Marriott says group bookings pace is down 57% in 2021 after full-year loss

(Reuters) - Marriott said on Thursday the pace of its group bookings was down 57% in 2021 from end of 2019, after a pandemic-driven collapse in travel pushed the hotel chain to its first full-year loss in more than a decade.

FILE PHOTO: Logo of Marriott hotel is seen in Vienna, Austria April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Hotel occupancy rates have recovered from the pandemic lows hit last year, but the emergence of new variants of the coronavirus has cast a shadow on the recovery of the hospitality industry.

Analysts expect a wider rollout of COVID-19 vaccines later this year to first aid a rebound in leisure travel, leaving business travel-reliant hotel chains including Marriott and smaller rival Hilton Worldwide struggling for longer.

Marriott said that the pace of bookings for its group business, which makes up about 20% of its annual room nights, has improved in the second half of 2021 to being down between 25% and 30%.

“On the group front, (cancellations) have slowed for the second half of 2021, and they are at normal levels for 2022,” said Stephanie Linnartz, group president, consumer operations.

Earlier this week, Hilton also forecast an improvement in the group business in the latter half of the year.

Marriott’s results come days after the death of its Chief Executive Officer Arne Sorenson. The company is expected to announce a new CEO in the next two weeks.

Its fourth-quarter revenue plunged 60% to $2.17 billion, missing analysts’ estimates of $2.40 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Quarterly net loss was $164 million, compared with a profit of $279 million a year earlier.

The company posted an annual net loss of $267 million, its first since 2009.

Shares of Marriott, which owns the St. Regis and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chains, ended up 0.5% at $131.98. The stock has fallen about 9% in the past 12 months.

Reporting by Shreyasee Raj and Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Aditya Soni and Vinay Dwivedi