incredibly rewarding. It was worth every minute, and we learned that with passion and determination, even the loftiest goals are within reach!

Katie: For associates looking to initiate similar projects, my advice is simple: go for it. Believe in your ideas and yourself. Start by speaking up for what you’re passionate about and sharing your vision with supportive colleagues or managers who may share your enthusiasm. Emphasize your passion and stay open to feedback. Challenges are opportunities to grow, so embrace them. Celebrate every milestone, no matter how small. Your actions and voice can create real change in your workplace. And don’t hesitate to reach out to myself or Colton for support—we believe in you!

two marriott voyagers plan boston pride

Courtesy of Katie & Colton

What’s next for you in your career?

Katie: For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a deep passion for events and sales. I find joy in building meaningful guest relationships. As I look ahead, I’m excited to continue on this path, pushing boundaries and achieving new milestones in both my career and personal life. Over the next decade, I aim to evolve into the role of Director of Events or explore the discipline of Sales again. My exposure to the University Relations Team during the Voyage Program has left a profound impact on me. I find the work they do in guiding and recruiting young professionals across various regions towards their career goals incredibly inspiring. It’s not just about the professional aspect; it’s also about the personal fulfillment of helping individuals shape their futures.

Colton: During my university years, I pursued a minor in marketing and always found it fascinating. Now, with the Pride project, I had the chance to dive deep into marketing alongside our Director of Marketing, and it turned out to be the most rewarding aspect of the entire process. Working on those tasks ignited a new passion in me. I’m now eager to leverage my experience in Room Operations to carve out a career in marketing, where I can continue promoting Marriott and our hotels! My ultimate aspiration is to join one of our luxury lifestyle brand management teams, shaping brand identities and advancing inclusivity and diversity among our associates.

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