Interview of Satya Anand, President EMEA of Marriott International and President of the Hospitality Awards 2021 by Hospitality ON on November 30th at The Westin Paris Vendôme.
What do you foresee for the hospitality industry in 2022?
I recollect in May 2020 that 85 or 90 of our hotels were closed. That was devastating for our associates, for our customers and hugely impactful for our owners. So having said that we have come long ways and I think our path to recovery while difficult and bumpy at times as we have seen will continue to make great progress. So, I’m very optimistic about the future.
What trends or market shifts will stick with us through the next decade?
I think travel has become a lot more purposeful than it was before, people are more deliberate about where they travel, how they travel and why they travel. Clearly the leisure side of the business has picked up much faster, that's where most of the travel is happening. It is not surprising. The other factor which I think is coming as a result of COVID is this combination of business and pleasure, what we call “Bleasure”. People are now using this opportunity particularly since technology has evolved so significantly that you can go on a leisure break and then continue your work or vice versa. So, we're increasingly seeing that coming through in the stays in the future. Probably the last point that I would make is that people are a lot more conscious about the environment.
What innovations do you think will generate the best value for operators, owners, or guests?
While digitalization was always part of something that the hospitality industry was doing just in the last couple of years that has progressed significantly and that is going to be an impact that is going to be lasting for a long time. Just to give you give a little bit of an example, contactless travel, the ability to check in and check out on your iPhone or on your mobile device, the fact that you can communicate with the hotels not necessarily by picking up the phone and calling the front desk, you can use chats. Those are huge shifts that will remain in the future as we move along.
How has the way we work changed?
One of the challenges that the industry faced in the past is that we were not fast enough to adapt technology in our businesses. I think COVID has clearly put that right in the focus, we don't have a choice and we have to evolve and adapt and to be able to do that, we have to use digital technology. As part of the Hospitality Awards, I have seen some of the presentations that are being made and some of them are very small and hugely impactful but there are others that can be scaled to be utilized across the hospitality industry. So, I’m really looking forward to some of these things coming out this evening (editor's note: the Hospitality Awards ceremony on November 30th, 2021) and ultimately, it's going to be a combination of several of these things which will help drive our industry forward. One thing I will say, we must be agile and quick. We have seen in the past; we cannot sit back and wait. We have to be adaptable very quickly as things change and that requires courage to be able to make those changes. It's always easy to sit back and say all right things are going well so we can sit back. We can't. We have to make the changes and we have to make a huge effort to continue to move in this direction, opening ourselves up to new customers, opening ourselves to associates and also making sure that we are doing the right thing for our community that we live and work in.
Do you feel the resort business is really different, and if so, how? (services, guest behaviour…)
Typically, a resort must have a lot more programming and these programming includes not only facilities for food and beverage but also entertainment, health and spa, sports. All those things combined make a difference. So, as we think about resort development, we need to be very thoughtful about it, because the guest expectation when they go to resort is very high. This is their hard-earned money in many cases, they want to have the time to spend with their family, they want to relax and have a good time. In an urban hotel typically, the points of contact could be at check-in, it could be short concierge services or maybe have a breakfast but at a resort you are spending a lot of time directly at the hotel itself and the interaction with the guest from an associate perspective is at a much higher level and requires greater attention and personalization which is what our customers are looking for today.
Can you share with us a couple of incoming openings that best reflect Marriott’s current development strategy?
We have opened couple of central Regis in Dubai. These are terrific hotels; one is on the Palm, and one is on downtown. We have opened a few lifestyle hotels, an EDITION in Dubai which is a great lifestyle luxury hotel, I just was there a couple of weeks back. We opened the Reykjavik EDITION, our first luxury hotel in Iceland. In the next couple of weeks, we will be opening the W Rome, which is going to be a terrific hotel, I was there couple of months back touring the site and they were almost finishing up and we should be opening that anytime as we speak, so I look forward to that opening. Some great choice of hotels that we are opening in the near term.
Practically speaking, within Marriott how do you make your operations more sustainable?
I think we have always talked about climate for the past few years but it is clear that it is here to stay. Ignoring it is not an option for us and particularly from our company's perspective. We want to make sure that we are part of the solution going forward and we are very committed to it. We already have 30 percent of our hotels that are LEED or BREEAM certified. Our goal is by 2025 and shortly after that we essentially get all our hotels to be certified in these two important categories. So that's one way of making sure that we are building environmentally friendly hotels. The other part is what are the things that we can do at the hotel level to make sure that we are maximizing the potential. It starts off with something that we had always done is to make sure that we are replacing some of the lights with led lights but also in terms of pure consumables. The other thing which we are also looking at is how do we become energy efficient. How do you build hotels that are energy efficient, but we also can look at retroactively using technology to do that. One technology that really comes into mind is photovoltaic cells. That technology has changed significantly in the past years that was a very expensive proposition but today actually we can introduce photovoltaic cells in many of our hotels and we have already started doing that. We have one in Riyadh. We just did it at Marques de Riscal where we put up photovoltaic cells which are going to conserve a significant portion of electricity that they can regenerate. But it's also about looking at ways to reduce wastage. As you may know from your experience, there is a lot of food that is wasted in the kitchen and on our outlets. So how can you recycle this food to create biofuel which can be fed back into to the community. Those are just some examples of what we can do concretely to move us forward but having said that there's still a long way to go, we need to continue to focus on that.
Any last words?
What I would probably close with this is about my passion for this industry and if I look back at my career and if I look back at the industry as a whole, I believe it is the best industry to work for. We have to continue to beat the drum. Obviously, we have gone through a very difficult time, our associates have felt it, our owners and franchisees have felt it. But I still believe that tourism and hospitality is a great industry to work for. So, I would encourage everybody to be part of that journey as we move forward in a slightly different way, I don't think we can always go back to what we did before but I fundamentally think it's a great industry for people to have a very rewarding career. So, thank you for giving me the opportunity to say that.