By: Ilia Kostov, EVP and CCO NORAM, Hospitality, Amadeus
Business has been a noticeable and sorely missed reason for travel since the onset of the pandemic. Leisure has largely driven industry recovery in 2021, but that could soon shift, as 50% of people in a new Amadeus survey say they planned for business requiring a flight this year.
I’m one of the lucky people that got to hit the road again this fall, when I attended HITEC North America in Dallas, TX. It was a wonderful chance to connect with colleagues and customers face to face again. The excitement of travel and making in-person connections will never get old, and this first major hospitality technology event in the US since COVID-19 was a great way for me to restart my business travel.
The pandemic has been a long road for hoteliers as well, especially for the properties dependent on selling corporate volume contracts or hosting groups in their meeting and event space. In fact, 33% of global hoteliers say lack of business travel has been the single biggest problem they have faced during COVID-19. Many have had to tirelessly pivot business strategies to capture demand from different audiences than they are used to.
Now as consumer confidence and appetite for travel steadily grows, how will the return of corporate travel grow with it? To prepare for the future, hoteliers and their sales teams must first accept the reality that today’s remote work culture will change traditional business travel moving forward. Now is the time for hotels to consider new trends, adjust their approach, and refocus their efforts.
Here are three ways hotels can better serve the “new” business traveler:
Hotels as the new office
According to PWC 2021’s report, companies are seriously reconsidering the role of the office. Sixty-one percent of executives are planning to consolidate office space and 31% of executives believe they’ll need less total office space as a result of remote work.
This presents a unique opportunity for hotels to become a preferred location to host meetups for remote teams. Properties can also accommodate local businesses that have foregone offices but still require a physical space for employees to meet clients for impromptu meetings. Including food and beverage options for these types of gatherings is a bonus for the customer and an additional revenue stream for the hotel.
As businesses begin to shrink their physical footprint, their employees still need a quiet place to work. Over the past year, I saw hotels market and sell guest rooms or turn public areas into office space. In creating these work-from-hotel spaces, they can target out-of-towners, digital nomads, and even local entrepreneurs who may be hesitant to invest in leasing an office. This pivot will have great value as businesses continue to prioritize saving a few dollars on property investments and as remote individuals desire a change of scenery.
Accommodating “bleisure” 2.0
With many employees blending business travel with leisure, it’s clear we are moving to a new era of possibilities. In response to the pandemic, 15% of global hoteliers pivoted their operations to offer “bleisure” or “work, stay, play” packages to individuals to drive demand. Hoteliers can go the extra mile and tap into peak seasons with their offerings. For example, hotels can hone in on summer “bleisure” packages that cater to corporate travelers with young school-aged children who can only extend work trips during school vacations.
Consider how to build offerings that entice travelers to extend their work trip through the week or even work remotely during the day and enjoy the hotel amenities in the evenings. This newfound flexibility creates an opportunity for upselling experiences to bleisure travelers. For example, hotels can offer discounts to enjoy the restaurant or spa. If your property is a golf resort, upsell a golf outing or an excursion with a local tour partner. Hotels can market additional services or amenities to personalize the guest experience and encourage them to stay at the property longer with the upside of additional revenue opportunities for the hotel.
Hybrid events are here to stay
The pandemic has opened the door to not only a new way of working but also a new way to host meetings. Even as in-person events and conferences are returning, there is still a demand for hybrid solutions to bridge the gap.
An April 2021 survey from North Star Meeting Group shows 54% of meeting planners are planning hybrid events, and the growing viability of telecommunications technology and changing norms around business travel are likely to further the trend. Hotels will need to go beyond Wifi and AV and invest in the technology needed to support a new type of demand.
As group business begins to return, many properties are finding that group size is much smaller than may have previously been booked. With the increased volume of smaller events and fewer staff members responding to the group requests, automation is key to reducing the burden on sales teams. Our recently-expanded partnership with Cvent delivers InstantBook capabilities, allowing hotels using Amadeus Sales & Catering the ability to define business rules that enable small meetings and events to be booked directly online, without the need for a lengthy RFP process.
Today’s planners expect expanded opportunities for digital interaction without additional barriers. For properties that invest in new technology, it can help support their strategy to grow this segment of their hotel business.
Shaping the future of business and hospitality
As business travel begins to re-emerge with a new look and feel, hotels can capitalize on the opportunity to expand and grow. Demand may fluctuate and trends may continue to shift, but hotel decision-makers will need to keep their ear to the ground and anticipate the needs of organizations and individual business travelers.
The highly anticipated “new normal” is establishing a new set of consumer expectations for which hotels need to prepare. Amadeus stands ready to help hoteliers manage the present demands and plan for the future – one business need and guest at a time.
For more insight and guidance for selling in this new era of hospitality, download our eBook Rebuilding Hospitality: Sales.