On short notice, the coronavirus pandemic brought global travel to a standstill. In April 2020, US airline passengers decreased 96% compared with April 2019, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics data.
At the same time, many organizations adopted remote work policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and business conferences were transformed into virtual affairs with varying degrees of success. These components in tandem served as a temporary kill shot to the multi-billion dollar business travel industry.
With a glut of vacancies and a dearth of guests, the business travel industry is reinventing itself for the remote work era and a world forever transformed by COVID-19.
The all-but flatlined travel industry particularly impacted the Dunwoody metro area located 20-minutes north of Atlanta. In 2019, business travelers represented 61% of Dunwoody visitors. In April of 2020, the occupancy rate in the area was at 7%, according to Steven Schumacher, director of sales at Discover Dunwoody.
While Schumacher is confident business travel will return to its pre-pandemic levels, in a post-pandemic world he foresees the rise of the digital nomad and increased travel among people who choose to merge professional lives with vacation.
“I think we will see these two worlds come together, as more and more business travelers opt to bring their families on trips. The ‘bleisure’ travel trend will become more prevalent,” Schumacher said via email.
Remote workforces and digital nomads
Many organizations have adopted remote work policies amid a modern plague. While some companies have brought telecommuters back to the traditional office, others have many long-term commitments to remote work.
Ernest Lee, managing director development and investments, Americas, with citizenM hotels, similarly alluded to remote work-enabled “nomadic behavior” among professionals. The company recently announced a global passport; a subscription service allowing remote workers with a penchant for frequent traveling the ability to stay in any of the citizenM’s 21 hotels around the globe.