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

Marriott International Group President – International, Craig Smith, believes Australia is underserved in the luxury market and that new additions to this segment are performing ahead of the game right from opening day.

Speaking via video link from San Diego at the Australian Hotel Industry Conference and Exhibition (AHICE) last week, headline sponsored by Intrust Super and Hostplus, Smith said the company has been working feverishly to get more of its luxury-tiered brands into the Australian market.

In recent years, this has been achieved with the openings of Westin Perth and Ritz-Carlton Perth, which Smith says have both been performing reasonably well throughout the pandemic.

“We really want to see more luxury in Australia,” Smith said.

WATCH: Craig Smith talks growth of luxury brands in Australia

Smith added he believes the new W brand’s forthcoming additions in Melbourne and Sydney will provide a “funky” boost to already vibrant cities. The introduction of these brands around the world, he added, would be a key driver of the company’s growth in Asia-Pacific for years to come.

“The international division will be the growth engine for Marriott for quite a few years.

“There’s continued growth in signings and they’re ahead of last year, so that’s a good sign,” Smith said.

“We are going to have to change some things with travel. We’re going to have to be more aware of cleanliness in the future.”

Smith said he expects intra-Asian travel to reopen “in bubbles” and that it will require significant work from governments across the region to make it happen.

The Ritz-Carlton, Perth opened in late 2019 and continues to perform above expectations, Smith said.

Smith paid tribute to the upper echelons of the Marriott International management for their leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, with senior executives taking tiered pay cuts to ensure as many frontline and operational jobs as possible were retained throughout the network.

This included Marriott International CEO, Arne Sorenson, who has foregone his entire salary this year and encouraged other senior leaders to reduce their pay packets as much as they could. Smith said Sorenson has “humanised everything”.

“You see with a lot of leaders across the world instances where we’re just going to come in and cut jobs. He really takes to heart what has been happening. He really wants to know how everyone is feeling,” Smith said.