While acknowledging there is still some “heavy lifting” for hoteliers to do, Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano did express “measured optimism” on the current state of the U.S. lodging industry and a potential rebound.
Speaking during last week’s “ALIS 6×8: Recovery Top Of Mind,” Capuano also weighed in on the role of brands in any recovery, current development prospects and how the industry needs to prepare for events like the pandemic moving forward.
The long-time Marriott executive—who took over the reins of the company in February following the death of previous CEO Arne Sorenson—began by explaining his positive outlook.
“I’m optimistic because I look at our data and I see strong week-over-week improvement in demand in many areas of the world. I hear from our customers every day and they are really anxious to get on the road. They’re thoughtful and they’re cautious, but the volume of pent-up demand is pretty extraordinary,” he said.
Capuano was also bullish regarding the company’s development numbers and what that means moving forward. While he acknowledged that for the overall industry the “pace is meaningfully lower than what we saw pre-pandemic” when it comes to new construction projects he credited Marriott’s franchisees for having a long-term outlook and keeping development going.
“The really interesting thing as we look at our pipeline for the last number of quarters is that even with the pandemic raging we’ve seen the number of under-construction rooms globally stay pretty consistent. We’re at about 220,000 rooms under construction, plus or minus, as we sit here today. One of the really encouraging things is that number hasn’t moved much over the last several quarters,” he commented.
Capuano, meanwhile, defined the role of brands in any industry recovery as being “multi-faceted.” He prioritized following CDC guidelines and ensuring consistency for owners when it comes to cleaning and operating protocols while also touting the importance of increasing deal flow throughout the industry.
“At Marriott one of the things we think we can really do is be an enabler of transactions. Transactions drive really important capital into the markets and that’s a role that the brand’s should and can continue to serve as we work our way through the end of the pandemic,” he said.
In conclusion, Capuano offered his perspective on how the industry needs to approach moving forward.
“We’ve got to remain vigilant. I hope and pray there will never be another pandemic, but when you listen to scientists we may live in a world where there are flare-ups of different types of viruses for the rest of our lives. The learnings we’ve had about how to keep guests and associates safe and maintaining that vigilance will be critical. We need to understand that the industry is fluid. The needs of our guests, the needs of owners and the needs of associates will continue to evolve. We’ve got to be flexible and creative to continue to meet those needs,” he concluded.