Marriott CEO says leisure travel will rebound as vaccines roll out, but business travel will return too

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The hospitality industry has been suffering as tourism dried up during the pandemic, but as Covid vaccine distribution gains headway, Marriott CEO Tony Capuano expects its business to bounce back.

“As the vaccine gets widely distributed, we see pretty strong and steady prospects for demand growth,” Capuano told CNBC’s Seema Mody in an interview Wednesday.

Capuano was recently tapped as the hotel chain’s CEO, following the death of its former leader Arne Sorenson on Feb. 15. Sorenson had been battling pancreatic cancer.

Sixty percent of Marriott’s bookings in 2019 were from business travelers. Since more companies now are adapting to remote workplaces, some industry watchers are worried the trend will dent the hotel industry forever, but not Capuano.

Marriott’s customers have told the company that they’re “anxious to get out there and be face to face with their business partners and customers,” Capuano said. However, leisure travel will likely lead the recovery, he said.

Marriott is the largest hotelier with 1.4 million guest rooms worldwide.

Global markets like China are seeing some rebound already, as the country adapted quickly to contain the virus and administer vaccines, he said.

Marriott shares are up more than 3% Wednesday. The stock, which has a market value of $50.16 billion, has gained nearly 15% over the past year.