The return of travel and hospitality – Walker Webcast replay with Marriott’s Stephanie Linnartz
Wednesday, January 13, 2021, Stephanie Linnartz, Marriott’s Group President of Consumer Operations joined the Walker Webcast to discuss the current state of the hospitality industry. This was an excellent webcast with great information and insights regarding the industry and the effects of the pandemic. Here is a link to the replay:
Or, if you prefer, a quick summary of some of the topics discussed:
- The importance of EQ (Emotional Quotient) for management and leadership roles within a company and, more specifically, empathy during BOTH good and bad times. That the willingness to listen to your employees and take care of them is essential because these are the people taking care of the guests.
- Stephanie Linnartz also sits on the board of Home Depot and has an inside perspective on the challenges faced by both a company hit hard by the pandemic (Marriott) and a company that saw tremendous gains during the pandemic (Home Depot).
- The benefit to having many different brands. When Marriott bought Starwood in 2016, they became the largest hotel chain in the world, with 30 brands in 131 countries/ territories around the world. According to Linnartz, having a variety of choices is the strength behind the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.
- They discussed how this pandemic really was their greatest challenges yet, sighting the following statistics:
- 9/11 – RevPAR was down 15%,
- Economic crash in 2008 – RevPAR was down 25%,
- COVID Pandemic (April 2020) – RevPAR was down 85%, with some months of single digit occupancy and 25% of hotels completely shut down
- However slowly, things are coming back. Marriott now has 95% of their hotel open worldwide and 98% of hotels open in North America. The comeback has plateaued since virus numbers have increased during the winter months, but things are still improving.
- China has led the recovery since the pandemic. In fact, some areas of China have recorded leisure travel up above 2019 numbers.
- Marriott, along with other industry experts, doesn’t expect to see US occupancy return to the 2019 level of 66.3% until 2023. However, customer surveys show tremendous pent-up demand. Local / regional leisure travel will return first, and big group meetings will be the last to return (but that won’t happen this year).
- They discussed the importance of Arne Sorenson’s video message and how it was an excellent example of how to effectively communicate crisis management (with honesty and transparency) and most importantly convey a message of hope.
- Linnartz described Marriott’s corporate salary pay cuts of 50% during the pandemic as “completely appropriate”. The way the company responded to the challenges of the pandemic allowed the company’s culture to shine. She shared the example of turning a Marriott call center into a call center supporting unemployment claims, effectively saving 700 jobs and assisting in the pandemic relief.
- World Travel and Tourism Council states that globally there were 121 million jobs lost and according to other sources, North America saw roughly 14 million jobs lost. Linnartz points out that the travel and tourism industry has a high participation of women, minorities and youth. 83 % of businesses in the travel industry are small business, 60% are owned by women. She emphasizes the importance of seeing who has been most impacted by the pandemic because there is potentially years of economic progress lost and governments need to recognize the role the travel and tourism industry plays in growth and how it functions as a mechanism in enhancing quality of life and reducing poverty.
- 2020 presented a chance to do things differently. Linnartz says that Marriott will not sacrifice their standards. The customers will still get a warm welcome and they will be careful not to increase cost pressure on the franchisees. They do see technology playing more of a role in places like mobile check-ins and in creating a more personalized guest experience. Being a large company allows them to invest in technology and innovation.
For more information, please call or email Brian Resendez, CCIM at 503-577-7710 or [email protected].