Appearing on the Transforming Travel and Leisure segment of the virtual CNBC Evolve Global Summit, Mark Hoplamazian, CEO, Hyatt Hotels, offered his take on where the travel industry is going, as well as how the company got through the worst of the pandemic.
“It is unambiguous that the resorts are back with a vengeance,” he said. “We are running something like 30% above where we were in 2019 for our U.S. resorts, over the July 4th two-week period. So, really significant improvement, but the overall chain results for that period of time are still in the 90% range of where we were in 2019.”
He said the gap between where the resorts are performing and the overall performance comes from urban areas, primarily cities in the North and gateway cities. “Cities that have a lot of international travel as their guest base over time: New York, Chicago and San Francisco are primary among those,” said Hoplamazian.
He did report signs that business travel is beginning its comeback. “We are seeing, thankfully—and not surprisingly to me, but maybe surprising to a lot of industry followers—even tech companies are talking about having mandatory office day weeks and getting back to work—and importantly getting back to travel,” he said. “Deloitte just made an announcement about bringing people back to the office, but also made a comment about getting back on the road. Most of the bankers, consultants and lawyers that I am talking to are also gearing up to be back on the road.”
But, he said, business travel really won’t really start up again until the fall. “Part of that is this is typically a weaker time for business travel every year but, also, we are not back to the point where there is more of an equilibrium with people having kids back in school and therefore freeing up their time and capacity for travel,” he added.
When asked by moderator Seema Mody, global markets reporter/travel and hospitality specialist, CNBC, what the toughest decision he had to make during the pandemic, Hoplamazian did not hesitate to say that it was having to let go of tens of thousands of people around the world, including shrinking corporate offices around the world by 35%. “By far, the hardest and most painful decision was having to let go of so many colleagues…,” he said. “It was a really deep restructuring that we went through in May of last year and it was excruciating. We as a company have a purpose, which is around caring for people so they can be their best, and we do start with our colleagues. The absolute collapse in travel demand led us to a very necessary but challenging step of having to reduce our workforce and it was very painful.”