January 12, 2023
CEO, Marriott International, Inc.
President & CEO, American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA)
As COVID-19 restrictions have continued to ease, the travel and hospitality industries have seen a resurgence in customers. Companies like Marriott have seen percentage increases in revenue and rate, even topping pre-pandemic levels.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 State of American Business event, Chip Rogers, President and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and Tony Capuano, CEO of Marriott International, Inc., sat down for a fireside chat. Read on for their insights on the post-COVID state of the travel industry, a shifting customer base, and the outlook for 2023 and beyond.
2022 Demonstrated the Power and Resilience of Travel
After declines amid the pandemic, 2022 brought about a positive recovery for the travel industry.
“ reminded us of the power and resilience of travel,” said Capuano. “If you look at the forward bookings through the holiday season, [you’ll see] really strong and compelling numbers … so we’re really encouraged.”
“The only caveat I would give you about that optimism is, as you know, the booking windows are much shorter than we’ve seen them in a pre-pandemic world,” he added. “So those trends can change more quickly than we’re accustomed to."
The ‘Regular’ Customer Segments Are Shifting
At the start of pandemic recovery, industry leaders believed leisure travel would lead travel recovery, with business travel closely behind and group travel at a distant third, according to Capuano. While some of those predictions have held, others have shifted.
“Leisure [travel] continues to be exceedingly strong, and group [travel] has surprised to the upside,” he explained. “Business travel is perhaps the tortoise in this ‘Tortoise and the Hare,’ slow-and-steady recovery.”
However, Capuano noted customer segments are becoming less and less strictly defined.
“[There’s] this trend we've seen emerge over the pandemic of blended trip purpose … [where] more and more folks are combining leisure and business travel,” he said. “If this has staying power, I think it’s absolutely a game changer, as we get back to normal business travel and hopefully maintain that leisure travel.”
To accommodate this shifting demand, Marriott has focused on expanding offerings to accommodate both the business and leisure sides of travelers’ trips.
“[We’ve had] a very big focus on [expanding bandwidth], so that if [we’ve] got 300 rooms full of guests on Zoom calls simultaneously, we’ve got the bandwidth to cover it,” Capuano added. “[We’re also] being more thoughtful about fitness, leisure, and food and beverage offerings — and having the flexibility to pivot those offerings as somebody sheds their business suit on Thursday and changes into shorts and flip flops for the weekend.”
2023 Offers Hope for Continued Growth in the Travel and Hospitality Sectors
As the travel and hospitality sectors continue to grow and shift in the post-pandemic era, Capuano shared reasons for optimism in 2023.
“Number one, it's our people,” he emphasized. “When you see their passion, their enthusiasm, their resilience, their creativity, and just how joyful they are to have their hotels full again … it's hard not to be filled with optimism.”
“If you look at how far the industry has come over the last few years,” Capuano continued, “any lingering doubts folks may have had about the resilience of travel — and about the passion that the general public has to explore cities and countries — it's hard not to be excited about the future of our industry.”
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