Transcript: Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano on "Face the Nation," March 28, 2021

Marriott seeing "pretty significant" increase in demand, CEO says
Marriott seeing "pretty significant" increase... 06:45

The following is a transcript of an interview with Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano that aired Sunday, March 28, 2021, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNNAN: We go now to Tony Capuano, CEO of the world's largest hotel company, Marriott International. He joins us from Bethesda, Maryland. Good morning.

MARRIOTT INTERNATIONAL CEO ANTHONY CAPUANO: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNNAN: We just heard Dr. Fauci say that travel remains high risk, and yet we see numbers from TSA reporting people are getting on planes in record numbers, in terms of the pandemic. Are you seeing a similar surge in spring bookings?

CAPUANO: We are seeing pretty significant acceleration of demand. The reality is people are traveling, which is why we can't let our guard down. We've got to continue to adhere to the CDC protocols and keep our cleaning and operating protocols in place.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So vaccination, you have said, is going to be key to business, to the economy reopening it. You have actually opened a program to try to incentivize your employees to take that vaccine by offering them four hours of pay. Why did you need to give that incentive? And is it working?

CAPUANO: We didn't need to. We chose to. Our culture is very much an employee-first culture, and we wanted to make sure they had access to education about the vaccinations and the flexibility to take time off work if they chose to get vaccinated.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that four hours of pay is to allow them to take the time off work to get the shot in the arm.

CAPUANO: That's correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So last March, your predecessor said the financial impact of the pandemic was on par with 9/11, the Great Recession and the financial crisis around that time. Marriott cut thousands of jobs. You lost about $276,000,000. When do you expect to get back to that pre pandemic level of both jobs and business?

CAPUANO: It really depends on demand recovery. And demand recovery will be driven by consumer confidence. The good news is we have such great visibility into real-time data. In certain markets where the vaccine- the virus containment seems to be proceeding well and where you're seeing broad distribution of vaccine, we are seeing demand recover and that's allowing us to bring many of our employees back.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So demand is up, Arizona, Texas and Florida I see. But it's still low in some of the big cities. Is that a trend you think is going to stay with us for some time?

CAPUANO: We'll continue to see growth in demand in drive-to destinations and I think leisure destinations. One of the really interesting phenomenon we've seen over the last year is a blending of trip purposes. People have learned that they can, in fact, work from almost anywhere. And as a result, we're seeing our guests combine business travel with leisure travel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Gas prices aren't going to impact those drive-to destination bookings?

CAPUANO: Certainly they'll have some measure of impact, but we've really not seen it yet. There is enormous pent up demand and because of concerns about safety, we continue to see lots of appeal of drive-to destinations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, when we look at the jobless rate in the country your industry is so frequently turned- pointed to as one of the biggest places of losses, particularly for women. I'm wondering of all the adaptations that you have had to make in your hotels for safety reasons and protocols with, you know, not checking in in person, but doing it on your phone or doing it digitally, haven't you managed your way towards just needing to employ fewer people? I mean, are these jobs actually coming back?

CAPUANO: In markets where demand is recovering, we're absolutely seeing those jobs come back and in many of the markets you described were actively hiring. I think what those technological advances allow us to do is really engage our employees more in interacting with the guests and meeting their needs.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So desk clerk is not a job that's going to disappear?

CAPUANO: Absolutely not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In New York State, they're kind of experimenting with something I'm interested in getting your view on, which is this idea of having some kind of vaccine passport, so to speak, some kind of digital stamp to show that you have been vaccinated. Is this something that you think business-wise you would encourage other states to adopt? I mean, would it help give you some reassurance?

CAPUANO: Time will tell what the right platform is. What we know with certainty, however, is a global, coordinated, reliable health credential system will be key to giving folks comfort about traveling to and to giving jurisdictions comfort in opening their borders.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But who is going to run that since the states are administering these vaccine programs? You know, the particulars of how you actually get this up and running are kind of a big stumbling point.

CAPUANO: It's the right question to ask. I- I worry a bit that the approach to-date is a bit fragmented. And again, we need a comprehensive and global solution for it to be effective.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Have you talked to the White House about that?

CAPUANO: We're in active discussions with the administration with our industry colleagues to try and identify opportunities to inform borders as they consider opening.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, two dozen or so industry groups wrote a letter to the White House pushing for international travel to be reopened by this summer, saying that's a really key time frame for them. Do you have any indication that any of the travel restrictions will be lifted, that international travel will return?

CAPUANO: It really varies by jurisdiction. We know there's enormous pent-up demand for international travel and we know those destinations, like many European cities, are struggling mightily because they rely so heavily on inbound international travel. The markets that have recovered most quickly are those that have depths of demand domestically. So we've seen that in drive-to destinations in the US and we've seen it across China. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But no promise from the White House? We're lifting the travel restrictions on countries by the summer. Nothing yet? 

CAPUANO: Not yet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Thank you very much, Tony Capuano, for your time and your perspective. We'll be right back.