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Travel bookings bounce back as Hilton has best night since pandemic hit, CEO says

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Key Points
  • Hilton Hotels were almost 93% occupied throughout the U.S. on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, Christopher Nassetta said in an interview on CNBC.
  • Summer bookings are expected to be better than they were during the peak of 2019.
  • Hilton is on track to have one of its best years in China.

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Hilton CEO on travel demand surge as the economy reopens

As people continue to get vaccinated across the U.S., travel demand is surging.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta told CNBC on Tuesday the company notched a record-breaking number of bookings last Saturday, during the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

"We had a blockbuster weekend," Nassetta said in an interview on "Squawk Box." "On Saturday night we were, across the U.S., almost 93% occupied, which is certainly the best since Covid hit."

Nassetta said summer reservations are surging past what the company's bookings were in 2019.

"Our bookings for this summer at this point are higher than we saw in 2019 at the peak," Nassetta said. "People are getting out, they are feeling safer as vaccination rates go up and it should be a really good summer for travel."

Airlines are also seeing business pick up.

"There is a sense that there has been a lot of pent-up demand. Seeing that in real bookings with customers buying tickets is very encouraging," Ben Baldanza, former Spirit Airlines CEO, told CNBC's "Power Lunch" on Friday.

The Hilton CEO expects bookings to rebound over the next two years, even for business-related travel.

"I would bet a lot that when you get to '23 and beyond that business travel and group travel in addition to the leisure business will be back where it was in 2019 and will be growing beyond that," Nassetta said.

Hilton is also doing well in China, where the number of daily Covid-19 cases has dropped significantly from the peak.

"We are going to have one of the best years we've ever had in China this year because they are ahead of the curve relative to the U.S. and other parts of the world," Nassetta said.

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