Last November’s post-election boost in business travel numbers isn’t convincing enough for Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson to believe in a so-called “Trump Bump.”
During a CNBC interview today from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Sorenson was asked if the Trump effect would be meaningful to Marriott’s business.
“I think we would say that [a Trump effect] is not proven yet,” Sorenson said. “We continue to see an economy that’s growing, [in] the U.S. in particularly, albeit at a fairly modest rate. Maybe there are some glimmers of hope, but I think those glimmers aren’t clear enough to overcome your bias. So if you want to come at it and say ‘I believe it’s happening’ you might find a little evidence. But I don’t think the evidence is very powerful yet.”
In November, Sorenson penned an open letter to the President-Elect, urging Trump to “keep the welcome mat out for foreign travelers” and he echoed those sentiments yet again today.
“Of concern to us would be questions around immigration really, and trade, and whether those get communicated in a way that translates into ‘You’re not welcome to come into the United States’ and [we’re seeing] similar trends in Europe,” he said, also referring to Brexit.
It should be noted that individual Marriott International leaders and Marriott family members have, in the past, donated to political action committees that have leaned Republican, and former GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney sits on the company’s board of directors. In 2016, the company’s own political action committee contributed roughly equally to both Democratic and Republican congressional candidates.
Sorenson’s open letter to Trump, as well as his remarks to CNBC seem to suggest he, like other hospitality CEOs, have serious concerns about xenophobic policies that would prove detrimental to the overall travel industry and economy as a whole.
Another concern Sorenson expressed was that of a possible trade war developing between the U.S. and China, given Trump’s remarks and recent decision to speak directly with the President of Taiwan. This was a seeming break from the U.S.’s long-standing “One China” policy.
Well of course, in a trade war, anything can happen, right?” Sorenson said. “And If we’re viewed as an American company, and we are, and if someone wants to do damage to an American company or the American economy, they could impact us.”
He also added, “On the other hand, we have 6,000 hotels. We don’t own more than 20 of them. So every deal we do is with a local partner. Every hotel we have in China is with a Chinese real estate company. So it’s not that simple to look at us and say, ‘You’re an American company and therefore we’re going to penalize you.’ You’d be penalizing the Chinese real estate partner more than us in some respects.”