There are still mixed reports about the return of business travel at home and internationally.
In MAY, OpenJaw reported Air Canada’s Chief Commercial Officer, Lucie Guillemette, sharing that airline’s predictions for the return of the Canadian business travel market.
“We’re certainly not close to 2019 levels yet, but we are thinking that, based on what we’re seeing, most probably by the time we hit Labor Day, or get into 2023 it should be quite close,” Guillemette said.
Earlier this year, Air Canada predicted business travel to return to 75 to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by 2023.
This month, OpenJaw revealed news out of the U.K. that the majority of business travellers there already think they’re already travelling too much – and want to cut back.
And as OpenJaw reported at the same time, a new survey from the U.S. indicates that two-thirds of large-company executives in the U.S. expect their firm to spend less on business travel over the next six months than they did for the same period in 2019. In addition, around half of respondents say their companies are still restricting business travel with factors like virtual meetings, remote work, and implementing cost controls.
Despite the lurching pace of the return to business travel, one pre-pandemic trend that morphed during shutdowns appears to be ramping up again, to the benefit of hotels in all types of destinations.
What happens when you travel for business and stick around to enjoy the destination? “Bleisure” travel.
A recent report in HotelNewsResource (HNR) says Bleisure is back.
While the pandemic saw savvy hoteliers leveraging the work from home (WFH) trend to attract long-term, quasi-residential guests who could enjoy the vacation destination – often with their families in tow – during their work offline hours, bleisure travel is more transient.
It sees road warriors coming to town for specific, in-person business – and rewarding themselves with an extended stay for leisure time.
From hotels’ point of view, says HNR, the trend is anecdotal, as traditional hotel stay metrics don’t track bleisure stays.
“With summer leisure travel booming and little signs that traditional business transient demand will approach 2019 levels for hotels, hoteliers say there are signs that business travel is alive and well in their hotels, just in a different form.”
Hoteliers quoted in the article note things like high occupancy on “typically slow nights such as Sundays and Thursdays,” indicating pre- and post-work hotel stay extensions.
They also say their hotels’ public spaces like lobbies, coffee shops and bars are coming, “back to life,” with guests working away on their own time.
That’s good news for hotels and business travel agencies who can take advantage of the trend.
“The last couple of years taught us a few things about the human spirit,” an SVP for Pivot Hotels, Vanessa Claspill, said. “We want to travel and adventure and connect. Now [when business travelers go somewhere] they want to understand what a destination is about, and people are taking the time to learn.”
The president and COO for Islands Hospitality Management agrees. “What I’m seeing today when I’m out in our markets and our hotels is more people active in the lobby space regardless of hotels or brands,” Gregg Forde said. “They’re working or on calls. So we’re seeing an uptick [in demand] for small meetings space and food-and-beverage outlet revenue and activating a lot of spaces that weren’t during the pandemic.”
Claspill estimates up to one-fifth of guests booked in for a business convention are extending their stays for leisure travel. And it’s happening in all kinds of destinations.
“Last year, I would have said it was beach destinations, but as we’ve trended into 2022, it’s all our destinations, in general,” Vanessa Claspill said. “It’s the Nashvilles of the world. All the places people want to go and where people are also doing business. Both traditional convention properties and urban hotels are benefiting greatly.”