Masks coming off and markets reopening are creating much cause for celebration this spring.
In the U.S., STR — CoStar Group’s hospitality analytics firm — reported April hotel room demand at the highest level since the start of the pandemic with most of this demand coming from leisure travel. To fully recover, the industry needs both leisure and business travel to return.
Recent consumer research conducted by STR sheds light on both segments.
Yes, leisure travel is back, and all indications are that this summer will be a blockbuster event. More than 4 in 10 travelers plan to travel more post pandemic compared to their pre-pandemic levels. Practically everyone (93%) plans to travel either the same amount or more compared to their pre-pandemic levels. This positivity about leisure travel is particularly notable considering that pre-pandemic, 2019 travel was already breaking records.
Business has yet to return, but the latest guidance from the CDC, lifting mask and other requirements for vaccinated individuals, has more companies thinking about accelerating their return-to-office plans. Once employees are back in the office, a return to business travel should not be far behind. The big question is at what level? Citing the research mentioned above, business travelers were asked about their plans for business travel once the pandemic is completely over. A combined one-half of business travelers plan to travel the same or more compared to their pre-pandemic levels.
When asked about their likelihood to travel more, business travelers mentioned the need by sales teams and customer representatives — who have missed a whole year of in-person interaction — to get out and visit their clients to make up for lost time. Selling via a 30-minute Zoom call is just not the same as a two-hour, in-person dinner. And there may be a need for more intra-company travel due to the more dispersed workforce brought on by the pandemic.
One small silver lining is the relatively high proportion of “not sure.” Those business travelers may resume travel once the pandemic has passed. However, hope is not a strategy, and for now, it does not look like business travel will return to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon.
By Chris Klauda