Marriott’s Brian Povinelli On Post-Pandemic Consumer Travel Behavior

The pandemic proved essentially the most difficult yr in Marriott’s 93-year historical past, because it ended 2020 with an annual lack of $267 million—the second largest after its 2009 annual lack of $346 million. While lodges shuttered and international locations closed their borders, journey wanderlust grew stronger as customers longed to get away each domestically and overseas. Due to pent-up demand for journey, Marriott is hopeful that rising vaccines will increase a rebound. We spoke with Brian Povinelli, senior vp, model, loyalty, and portfolio advertising, Marriott International, to study extra concerning the firm’s new international “Power of Travel” marketing campaign, how shopper conduct adjustments are affecting its media placements, how present occupancy figures are shaping up and extra.

If there’s been one key pandemic studying to this point for Marriott’s portfolio of manufacturers, what would you say it’s?
There’s been cultural studying [about] simply how important journey is to our private well-being, to a larger sense of neighborhood and towards encouraging extra openness and acceptance on a worldwide scale. We didn’t notice that and took it without any consideration in regular instances. But after being caught in your individual dwelling for a yr, I feel folks notice the facility of what we ship as a hospitality firm that permits a few of that cultural well-being and therapeutic.
From a advertising lens, we requested whether or not we have to be rather more nimble in our advertising methods, in the best way we strategy placing our message out there. During the pandemic, we needed to pivot [messaging] nearly weekly… and have an ear to the bottom on buyer sentiment. Sometimes the message was dictated by authorities rules and opening and shutting markets. Most manufacturers would outline that technique as nimble.
We’ve pivoted to create a nimble technique that may proceed even previous restoration of the pandemic, particularly as a result of buyer sentiment is altering on a way more frequent foundation at present than it did even a few years in the past.
Are there some other shopper behaviors that Marriott has noticed over this previous yr that you’ll incorporate into your technique shifting ahead?
Staycation for certain. One, I feel going slightly additional afield could be the explosion of the street journey. It was partly pushed by the truth that airways had been out and we noticed an enormous motion to street journeys and other people flocking to extra distant, outside locations just like the nationwide parks. 
Then this entire idea of “work from wherever,” a brand new phenomenon that we’ve seen that continues strongly at present—folks realizing that in the event that they didn’t have to enter the workplace and will do the whole lot by means of a Zoom-type platform, that they might relocate for some time. And particularly with the youthful era who’re much less tied down with households and different commitments. An enormous quantity of individuals had been utilizing our lodges and houses and buildings as a spot to work remotely for weeks or months on finish.
How has advertising funds allocation modified based mostly on these behaviors?
Yes, I might say we’ve got. With the entire underpinning of being nimble, we’re nonetheless using occasion-based viewing on linear TV. So take one thing just like the NBA Finals or the Olympics, we’ll make the most of these platforms, however we’ve additionally shifted vital quantities of our funding into the streaming platforms. Not solely as a result of that’s the place viewers have shifted, but in addition as a result of there’s much more real-time knowledge that we are able to get again from these platforms. We’re testing some shoppable advert models the place folks can actually click on on the advert unit on the streaming platform, view extra data and ebook a visit from that. So I feel you’ll see us leaning extra into related TV OTT and the broader digital platforms, in addition to experimentation within the social platforms.
We did our first foray into Tiktok and we’ve performed a singular partnership with Pinterest. The quantity of journey and wanderlust that’s gone on with customers during the last 18 months has been taken to a brand new stage as a result of they had been disadvantaged of that chance to get out and see totally different elements of the nation or the world, with the impact that they’ve been rather more engaged with journey content material on social platforms.
So we’ve been leaning into that and making an attempt to place out inspiration to then result in user-generated content material and assist amplify our message. It’s been fairly profitable during the last couple of months. And on this marketing campaign launch particularly, we’ve seen that consumer engagement as a result of persons are so hungry for inspirational journey tales and pictures.
Marriott Bonvoy’s latest Power of Travel marketing campaign consists of many firsts for Marriott. Walk us by means of the model’s pondering behind the partnerships with influencers and the shoppable Hulu advertisements.
We’ve tried to seek out influencers who grounded their storytelling on the concept of wanderlust. Some have a big following and a few have extra area of interest followings, however they’ve all received a really engaged viewers on this one matter. This isn’t the primary time we’ve got labored with influencers, we’ve been doing that for years. But I might say it’s positively the primary time that we’ve used Tiktok as a platform. We thought it could be extra grassroots and genuine than us creating content material and simply pushing it out as extra of an commercial on that platform.
The shoppable advertisements are positively a primary. The purpose got here from the perception that we’re seeing our reserving window during the last 18 months shrink considerably. We’re seeing a number of vacationers actually reserving and staying inside 24 hours, nearly prefer it’s grow to be rather more of an impulse buy. And I feel it pertains to vaccine roll-outs and other people hitting that time the place they’ve had their two weeks of post-vaccine quarantine after which say to themselves, “That’s it, I’m going to go away tomorrow and go someplace.” That quick reserving window has led us to have a look at a few of our media placements slightly bit extra as an impulse purchase.
