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Marriott International

“Wave of nationalism” worries Marriott CEO

Nationalist policies seen in Europe, the UK, the US and beyond are affecting travel trends, Arne Sorenson says.

Marriott International’s chief executive, Arne Sorenson, is worried about the shift towards closing borders, as seen in the Schengen area, the UK, the US and beyond and the effect such policies may have on travel.

Receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award 2017 at the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin, Sorenson was open in his opinions during an onstage interview with BBC journalist Tanya Beckett, as reported by The Caterer.

Referencing Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and anti-immigration votes in many countries, the head of the world’s biggest hotel company said: “The risk for us in the travel business is that even though travel is different than immigration, if people aren’t careful about the way they talk about it, they seem to be the same issue.”

The need in hospitality, in every country, is to communicate that foreign guests are welcome, he said, adding that Trump’s ban on people travelling to the US from Muslim countries was “not helpful” and sends out the wrong message.

Merger for loyalty
Speaking about Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood last year, Sorenson said it was initially seen as far too expensive, but the company reconsidered when the deal became cheaper – especially the lure of a combined loyalty program.

Combining Marriott Rewards with Starwood Preferred Guests created a loyalty scheme for 75 million guests, with access to 6,000 hotels and 30 brands in 115 countries – allowing Marriott to better compete with both other hotel giants and online travel agencies.

“With that much more choice for our customers, we could create a deeper connection with them that would protect us from intermediaries, from folks offering different products, from folks trying to use their technology to get in the middle of our relationships,” he explained.

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