Coronavirus Pandemic Is ‘Worse Than 9/11’ for Hotel Industry: Marriott CEO

Date: 2020-04-20 21:39:15

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Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson says he never expected a crisis for the hotel business as bad as 9/11 — until the coronavirus pandemic: “This is worse.”

No one knows when the lodging business will bounce back from the social-distancing measures designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but it’s a safe bet that the deadly pandemic will change the experience of staying in a hotel.

Marriott International Inc. is working on new ways to protect guests and hotel workers, Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson said Monday on Bloomberg Television’s Leadership Live. That includes more rigorous cleaning protocols, masked hotel workers, and other methods for keeping people apart.

“I’m hopeful those things aren’t permanent, but instead are about communicating through the operating tools that you can be safe in our hotels, whether you work there or are staying there,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson has spent the better part of two months managing through the worst crisis in the company’s history. The pandemic has shut down travel and hammered the hospitality industry.

Marriott has been forced to close roughly 25% of its 7,300 global hotels, including about 1,000 in the U.S. The company has also furloughed tens of thousands of workers.

What comes next will depend on how long social-distancing measures keep travelers at home and how long it takes after quarantines are lifted for them to hit the road again.

Marriott expects to report that worldwide revenue per available room at its hotels declined 60% in March. Results could still get worse. Hotel occupancy in the U.S. declined to 21% during the week ending April 11.

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