Exclusive: Marriott’s Sean Hunt optimistic about rebound as borders reopen
Australia reopened its international border on Monday after 704 days, a move which marks “the first step in a long process of recovery”, according to Tourism Accommodation Australia.
With occupancy rates in Sydney and Melbourne around 30% and a staffing crisis hampering the industry, TAA Managing Director Michael Johnson said: “It will be several years before we get back to pre-COVID levels of trade”.
But Marriott International Area Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Vice President Sean Hunt says there is a sense of optimism in the air.
“Even if it will take time [for the industry] to rebuild we had 27 flights in the city of Sydney [on Monday] just in case, and I expect that to grow quickly,” Hunt said. SM exclusively.
“We are very optimistic for the future.”
Growth in leisure and business bookings
Marriott’s national leisure-focused strategy, which has seen the company invest in major events such as the Australian Open and Mardi Gras, has played a major role in its revenue recovery, according to Hunt. .
“These leisure activations have really helped us boost leisure activities, especially on weekends,” he said.
But with bookings up, Marriott is also seeing renewed interest from business travelers, an area that has been slower to recover nationally.
“We’re seeing signs of life across the business spectrum,” Hunt said.
“We are recovering, week after week, thousands of corporate nights, again, from a very low base, but we have seen leisure activities come in droves during school holidays, weekends, staycation-type visits.”
And it’s not just domestic business that’s growing fast.
“We are seeing traditional markets, for us it’s the US, UK and Singapore, showing strong signs of wanting to come back to Australia,” Hunt said.
26 hotels in preparation for Marriott
Marriott signed 21 new hotels in Asia-Pacific in the past 18 months, according to Hunt, and opened four in Australia in the past 12 months, including W Melbourne, Courtyard by Marriott Brisbane, Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands and The Tasman, a Luxury Collection hotel in Hobart.
“Just this month we have two new openings in Melbourne, the AC by Marriott hotel and the Courtyard by Marriott Melbourne,” said Hunt. “For the remainder of 2022, we have The Meridian in Melbourne, The Ritz Carlton Melbourne and The W Sydney to name a few, along with 26 other hotels in the pipeline.
“It tells me that despite the tumultuous two years we’ve had, investors continue to see that the hospitality sector has an asset class with very strong medium to long-term play.”
Attract and retain top talent
One of the main challenges that the pandemic, and the resulting border closures, has presented to the hospitality industry is the continued shortage of staff and skills.
Marriott has developed a talent acquisition and retention plan that focuses on recruiting and developing “non-traditional talent.”
“We are looking at diversity and inclusion, senior members of the community who would like to return to the workforce, perhaps part-time and on a flexible basis, and we also look forward to welcoming returning students and backpackers,” Hunt said.
“Federal government initiatives on this are extremely important because the reality is that we need these people to staff our properties and the industry in general, not just Marriott.”
Storytelling is a key part of Marriott’s recruiting strategy, to show people how they can grow with the company over time to reach high-level positions.
“People like me who started in the kitchen and then became Regional Vice President of Marriott, there are a lot of these stories. 95% of GMs [in Australia] are grown at home. They started in basic positions and worked their way up to the top spot in the hotel,” Hunt said.
“I think it’s really important because it shows people there is a way.”