In the first part of a two-part video interview series, Hyatt Hotels Corporation President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian talks about the company’s recent business acquisitions and how the company is using empathy as a guiding light for everything it does.
Editor’s note: Click here for the full transcript of Hotel News Now’s interview with Hyatt Hotels Corporation President and CEO Mark Hoplamazian. Look for part two of this interview, in which Hoplamazian talks more about Hyatt’s corporate culture, his view on changing guest desires and why the future looks bright for the global travel industry.
CHICAGO—For Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, empathy has been a guiding strategy for the direction he has taken the 60-year-old company during his 11-year tenure, and it’s a strategy he hopes will only continue to strengthen in the future.
“One of the great things about our business is that we’re part of a very significant movement in the growth of travel around the world,” he said. “The power of understanding cannot be underestimated, and we’re focusing on making sure we’re helping to enhance that for the benefit of our colleagues and our guests, and elevating the opportunities to understand others.”
In part one of HNN’s interview with Hoplamazian, which took place in September at Hyatt’s newly built headquarters in Chicago, he addressed how care and empathy power the company—celebrating its 60th anniversary this year—from its recent acquisitions to the direction it’s headed in the future.
Why empathy is the company’s guiding force
“The practice of empathy is really essential to our success,” Hoplamazian said, reflecting not only on the company’s 60-year history, but also his own 11-year tenure as president and CEO of the Chicago-based public company.
He explained why that correlation has been important to him personally since he took the role of president and CEO, and how it is a necessary tenet for a hospitality company:
Hoplamazian pointed out that by focusing the company’s culture on empathy, care and understanding, it has created a foundation that drives everything else, from Hyatt’s acquisition strategy to its branding strategies and employee training.
Wellness as a business strategy
For Hoplamazian, those permeating ideas of empathy and care extend to wellness, which has become a cornerstone of his business strategy for Hyatt.
In January, Hyatt purchased the New York-based Miraval Group for $215 million, which includes the flagship Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa in Tucson, along with several other locations in the works.
Then, in August, Hyatt announced the acquisition of spa brand Exhale for an undisclosed sum, adding another wellness brand to its portfolio.
Hoplamazian knew wellness was more than just a trend, and for him, it fit perfectly into Hyatt’s own culture of care and what its guests—both leisure and business—were asking for.
“It might be that we are on the front edge of what is going to be a huge trend,” Hoplamazian said. “You don’t have to look too hard to find examples, in the corporate world, … in educational institutions, in not-for-profit institutions (and others) that are applying mindful programming and processes within their workplaces. And … if that’s what’s happening in workplaces, then maintaining that capacity when you’re traveling at a Hyatt hotel is a really significant benefit to be able to have as a guest.”
Hoplamazian described Hyatt’s short- and long-term plans for expanding the Miraval brand, which he called “a perfect fit” for Hyatt, because the company “wanted to be a part of that wellness journey … toward a better sense of well-being, but we wanted to do it through the lens of mindfulness.”
As for the standalone Exhale spa brand, which currently has 25 locations around the U.S. and Caribbean, Hoplamazian said it’s another way to extend wellness and well-being programming.
“We are going to be investing (in Exhale) and refreshing (it) from a product perspective, and also making sure we identify ways we can bring their programming into Hyatt hotels,” he said.
The ‘experience platform’
While it has played a big role, wellness hasn’t been the sole focus of Hyatt’s recent acquisitions. In July the company announced a minority, undisclosed investment in Oasis, a serviced home rentals platform.
This particular acquisition might not have anything to do with wellness, but it has everything to do with experience, and that’s another of Hoplamazian’s priorities.
Both are now assimilated in the company’s rebranded loyalty program into what Hoplamazian calls “an experience platform,” now called World of Hyatt.
“The idea (of an experience platform) is that we want to be there for more travel occasions for our guests during hotel stays and also between hotel stays,” he explained.
Those “between hotel stays” experiences can be through things like Exhale spa visits, or luxury home rentals through Oasis.
Hoplamazian describes the relationship more in the video clip below:
Core brands and brand strategies
While expanding into new hospitality spaces and accommodating changing guest needs are important, Hoplamazian also has a keen eye on the growth strategies for legacy brands like Hyatt Regency, Hyatt Place and Park Hyatt, along with plans for newer additions like Andaz, Hyatt Centric and soft brand The Unbound Collection.
At the end of the second quarter, Hyatt had 695 hotel properties in its global portfolio, comprising 178,448 rooms.
“We benefit from being focused on a core of high-end customers,” he said. “That focus allows us to spend more time and make sure we’re more deeply engaged with our guests. … That’s really an important element to brand success. If you’re deriving it from real need, and then you’re successful in executing … then you can really have resonant brands.”
Hoplamazian said the company benefits from a strong background in design, innovative food and beverage and creating a good environment for on-property employees, which resonates with guests.
Those, of course, all come back to experience, care and empathy, he said.
“The most important differentiator for us can be and needs to be the personality and the passion of our own people,” he said. “That actually is the key driver of this whole lifestyle (movement).”
On the growth side, Hoplamazian talked about how the company creates value for its colleagues, guests, owners and shareholders.
While the company traditionally has been an active real estate investor using its own balance sheet—a practice Hoplamazian said won’t stop—growing its fee-based business is another top priority.
Because of its hefty investments over the years to gain scale, Hyatt has an impressive global footprint for its size—nearly 200 of its 695 hotels are located outside of the Americas.
Still, Hoplamazian has areas on his wish list for future growth.
“China for sure is a key market, not just because it’s a big travel market unto itself, but because the megatrend of the next 25 years is the increase in outbound Chinese travel,” he said.
And while he said Hyatt’s “longstanding history in the Middle East and in India” is a great foundation, he identified two additional geographic areas of focus.
“We’re still looking for new and different ways to grow in Europe and then also in South America,” he said.