Marriott International's Group President - International, Craig Smith.
Marriott International’s Group President – International, Craig Smith.

The nucleus nation of the Coronavirus is also proving to be a key learning resource on how to best emerge from it, say leading Asia Pacific hoteliers.

The comments from Marriott International Group President – International, Craig Smith came as part of this week’s ‘The Recovery Starts Now’ webinar, hosted by HM and sponsored by Intrust Super and Hostplus.

“We’re learning lots of great things from China which we’re applying across the rest of Asia,” Smith said.

“All 400 of our hotels are open. We’ll probably finish this month at 50% occupancy. I don’t know that ever in my career I was happy to see 50% occupancy but these days, it’s a good number.”

Smith added that the prospect of a travel bubble between Greater China, Hong Kong and Macau was a positive sign and that leisure markets were currently expressing months of pent-up demand to travel. Hong Kong has recovered in terms of weekend ‘staycations’ were concerned, with particular emphasis on the F&B sector. He said consumers were adapting to the new normal by adjusting to greater levels of technology at their disposal during a hotel stay.

“Digital is becoming much more important than it was. People want to get rid of touch points but don’t want to get rid of human assistance,” Smith said.

The Marriott Group President said Vietnam was another particularly strong example of how to deal with the virus, as the country locked down its population early and fast, which has helped them emerge faster than some others.

Ovolo CEO, Girish Jhunjhnuwala

Also participating was Ovolo Hotels’ Founder and CEO, Girish Jhunjhnuwala, who said bookings were now outpacing cancellations, the former increasing by about 100 rooms per day.

Despite the uncertain months, Jhunjhnuwala said progress continues to be made on the group’s new properties in Melbourne and Bali, both of which are expected to be ready by the end of October. He said periodic inspections were now being done remotely.

“The one part I really enjoy is the development part of the hotels and sadly, this is the first time I’m having to do this via remote control. My teams in Sydney and Brisbane and me in Hong Kong have to do our site walks with a guy holding a camera so it’s a different way of doing things.

“It has been exciting and we’re looking forward to it, but I do wish I could be there and see it going up first hand,” he added.