Exceptional + Marriott

Members of the Exceptional Stays team, including founder and owner Christina Casas (center) and General Manager Meghan Pittenger (right). The local property management company recently became the preferred Telluride partner of Marriott International’s Marriott Homes & Villas. (Courtesy photo)

Exceptional Stays founder and owner Christina Casas discovered Telluride back in 1998, thanks to an American Express rewards program that put the tiny resort town on the Barcelona native’s radar.

Like so many of us, Casas came for a visit and never left. In 2001, she founded Telluride Rentals, rebranding it as Exceptional Stays a few years ago and growing the property management company to where it is today with 28 Telluride-based employees and a portfolio of properties here, in Mexico and in Spain.

In a serendipitous twist, Exceptional Stays recently announced that it has become the preferred Telluride partner of Marriott International.

The collaboration opens up Exceptional Stays’ collection of rental properties to potential visitors, including 130 million-plus members of Marriott’s Bonvoy rewards program, meaning that history may repeat itself with a rewards program member finding and falling in love with Telluride much like Casas did all those years ago.

Serendipity aside, the announcement is a big deal.

Marriott International is one of the largest hotel and hospitality companies in the world with a number of highly regarded hotels under its umbrella.

“You’re talking about a lot of very high-end, luxury brands like Ritz-Carlton and W,” Casas said. “What’s significant is that until us Marriott didn’t have any presence in Telluride.”

Casas explained that Marriott recently entered the curated short-term rental market with subsidiary Marriott Homes & Villas.

“They clearly thought that Telluride was very advantageous, and they decided to come in and partner with us,” she said. “We could not be more honored to have been chosen for this elite program.”

Working with Marriott to bring the partnership from concept to reality, Casas said, was a lengthy, but useful exercise for the Exceptional Stays team.

“To come onboard was a three-month process,” she said, describing weekly calls and regular visits from Marriott. “It’s a very rigorous check, they watch everything we do, what our standards are, what our processes are. They are keeping up the standards for their hotels with their homes and villas as well. It’s been so, so helpful to us and has really taken us to a whole new level.”

Added Exceptional Stays General Manager Meghan Pittenger, “I think it’s been a really validating process. We feel really lucky that we had a business model, properties and team members that Marriott thought were worthy of their brand.”

In the news release announcing the partnership, Marriott Homes & Villas Vice President Jennifer Hsieh said, “We are thrilled to have Exceptional Stays as a partner. ... It is clear with the calibre of Exceptional Stays’ operations and its delivery of an elevated travel experience that their properties are an excellent addition to our portfolio.”

It’s relatively early in the season, but has the new partnership begun to generate reservations for Exceptional Stays?

“Yes, we are seeing traffic,” Casas said. “It’s interesting to us. What happens is that people who book through the Marriott channel, they might be Bonvoy members so they get Bonvoy points when they book a house. They can also use their Bonvoy points. We’ve already had people booking using their points.”

Pittenger said that many of the initial reservations have come from people who are new to the area.

“A lot of people who are booking, it’s their first time in Telluride,” she commented. “It’s really nice to see that we are bringing in new people.”

It’s an element of the collaboration with Marriott that Casas and Pittenger said excites them.

“I think the important thing is that it is really putting Telluride on the radar,” Casas said. “They have a strong marketing arm. They are preparing these eblasts about ‘the best ski destinations’ and they are sending them to Bonvoy members worldwide, so people from other countries are starting to hear what Telluride is about. These are people who may not otherwise have known about Telluride.”

Casas remarked that her satisfaction with the collaboration’s successful start is matched by her love for her job.

“I think that it’s such a privilege to be able to work at a time when our clients are happy because they are on vacation,” she said. “And we get to share our love of Telluride with them. I love sharing Telluride, and to be able to take part in that very happy process of picking your vacation and enjoying your vacation. It’s so satisfying. We get so many thank you notes. It’s amazing.”