The hospitality industry has suffered when tourism dried up during the pandemic, but as the spread of Covid vaccines continues, Tony Capuano, CEO of Marriott, expects business to rebound.
"With the vaccine widely available, we see pretty strong and steady prospects for demand growth," Capuano told CNBC on Wednesday.
Capuano was recently named CEO of the hotel chain following the death of its former leader Arne Sorenson on February 15th. Sorenson had fought pancreatic cancer.
Capuano has been with Marriott for 25 years and prior to his appointment as CEO was Head of Global Development where he expanded Marriott's portfolio including brands such as Fairfield and Residence Inn. Limited service hotels remain one of Marriott's most successful brands even during the pandemic.
However, Wall Street analysts say the real key for Marriott will be resumption of business travel. Sixty percent of Marriott's bookings in 2019 were from business travelers. As more companies are now adapting to remote workplaces, some industry watchers fear that the trend will forever weigh on the hotel industry, but not Capuano.
He declined to give a schedule of when business trips will seriously return. However, Marriott's customers have told the company that they are "eager to connect with their business partners and customers," Capuano said.
However, vacation travel is likely to lead the recovery, he said.
Marriott is the largest hotelier with 1.4 million rooms worldwide. The average occupancy in the US hotel industry is currently 48%, the highest since October.
Global markets like China are already seeing some recovery as the country quickly adjusted to contain the virus and administer vaccines, he said.
A ray of hope within the journey during the pandemic: vacation homes.
In contrast to other accommodation providers, Marriott made the leap into rental apartments in 2019 and introduced Home & Villas. Capuano said his platform now has 25,000 properties. Rival Airbnb has over 5 million active listings.
"I never expect we'll get anywhere near Airbnb's size," Capuano said.
Airbnb will publish its first quarterly report as a public company on Thursday afternoon. Its stocks have done brilliantly since going public, rising nearly 200% to a market value of more than $ 120.34 billion, more than double that of Marriott.
Marriott stock hit a 52-week high of $ 157.60 on Wednesday, closing 5% at $ 157.50. Marriott has a market value of approximately $ 51.1 billion, up nearly 17% last year.
Not only does Capuano compete against disruptors like Airbnb in the travel industry, but he inherits the difficult task of being compared to Sorenson, who has been deeply respected in the industry and is known as a compassionate leader.