Marriott's newer initiatives and brands like Homes & Villas may find success during the pandemic, but old-fashioned revenue streams like corporate travel are still a vital factor in a full recovery.
China continues to be Marriott’s market leader in terms of revenue recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
But the world’s largest hotel company also sees global potential in newer business lines like its Homes & Villas short-term rental brand and even a work-from-hotel initiative.
“I think people are really anxious to get out and travel again,” said Stephanie Linnartz, group president at Marriott, on Thursday at Skift Forum Asia held online. “People are really happy to get out of their homes.”
Business is still down roughly 65 percent globally at Marriott, but that’s a significant improvement from the staggering 90 percent decline seen during the worst of the pandemic. The company is performing best in China, where revenue is down only 20 percent from 2019 levels.
Marriott anticipates revenue will be back to pre-pandemic performance sometime next year.
It is a domestic traveler-led recovery in China due to travel restrictions surrounding the virus. While domestic travelers accounted for about 70 percent of the stays in Marriott’s China portfolio pre-pandemic, today it is closer to 95 percent, Linnartz said.
“I do think it’s a good sign of the ability to get back to business and back to life even before there’s a vaccine — as long as you manage the virus in a safe way for people,” she added.
Work-From-Hotel (Or Homes & Villas)
Marriott is focusing on several new initiatives and brands in light of new traveler expectations surrounding the pandemic.
The Work from Anywhere day pass program at certain markets and hotels in the U.S., Asia, and Europe will enable guests to use a Marriott hotel room as an office for the day. The offerings will vary by what branded hotel the guest works from, but they will have access to all the hotel’s amenities for the duration of their stay. Some will even have food and beverage credits, Linnartz said.
The move comes as many brands, from Hyatt to Mandarin Oriental, have launched variations of a work-from-hotel product. Many are focused in the U.S., but Mandarin Oriental’s Working from M.O. program extends to its Asia portfolio.
“The idea is people really want to get out of their homes, have new scenery, and a break,” Linnartz said. “We’re talking to some of our top accounts about experimenting with an option for people to get out of their houses and purchase one of these day passes.”
Marriott also sees further growth opportunities in its Homes & Villas luxury short-term rental brand. While it remains a relatively small part of the greater Marriott empire, Homes & Villas has grown significantly since its launch last year.
The brand began with roughly 2,000 homes and is already up to about 12,000 listed properties, Linnartz said.
The short-term rental business was a hospitality bright spot during the early months of the pandemic, as travelers sought more control around their stay like a home rental. Marriott sees even greater growth potential, as it enforces its own strict brand and safety standards on properties listed on the Homes & Villas platform.
“We’ll continue to grow Homes & Villas very thoughtfully,” Linnartz said. “We want to stay in the premium and luxury space.”
The New Face of Loyalty
Marriott also continues to focus on its Bonvoy loyalty program, which saw north of 40 percent of its new members pre-pandemic come from China. While sign-ups have slowed during the pandemic, Marriott is still working to grow Bonvoy and adjust to a recovery led by leisure travelers over corporate transient ones.
“There are properties in parts of China, including Hong Kong, where we’re seeing hotels full on the weekends because people want to get out and enjoy time with their families and friends,” Linnartz said.
There are a variety of new package offerings for Marriott Bonvoy members inspired by the high level of staycations seen in markets like Asia. Packages include various room discounts or credits toward amenities like the hotel spa.
Bonvoy’s Eat Around Town program even lets members earn points simply by dining out at local participating restaurants — no hotel stay required. But the Marriott team is optimistic members will be back soon enough, earning points the old-fashioned way by checking into a hotel.
“I’m hopeful travel will be back sooner rather than later,” Linnartz said. “We’re in 140 different countries, and we’re going to be ready to welcome them back with open arms.”
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Photo Credit: Marriott continues to see its strongest recovery in China (pictured: the Hong Kong International Commerce Centre, which houses a Ritz-Carlton). Bernard Spragg. NZ / Wikimedia
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