Expedia and Marriott rise as stimulus checks and easing restrictions boost optimism for travel and hospitality

family travel road trip
  • Expedia stock ended Thursday’s session at a record high and Marriott gained as travel optimism grew.
  • The US will begin sending $1,400 checks after President Biden signed off on a stimulus package.
  • New York State will lift some travel restrictions starting on April 1.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Shares of Marriot and other hotel chains pushed toward record highs Thursday as investors anticipated that new stimulus checks for millions of Americans and relaxed travel restrictions will lead to more bookings.

Hotel names rode up alongside other consumer discretionary stocks, in turn drawing the Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund up by 1.5% at the close.

Online travel bookings site Expedia rose by 2.1% at end at a record close of $171.08. Marriott tacked on 1.6% to end at $148.83, a third winning session. The stock two weeks ago logged its all-time high of $159.98.

The S&P 500 closed at an all-time high Thursday, the same day President Joe Biden signed off on a $1.9 trillion fiscal stimulus package passed by Congress. With his signature, the government will begin sending $1,400 checks to most Americans with the aim of assisting them until the economy fully recovers.

Some industry watchers have said consumers having more spending money can help the travel sector recover from the coronavirus crisis, but hurdles remain. The pandemic is still not over and millions of Americans are still out of work, they’ve cautioned.

But COVID-19 case counts “continue to decrease every day,” as more people are vaccinated, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday as the state lifted its requirement for domestic travelers to quarantine after arrival, effective April 1. International travelers will still be required to quarantine.

Among other travel stocks, Hyatt rose 1.6% and InterContinental Hotels Group added on 0.6%. Hilton had been more than 1% higher intraday before turning lower, ending down by less than 1%.

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Gap’s CEO says people will emerge from pandemic isolation and start ‘peacocking,’ in what could be a boon for retailers

CEO of Gap Inc. Sonia Syngal
CEO of Gap Inc. Sonia Syngal

Gap has high hopes for the country to soon return to normalcy as vaccinations pick up.

Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal said she expects sales to grow as consumers dress to impress others after months of decreased socializing.

“We’re quite optimistic,” Syngal said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “We do think there’s going to be this peacocking effect that happens, as people emerge from Covid.”

Gap appointed Syngal as chief executive in March 2020, months after former CEO Art Peck’s sudden departure. Peck left the company after sales slumped in 2019 due to declining foot traffic from shopping malls. 

Syngal, the former CEO of Old Navy, said she planned to grow Gap Inc. by investing in the firm’s 60 million-person customer base to capitalize on a captive audience. 

But the COVID-19 pandemic upended retail shortly after Syngal took over. As Americans avoided malls and spent more time shopping online, Gap Inc. announced it would close 350 Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America – or 30% of its total locations – by the end of 2023.

Syngal told The Journal that online holiday shopping helped offset some losses. The firm reported online sales increased to 45% of total sales in 2020, up from 25% the year prior.

The chief executive added the firm will cut back on costs spent on making stores “safer” during the pandemic as vaccines become more widely available. 

President Joe Biden said he expects vaccines to become available for all Americans by May shortly after the Food nad Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson’s shot. The Centers for Disease Control plans to release guidelines on activities vaccinated people can safely do, which include some indoor gatherings.

Some retailers are banking on consumers spending money on new clothes as they going out after getting vaccinated. The menswear brand Suitsupply released an ad titled “The new normal is coming” with a photo of naked models kissing.

“Post-pandemic life is on the horizon,” Fokke de Jong, Suitsupply’s founder and CEO, told Insider’s Kate Taylor. “The campaign is simply a positive outlook on our future where people can get back to gathering and getting close.” 

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