Looking back on the construction of Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort

Our CEO and Founder Mark Lawson worked with Marriott Vacation Club International between 1995 and the end of 2000. During that time, he was instrumental to the establishment of the company’s first European vacation ownership projects, including Marriott’s Marbella Beach Resort, consisting of 288 prime beach-side luxury units with an investment value of over $75M and other projects in Mallorca and Paris.

Marriott Disney Project

This was a landmark project and one which Mark looks back on with fond memories, but also one with many challenges to overcome along the way. As part of MDCI’s 24th Anniversary Celebrations, we asked him to look back on this project and pull out lessons which are important for any developer to take on board, before starting a project in Spain.

“Recalling my assignment from Marriott, my first year as their Project Director was an extremely hard landing indeed. Starting with being flown to Orlando Florida from London to be interviewed by 9 executives and given my “orders” and told not to make a mistake “or I’d be dismissed”. However, along with that “incentive”, I was given a wide Power of Attorney to act as needed (a fundamental need for a Project Director as the buck stops with you…). I knew I had an amazing opportunity to be involved in the first Marriott Resort in Europe and was ready for the challenge.

Initially I set about building the team with project managers, cost controllers, planners, engineers, technical architects and ID consultants to be able to create a top-quality product that would meet Marriott international standards in a new market. Then we had to define and budget for this project and get the budgetary approval from the Board in the USA. This was a challenging experience, but a rewarding one and I was looking forward to moving to the next phase.

However, within a short period, the designers initially selected by American executives prior to my arrival began presenting fee invoices out of line with the budget that we had drawn up. Upon further investigation, it transpired that they were forwards “guesstimating” the costs of the project at a rate above the real construction costs budgeted for – and applying their fees to this high base. This clearly could not be allowed to happen, so negotiations to have an interim agreement based on real costs was made. Unfortunately, we later discovered that foundation designs were being over-dimensioned, in an attempt to justify a higher unit price and therefore higher fees. Following further discussions, it was decided enough was enough and in consultation with my direct superior, I moved to change the design team.

Things moved smoothly after this, for a while, but with a project of this scale you know there will be other issues on the horizon!

The next challenge was the fact the builder did not seem to be complying with the contracted programme. Thanks to a very tough contract which I had implemented, this gave rise to the potential for interim fines. We implemented these, but rather cleverly (if I do say so myself) offered them back as an incentive for complying with the agreed targets – which worked!

But, due to poor internal organisation and other warning signs seen along the way, we decided to change the constructor. On this occasion we chose to benefit from contracting several phases at the same unitary price as a result of better than projected sales. This resulted in substantial savings to the budget.

Our Marriott Marbella project became a recognised star in the world of Marriott Resorts and this culminated in a visit by the Chairman of Marriott, opening the project himself and shaking my hand saying the words: “thank you, Mark, for delivering my project on time and under budget- good job!”. That evening we celebrated with him by enjoying a good steak and bottle of Rioja at a nearby Meat Grill.

Despite the sleepless nights and endless stressful technical meetings, the project outcomes were extremely rewarding. To receive a personal thank you from a renowned Chairman of the world’s largest hospitality company and have them shake your hand – there is little better at the end of a hard but highly rewarding job!”

The Vice President, Design and Construction, Marriott Vacation Club International, was also full of praise for Mark’s skill and dedication.

“Mr. Lawson efficiently and diligently recruited and managed the technical team as well as the Design, Engineering, Interior Design, Construction Management and Procurement Consultants, and produced the first phases of the project on schedule and under budget. Mr. Lawson also achieved additional savings of around $2M by implementing a value engineering review process. His project development skills in the Spanish design and construction environment were instrumental in the successful negotiation, proposal, approval and implementation of the multi-million-dollar construction, service and FF&E contracts.

With the services and skills provided by Mr. Lawson, Marriott Vacation Club was able to guarantee a very high-quality product, always achieving the targeted delivery schedule and maintaining the budgeted costs under strict control, resulting in financial benefit to the company.

We have no hesitation in recommending Mr. Mark Lawson based on his commendable performance during his tenure with Marriott Vacation Club International.”


Lessons developers should learn from this project

Mark and his team encountered and overcame many bumps in the road to deliver the project on time and under budget and there are some important lessons which other developers or investors can learn from this.

Put a detailed plan in place and monitor throughout

A detailed plan containing all affecting parameters needs to be drawn up by the project manager from the outset. There then needs to be ongoing monitoring against the plan to ensure that the team get vital “early warning” signals that progress is not going according to plan.

Failure to establish the plan and keep a close eye on it is a key factor in projects being delivered late and over budget (as time=money) and put the viability of the project at risk.

Find out more about our project monitoring and supervision services

Trust in experience

As you can see from this example, there are always challenges, changes and sleepless nights involved with construction projects, which is why you need an experienced and fully independent Project Manager on your side who has seen it all before.

Their experience and local knowledge allows them to anticipate potential problems and prevent them from happening. Plus, their connections enables issues to be quickly resolved and bureaucracy navigated in the best way possible.

Mark and his team have learned from 24 years of experience realizing hundreds of successful projects on time and on budget every time. With that kind of experience in your corner you can have confidence that your project will be a success.

We offer a full range of project management services in Spain. Contact MDCI and see how they can help you today.

Greeting J.W Marriott

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