While leisure travel has been the lone saving grace for the hotel industry since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotel sales and marketing experts believe the business mix could grow more diversified in 2022.
Over the past two years, the hotel industry has seen little to no corporate transient business, but hoteliers say that could change this year.
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Will Traywick, vice president of marketing at Prism Hotels & Resorts, said there’s indications of a slight shift. It’s anticipated that most markets in the U.S. will realize an increase in business travel compared to 2021 and 2020. However, there will be a continued focus on the strength of leisure travel.
Who is Traveling and Why
In 2020 and 2021, Traywick said there was an uptick in social group travel as certain jurisdictions eased restrictions. Business on the books now shows 2022 will have more corporate groups thrown into the mix of those who are willing to travel, albeit on smaller scales than in 2019.
“All of our sales leaders have been in very close contact with our meeting and travel professionals, whether it be group or business transient, through the entire pandemic. What we’re hearing from a lot of larger negotiated accounts is that they’re not even returning yet back to the office,” he said.
He added those that are traveling for meetings are doing so because it’s essential.
“We do see some of the smaller companies — local negotiated accounts — are willing to have more regional, larger groups,” Traywick said.
Gilbert Arredondo, divisional vice president of revenue strategy at Remington Hotels, said his company is starting to see more corporate and convention group bookings for April and onward into the second quarter of 2022. However, he said it’s not “back to normal but closer to back to normal.”
“I think everybody is still cautious about [first quarter], especially with the most recent variant,” he said. “Going into , we’re seeing our sales group booking levels return back from booking as much business in October and in November of  that we did in 2019 for future months. Granted, on top of that, leisure is still very strong.”
Certain segments like medical, construction, oil and gas stayed healthy during the pandemic but other segments like technology are picking up, he said.
Urban and large gateway markets continue to lag in terms of occupancy and revenue per available room compared to 2019 levels, he said. From a year-over-year perspective, though, urban locations are growing after being severely depressed. New York and Chicago are two specific markets that are ramping back up.