Speaking on their fourth quarter earnings calls, executives from both Hyatt and Marriott are reporting positive signs pointing to an earlier recovery for group travel.

Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said he was “really pleased, if not surprised” to see “some interesting and very positive data in group activity.” The company sees early signs that it will “actually host” corporate meetings as early as the second quarter of 2021, he said.

From the start of the fourth quarter through January, Hyatt reported booking roughly $170 million in new group business for future months, excluding any rebooking activity, representing a 20 percent increase in new group bookings over the third quarter.

“We had previously been saying that the sequence [of recovery] would be leisure transient, followed by business transient, followed by group, and I think that the potential surprise in that progression is that we might see group come back in a more purposeful way, in a more significant way,” said Hoplamazian.

The generally optimistic outlook has been reflected in a number of other earnings calls this quarter. Last wee, Hilton also reported positive news on the meetings front. Group bookings had been down by as much as 80 percent compared with 2019, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said, but for the second half of 2021 they’re down by only 32 percent against the second half of 2019.

Meanwhile, speaking on the first Marriott International earnings call since the death of CEO Arne Sorenson last week, Stephanie Linnartz, group president for consumer operations, technology and emerging businesses, told analysts that January had turned out to be “a very strong month” for group bookings for 2022 and beyond.

Notably, group business booked in January was at an average daily rate 11 percent higher than group business booked in January 2020 for stays in 2021 and beyond.

Group cancellations at Marriott are also showing a positive trend, Linnartz said, explaining, “they've really slowed for the second half of 2021.”

hyatt.com,  marriott.com