Marriott’s vice president for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific said matching the demand for staff with the supply of hotels in the region remains his biggest challenge.
Speaking to Travel Weekly at the third annual Destination Pacific Islands showcase in Sydney earlier this week, Sean Hunt said securing the right staff to fill Marriott International’s 1,000 Asia-Pacific properties (700 built and around 300 to open) is one of his constant battles.
“They all need general managers, directors of sales and marketing, directors of finance, directors of IT – and to find that human capital is increasingly competitive,” he said.
“We [Marriott International] are not the only company growing – our competitors are growing as well.”
Hunt, 53, joined the world’s largest hotel company after it acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, where he was employed as regional vice president. He maintains his recruitment was a “small part” of the hotel company’s transaction.
This year, Hunt and his team have been celebrating their 50th hotel in the region. But although Marriott reached its goal set in 2016, he says Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific remain “geographically challenging”.
“As you know, it’s five hours across the middle of Australia … we have Tahiti and Samoa – five to six hours flight from here. Getting around up to the Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort, Port Douglas is three hours, and another hour-and-a-half by road.
“Getting around the portfolio takes time, so that’s challenging. But what’s exciting is the growth,” he told Travel Weekly.
On Tuesday, Marriott opened Canberra’s first Autograph Collection hotel, while the opening of the Ritz-Carlton Perth in November will see the brand’s return to Australia.
Hunt also revealed Hobart will open Tasmania’s first Marriott hotel with The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, in September next year.
Staying relevant and engaging in a competitive environment is another of Marriott’s constant challenges, Hunt acknowledged.
“[We] continue to reinvent ourselves … and to listen to our customers,” he said.
“Are we the best at it and do we get it right all the time? No, I don’t think we do. But I think we consistently try and consistently change to ensure we’re relevant to our customers.”
Moving forward, Hunt said creating more opportunities for connection through more properties in the region and understanding Millennials have “a different way of looking at the world” was a key part of staying relevant for the next generation.
“They [Gen Z and Millennials] value looking after the planet … and they look at the world differently,” he said, “but we also have [older guests] as well, so how do we make sure we don’t alienate them as well? It’s continually making sure that we are relevant.”
Hunt qualified that although there were certainly older guests concerned with the environment and the social responsibility of brands they associate themselves with, the next generation seems to be even more so concerned.