Marriott reports surprise profit, says travel demand is improving

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More consumers are traveling now than in the early months of the pandemic, which fueled a surprise quarterly profit for the largest hotel company in the world.

Marriott International, whose 7,600 properties worldwide have more than 1.4 million rooms, posted a profit of $100 million, or 31 cents a share, for the three months ended Sept. 30 versus a profit of $387 million, or $1.16 a share, a year earlier.

That’s a marked improvement from the second quarter, when the hotel giant reported a $234 million loss amid worldwide coronavirus lockdowns. The improvement was largely due to leisure travelers who are staying in Marriott hotels within driving distance of their homes, the company said on Friday.

Marriott’s shares were up nearly 2 percent to more than $102 a share in morning trading.

“While COVID-19 is still significantly impacting our business, our results for the third quarter showed continued improvement in demand trends around the world,” chief executive Arne Sorenson said in a statement.

Marriott’s properties in China experienced the biggest improvement, with occupancy rates there reaching 61 percent in the quarter. Nevertheless, Marriott’s 37 percent occupancy rate in North America was nearly double what it was in the previous quarter, the company said.

“We still have a long road ahead,” Sorenson added. “But this crisis will come to an end, and I believe travel will rebound quickly.”

The Bethesda, Md.-based company, like many of its competitors, has promoted staycation packages across the country and even offered its rooms to office workers — with no overnight stay required — who needed a reprieve from working at home.

Cities across the country have shifted their marketing to appeal to local residents as international travel as well as business travel remains depressed.

Business and group travel is recovering much more slowly, the company said.

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