The conversation about staffing and other hotel guest issues “is mostly behind us,” according to Julius Robinson, chief sales and marketing officer, U.S., and Canada for Marriott International, speaking at a media event in New York.
The event was held in conjunction with The Exchange, a conference where Marriott managers meet with top customers in the corporate and association markets.
Julius Robinson, chief sales and marketing officer, U.S., and Canada for Marriott International
Robinson said that most brand standards as far as food and beverage outlets were back to normal in terms of having them open at regular periods. In addition, he said, housekeeping has returned across all the company’s many brands, though it might involve a modified version. That modified version, said Robinson, means a housekeeper might do a “tidying,” refreshing only what’s necessary. He said many guests prefer that housekeepers spend less time in their rooms.
General managers have told the company’s leaders, said Robinson, that in a normal environment a hotel is usually only 90% staffed and now they are back to 80-85% — “and they can work with that.” Luxury brands, said Robinson, have full housekeeping as in the past with premium level properties seeing every day attention and Marriott select (limited service) properties being cleaned every other day. In addition, he said, housekeeping can be customized as per customer preference.
In response to a recent J.D. Power survey showing hotel guest satisfaction declining this year against 2021, Drew Pinto, global officer, global sales, distribution and revenue management, said the time frame of the survey is “lagging” and reflected issues that had been happening months ago. He said there was a period when guests were paying high rates and not getting services and seeing food and beverage outlets closed. He said one strategy Marriott has taken is insuring that members of its Bonvoy loyalty program are treated on property with what he called “elite recognition. “
Pinto said the company is also trying to improve pre-arrival communications so guests will know what to expect when they arrive – for instance, if a restaurant will be closed. He said many team members might not be new to Marriott but might be in new roles. That has meant extensive training for those people that will take some time to show results. In fact, he said, internal guest satisfaction results are already up for the summer.
Technology, said Pinto, will be key to augmenting service levels. Tools like mobile check-in, he said, “will complement what we do at the hotels.” Robinson said the company is encouraging all customers to download the Bonvoy app to enjoy a better experience. He said the tool gives customers options and choices they might not get outside the app.
And, while hotels have avoided much of the negative media that airlines have incurred, high airfares have become an issue in some markets as far as the ability to hold events. Pinto said Marriott is trying to work with customers to overcome that challenge. As far as gas prices, he said the company has not seen much impact on business in drive-to markets like Las Vegas. He said that people have been “sitting in their houses for two years” and want to get back out. The American traveler Robinson said, “is everywhere, with significant increases being seen in Europe.”
Pinto also said, “the power of travel advisors continues.” He said a lot of customers gravitated toward advisors during the pandemic and Marriott has “great relationships” with advisor networks. He said that even as the company’s digital channels have grown rapidly, many customers are going to advisors “and we can see why.” These consumers, said Pinto, have a lot of questions about what’s open, what services are available and more. “There is a unique role for travel advisors,” he said.
And Robinson said that as consumers come back, they are “really looking for bucket list moments, so they are leveraging the power of travel advisors to get the inside scoop.” He said the company has seen many individuals, couples and close friends making investments in lifetime experiences ”and advisors are critical to that.” He said that metrics in internal Marriott programs aimed at the trade are all up, “which shows how important this channel is to our business.”
Overall, said Robinson, “the mood is very exciting.” He said there are still customers skittish about getting out and Marriott has adjusted so it could “bring customers along with it.” As an organization, he said, Marriott has evolved from “it’s safe to go back out” to “how are we adjusting and adapting to a very diverse customer base?”