Marriott’s new CEO Tony Capuano is off to quite a start. Since assuming the role in February he’s flattered China’s authoritarian rulers, declared publicly that hotel workers make too much, and criticized guests for their short-term memory in failing to have greater sympathy for the plight of owners.
Capuano wants to keep as many cost cuts in place as possible. What if the hotel industry gets struck by another crisis? He has a solution to that: taxpayer subsidies. You wouldn’t stay at his hotels, but he wants to make sure you pay for the rooms anyway.
In an interview with Business Traveller he lays out a plan to make sure that hotels get their share of taxpayer loot the way airlines did in the next crisis. He is working with the heads of other hotel chains to make future requests for cash about the employees.
I am talking to Chris Nassetta at Hilton, Mark Hoplamazian at Hyatt and Keith Barr at IHG to build consensus across the big global brand players that we’ve got to use the power of this broad employment base to encourage governments to think and act more deliberately around helping us drive a return in travel and tourism.
What we saw in the US, candidly, was our friends in the airline industry were better coordinated. When you look at some of the aid packages that the US Federal Government offered, it was because the airlines had been through this before, they had a quick and coordinated response, a well-articulated request for support and were quite successful. One of the learnings for me is that the hotel segment of travel and tourism should aspire to have that same level of coordination in the face of a future crisis.
What he misses is that the airline jobs at stake were high paying union jobs, and the solvency of some of the airlines were at stake. Most of the money was captured by the airlines, not the workers, but the unions went along because their goal was to keep American Airlines and United out of Chapter 11 where they might see their contracts rewritten.
Hotels don’t have this confluence. When one hotel or a group of hotels go under, smaller numbers of jobs (that usually pay less) are at risk and broad union contracts across the industry aren’t at the same risk of being re-written.
Capuano also shared his vision that hotels keep reduced services in place into the future, and he wants better technology to communicate clearly with customers which restaurants on property are closed or “are they operating on reduced hours, is the gym open, do you require a reservation.”