New Marriott CEO on pandemic recovery, travel rebound, COVID-19 vaccine

The new head of Maryland-based Marriott International sounded optimistic about the year ahead when it comes to continued safe operations, and he predicts that travel will start to pick up later this year.

“Travel will come roaring back,” CEO Anthony Capuano told WTOP.

Capuano officially takes over for the late Arne Sorenson, who died last week after a battle with cancer.

Capuano, 55, is only the fourth person to ever lead the corporation, which is headquartered in Bethesda, since its inception almost a century ago.

Capuano said Marriott is already at “pre-pandemic occupancy levels” at its hotels across the globe, but he wouldn’t make any calls about what lies ahead regarding further economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Predictions around recovery have become so very difficult because they are largely predicated on the pace at which the vaccine is distributed,” Capuano said.

Capuano is confident that Marriott can maintain safe operations even with several COVID-19 variants that are now present in the U.S.

“In the very early days of the pandemic, Marriott assembled a cleanliness council made up of doctors and folks who study viruses,” Capuano said. “We really have let their expertise guide the continued evolution of our operating and cleaning program.”

Capuano was asked if Marriott would eventually mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees to work.

“Certainly, we are watching trends in that area. At this point we’ve made no decisions to require vaccinations,” Capuano said.

Marriott also created a $20 million endowment for a hospitality program at Howard University in Sorenson’s honor.

“[Sorenson] was a global champion for diversity, and he loved the hospitality industry,” Capuano said.

Capuano, who also joined Marriott’s Board of Directors, was previously the corporation’s Group President, Global Development, Design and Operations Services.

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Ken Duffy

Ken Duffy is a reporter and anchor at WTOP with more than 20 years of experience. He has reported from major events like the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions, 2016 Election Night at Trump Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan and the 2007 Super Bowl in Miami.

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