Marriott International blames weak demand as it exits three hotels in SA

The Los Angeles Airport Marriott participates in Hotels With Heart Campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic on May 02, 2020.
Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images
The Los Angeles Airport Marriott participates in Hotels With Heart Campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic on May 02, 2020. Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

Marriott International says the permanent exit in three of its hotels in SA was unavoidable because the coronavirus (Covid-19) has created so much uncertainty, especially for the tourism and hospitality sector.

The hotel group which owns Protea Hotels and African Pride brands in SA said it was forced to "take the difficult decision" to cease operations of the Protea Hotel by Marriott Hazyview, Protea Hotel by Marriott Durban Edward and Mount Grace Country House & Spa. It will hand the three back to the property owner, the JSE-listed Hospitality Property Fund. Hospitality Property Fund also owns Tsogo Sun and Radisson Blu Hotels.

"The impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry has been unprecedented. Travel restrictions and social distancing efforts around the world have resulted in weaker demand and economic uncertainty," said the group in a short statement.

Marriott which has been operating Protea Hotel in SA since it acquired the brand on 2014 has up until now been expanding the brand. Just nine months ago, the group was planning to add 40 new properties across Africa by 2023, with six planned under the Protea Hotel brand.

The Mount Grace Country House & Spa in Magaliesburg falls under Marriott International's Autograph Collection, the high-end and uniquely designed hotels collection whose aim was to induce travellers who want both luxury and something unique. The Autograph Collection debuted in SA in 2018 when five African Pride Hotels became part of the brand.

"These are indeed challenging times and our thoughts are with the associates impacted by this decision across the three properties. We value their hard work and dedication over the years and thank them for their service," continued Marriott International's statement.

The group did not confirm the number of people employed in these hotels and if there are any other hotels in SA or in other regions that are on its "watch" in terms of falling demand.

But early in May when the group provided update on the impact that Covid-19has had on its operations, it said 25% of its hotels worldwide were temporarily closed at the time, with Europe is mostly shut down. But it said demand was beginning to pick up in China even though occupancy levels were still just over 30%.

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