So take into consideration the grocery retailer. You go down the checkout aisle and there are all the sweet bars and the gum and the magazines that you just simply seize regardless that you didn’t plan to purchase that if you went in. We thought we may have an analogous dynamic right here the place if folks had been watching a present on a streaming platform after which they had been launched to our advertising, engaged with that advert, and go ebook that journey, whether or not it’s for the following day or the following week or the following month. And the place earlier than, folks would possibly spend three or 4 weeks and take a look at 20 or extra web sites in an effort to make the choice of the place to go and keep, now we’re seemingly seeing folks keen to do it on a whim and with so much much less analysis than they’d prior.
Marriott’s latest social listening analysis noticed a year-over-year uptick in searches for one-of-a-kind stays. What position has social listening performed in Marriott’s technique up to now yr and is there one instrument particularly that has proved particularly helpful?
A couple of years in the past we applied a brand new functionality inside Marriott referred to as “M Live.” It’s a bunch that focuses on social listening by means of the worlds of knowledge and inventive. They put out polls, scrape social websites, and gather knowledge from different third events that we then flip into segments, use for particular focusing on and to determine rising developments. 
That is the place we’ve targeted during the last 12 months as issues have modified so dramatically week in and week out. We’ve leveraged these analytics and that social listening group inside our group to assist information what markets we needs to be going after. For instance, we noticed within the US, markets like Arizona and Florida open rather more shortly than these within the Northeast or different elements of the nation. So we had been capable of validate that there was that curiosity by means of these instruments and the information, after which we had been capable of craft messaging particular to these markets or these journey varieties.
How is Marriott responding to the discovering that folks need to expertise extra one-of-a-kind stays?
We’re that in two methods. One is working with properties to create these distinctive experiences. Luckily, we had been doing that pre-pandemic. So it was ramping up the provision of these forms of experiences and doing slightly bit extra of that. You will doubtless discover that in a luxurious or upscale resort and with manufacturers like Westin or the Ritz-Carlton. And even our select-service lodges which might be in additional rural locations and people by nationwide parks have put collectively extra experiential-type packages. We even fashioned a partnership with the nationwide parks the place prospects may use their Marriott Bonvoy factors to purchase annual park passes. So that was a method. 
Then the opposite is an actual continued give attention to rising our assortment of manufacturers. We have about 450 unbiased resort choices that lots of people weren’t conscious of. Those are usually your smaller, extra boutique, extra experiential-type properties; once more, a vacation spot that connects you rather more intently to the native vacation spot and cultural expertise. We opened 70 new properties in these collections this yr. So persevering with to gas that pipeline and search for conversion alternatives and new development alternatives in that section.
What are among the updates Marriott has made to quell vacationers’ issues round cleanliness and face-to-face contact?
We sprinted in a short time to raise among the contactless alternatives. Mobile Key is one which we actually accelerated and at the moment are at over 4,000 properties, and that lets you check-in by way of your cellphone, skipping the entrance desk completely. 
We’re additionally piloting a check-in kiosk in a number of of our lodges in New York City. Think about how airways have had vacationers examine in on the airport kiosks. It by no means discovered its means into the hospitality area, however we felt that on this atmosphere that was another choice the place folks may have interaction with a kiosk and decrease the contact they may have whereas checking in or out.
So these are among the new initiatives that we both accelerated or are piloting throughout this era. And then the cleansing protocols—we already had very stringent cleansing protocols in place pre-COVID. We simply elevated these and made them extra public-facing with hand sanitizer in all the general public areas. 
The buyer response has been nice. Mask mandates are the one factor that has been a bit tough for a lot of companies and industries to navigate as a result of they turned political, however we simply stayed throughout the CDC steerage and adopted their directives.
Beyond cleanliness, how has Marriott’s portfolio of manufacturers responded to different shopper developments spurred by the pandemic? For instance, I learn that some Westin properties launched restoration stations in response to folks’s heightened give attention to self care. 
It will get again to slightly little bit of the social listening and knowledge that we had been throughout this era. Wellness was one pattern that was vital. Wellness was compromised swiftly with the pandemic so it turned a a lot greater focus and other people had been stepping again and re-evaluating their life in a number of methods. So we requested how we are able to elevate our wellness expertise provided that we constructed our entire model positioning round well-being for the final 10 years. This was an ideal alternative to take that basis and introduce a brand new initiative all-around restoration. 
So by means of the partnership with Hypervolt, we put up a brand new station constructed round restoration throughout the health facilities. That’s one instance of a “work wherever with Marriott Bonvoy” technique the place we’ve created a selected bundle round that wellness dynamic. We rolled out totally different ranges of packages. For instance, we applied day passes, which you couldn’t get prior. To try this, we re-engineered our reserving portal to have the ability to accommodate that and in addition to accommodate prolonged check-in and check-out hours. Then there was a keep go, which was an in a single day keep that got here with different facilities, snacks and assembly provides when you wanted them, for that “working from wherever” atmosphere. The final was the play go, which was constructed round this mix of leisure and enterprise the place your loved ones is on the pool whilst you is perhaps working within the room.
