Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian was in Buenos Aires this month at the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) Global Summit. He sat down with news editor Johanna Jainchill to discuss wellness travel, sustainability goals and whether Hyatt will cut group booking commissions.
Q: Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta just called on all WTTC members to establish carbon-reduction targets. Is Hyatt onboard?
A: I've been in the job 11-and-a-half years, and the first thing I did was set environmental sustainability goals. We did not have any previously. We operate in 57 countries around the world; companies like us can play a very significant role, because we are inherently local in how we approach our businesses. We can be effective in moving the needle on these topics. We are working with the Paulson Institute to bring sustainable practices into China. Paulson launched the Race to Zero to establish a collective set of goals for U.S. and Chinese companies on carbon footprint. We were early signers onto this pledge.
Q: You are speaking here about your experience trying to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. What did you learn?
A: After Maria hit, I was heavily engaged in trying to get resources to our colleagues and guests and trying to facilitate getting people out of Puerto Rico. My frustration was: we needed someone on the ground we could rely on. What happened, and this is a good sign for the future, is that private enterprise stepped in and said, we can be a productive part of this, working with the government and helping support their efforts. That's exactly how it turned out. Once Homeland Security got someone on the ground that we could coordinate with, it was great, it was a great example of public-private cooperation.
Q:Marriott and Hilton have cut commissions on group bookings. Will Hyatt follow suit?
A: There's an economic reality. The issue for us is not to just treat it as a cost issue and say we'll follow because it will have a reduction in this line item on our P & L. We are thinking about it more holistically. What is the whole value equation? What is the net bottom line result of how we go to market? That may or may not look like what Hilton and Marriott have done. Group bookings are a big and important piece of the puzzle for us -- group business in the U.S. generates more than 40% of total room revenue.
Q: Hyatt has become very wellness-focused, acquiring both Miraval and Exhale. Are you going to expand wellness across the brands?
A: We have every expectation of leveraging the underlying programming and the special offerings we have in those brands across the Hyatt portfolio. It will have different dimensions in different places. There are certain practices that are not difficult to introduce to a guest: around meditation, taking a moment to collect yourself and be present. Practices that are approachable and don't cross either the creepy factor, a little too out there in terms of understandability, nor do they require you to have a Ph.D. in how to meditate. Once you've spent some time meditating or being reflective, you connect with the ability to gain insights that your conscious mind doesn't allow you to do -- that's the big unlock. You can learn more about yourself and be more effective. We're doing this because we recognize that these people are more effective in their jobs and families and communities. It started as something that aligned with our purpose. We've learned that there is a huge commercial rationale to it, as well.
Q: The U.S. suspended reporting inbound visitor numbers, saying there was probably an undercount in 2017. Did your hotels experience an inbound bump or slump last year?
A: In the early part of 2017 we did see some declines, but as the year progressed, that basically balanced out. I pay attention to what is going on with currency. You see clear evidence when the dollar is either strengthening or weakening in terms of inbound travel.