Marriott International Area Vice President, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Sean Hunt
Marriott International Area Vice President, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, Sean Hunt

Marriott International Head of Development, Richard Crawford, has been “run off his feet” with inquiries from investors responding positively to the company’s Global Cleanliness Council, says the company’s Area Vice President Australia, New Zealand and Pacific, Sean Hunt.

Speaking to HM this week, Hunt said the company’s revolution in cleaning, hygiene and guest safety had sparked interest among the investment community and was providing an air of confidence which will lead Marriott to set a record year for new signings in 2020.

“Despite COVID-19 being really devastating to our industry, owners and investors are still seeing the hotel space as a viable option for investment,” Hunt said.

“They see it as a median long-term play.”

Marriott International says W Melbourne will shake up the city’s lifestyle and hospitality scene.

Marriott International is gearing up to open eight new hotels in the 2020/21 financial year, including three in Melbourne in the form of W Melbourne, Marriott Melbourne Docklands and Ritz-Carlton Melbourne. A second W will open in Sydney, while Hobart will welcome The Tasman. Together, the new openings will generate 1,500 new permanent operations jobs, boosting local employment in each market.

Further ahead, Marriott’s pipeline includes a further 11 hotels in Australia which will open between 2022 and 2024.

Hunt said that while cities will always be magnets for investment, interest levels among investors for regional centres were leading several Marriott brands towards key growth corridors in new areas such as Western Sydney, Dandenong and outside Perth.

“I think these regional centres will become more and more in vogue,” he said.

The Westin Coolum Resort & Spa will be open to guests within the next year.

“The Westin Coolum will be the only five-star beachfront resort in the whole of the Sunshine Coast. I think domestically it will do incredibly well [among] the markets in the eastern seaboard of Sydney, Melbourne and the drive market of Brisbane. But also, you’ll see international flights on a regular basis out of New Zealand.”

In terms of brands suited to regional centres, Hunt identified Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, Courtyard by Marriott and Aloft by W as excellent fits in these areas. Following on from the 2016 signing of Westin Coolum, the company has signed Courtyard by Marriott Sydney, Auburn and Four Points by Sheraton Sydney, Blacktown – the first time these brands have ventured outside the CBD and fringe areas in Australia.

As one of the first major global brands to reveal its hand in how it was enhancing its already-strict hotel hygiene regime, Hunt said the Marriott International Global Cleanliness Council was now “part of the conversation in everything we do” at present.

“We’ve got more hand sanitising stations at the entrance, front desk, elevators, business centres, meeting spaces etc,” Hunt said.

“We’ve stepped up frequent cleaning and disinfecting, with special focus on high-touch areas like elevator buttons, escalator hand rails, for example. And one of the things we’re doing is electrostatic spraying right across the properties. So that’s electrically charging up a disinfectant solution. It reaches and wraps around and clings to hard surfaces, like a magnet. So electrostatic spraying is the norm now across our properties.

“And on the technology front, over half of our hotels in ANZP, now have keyless check in. And all hotels will be keyless check in or mobile key-ready by early 2021.”

Among its ownership base, Hunt said the response to the new cleanliness standard has been “overwhelmingly supportive”.

“On the hygiene and technology front, our owners have been incredibly supportive. They really see it as Marriott leading the way and Marriott being best in class with their initiatives,” he said.