According to the corporate’s Q1 earnings, in Marriott’s largest areas, the US and Canada, occupancy began the yr at 33 % in January and reached 49 % by March. Do you could have any present occupancy figures you’ll be able to share?
I can see demand positively various by market, however we’re inspired to see a robust rebound. US and Canada occupancy for May was at 55 %, so positively seeing continued momentum. I’ve a few different examples right here—in Greece, bookings had been up 6 % versus the identical two weeks in 2019. So they’re truly outpacing 2019 numbers. And then we’re additionally seeing particular company demand, at about 50 % of 2019 ranges, which is a major uptick from the place we had been a month in the past. So we’re seeing optimistic momentum on each the leisure facet, which is main the restoration, but in addition on the company or B2B facet.
The leisure market is poised for a rebound, however how does Marriott plan to acclimate to the drop in enterprise journey?
We’ll must see the way it continues to play out. I might say we’re optimistic that there can be a notable restoration in enterprise. We are, like I mentioned, seeing particular company demand, and we’re seeing folks begin to get again to the workplace, and I feel we’ll see a major increase there. 
So it’s going to be about holding a pulse on how this hybrid work mannequin performs out. Despite not seeing the identical quantity of enterprise journey that we’ve seen pre-pandemic, we predict there might be a distinct dynamic occurring the place due to hybrid work fashions, folks now have a number of days free the place they might take an extended weekend away. They may do Friday and Monday working remotely, after which take the weekend for leisure time. We’ll be holding an actual shut eye on how shopper conduct evolves as we proceed getting increased vaccination ranges.
We’ll additionally must see how the company office and these hybrid work fashions play out. But I feel we’ll see lots of people taking longer journeys. Even over the vacations, there’s this dynamic shaping up the place as an alternative of taking every week off, when you’ve got the flexibleness to work remotely, you may be taking a month off.
Tell us extra about Marriott’s latest partnership with Uber. 
Our partnership with Uber was nice as a result of we had been on the lookout for methods to strengthen engagement with the rewards program. An enormous pivot we’ve made during the last yr is positioning Marriott Bonvoy as a journey market that has a loyalty program and gives 30 resort manufacturers, houses, villas, excursions, actions and partnerships like with Uber.
The thought behind partnering with Uber was that touring by means of a vacation spot means you want a rideshare service to get to and from the airport or your resort. They go hand-in-hand. And with what we’ve seen by means of the pandemic with the proliferation and success of issues like Uber Eats, this partnership is simply one other alternative to maintain folks engaged with our platform by means of incomes and redeeming factors, and, in some methods, to maintain them engaged with us after they’re not in a resort. So it’s all about bringing added worth to the general program and your interplay with Marriott. 
How is Marriot approaching the first-party knowledge dialog and delivering customized experiences to prospects whereas defending their data?
Like each firm, we’re navigating all the knowledge privateness legal guidelines and remaining compliant with all the guidelines which might be on the market. The good factor for us is that with over 150 million members, we’ve got a number of first-party knowledge. We clearly undergo the proper protocol to get the advertising message to the people who find themselves engaged and have agreed to obtain it.
The extra causes we can provide folks to have interaction with Marriott Bonvoy, not only for lodges, however for issues just like the partnership with Uber or excursions and actions, or eating out choices, the larger potential we’ve got to develop from 150 to 200 million, 250 million members.
There are numerous ways in which members can work together with us and ranging levels of data they decide to present. Some are extra keen to share than others and can inform us immediately what their preferences are, what they’re on the lookout for. That helps us personalize the expertise much more. Even if it’s simply primary data like their identify and the kind of resort they wish to keep in, we are able to personalize their expertise based mostly on their historical past with us.
We’re additionally making efforts with the Marriott Bonvoy app. We launched a brand new replace with a number of new performance, not just for contactless engagements however even for a street journey finder the place you’ll be able to see all the lodges alongside your route and what they value. So getting that kind of engagement permits us to higher personalize the expertise and have interaction with folks on that platform as nicely.
What’s one pattern resort entrepreneurs might want to embrace as they return to the following regular?
I’ll return to construct slightly bit extra on this concept of the significance of flexibility and nimbleness in your advertising technique. I feel that the pattern that we’re seeing is that folks’s behaviors and sentiments are shifting rather more shortly than they’ve up to now. Social media performs a major position in that as a result of there’s a lot entry to data which may result in fast shifts in sentiment or emotions a couple of matter or a couple of model particularly. So there must be a give attention to having your ear to that social sentiment by means of social listening and different knowledge sources, after which being able to pivot your message and create many extra variations of that message, and in addition doing much more A/B testing of what you set in market to see what’s resonating with folks at any given time.

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