Despite concerns over continued uncertainty and a perceived lack of appetite for business travel, the second half of 2021 proved those predictions weren’t entirely true, and momentum is strong heading into 2022. “While we continue to monitor the impact of the recent variant on travel, we are generally optimistic about the industry rebound,” said Derek DeCross, senior vice president of global sales for IHG Hotels & Resorts. I think 2022 will be a positive surprise for many people in terms of business travel, especially the second half.”
The future is bright for business travel
As leisure travel continues to lead the recovery, the future is bright for all segments of travel, particularly for groups and meetings in the United States, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and passage, all of which contribute to the return of business travel. Optimism is felt across the hospitality industry: Airlines have seen increased activity among their accounts, and American Express noted an increase in expenses on its trade cards in the second half of last year, which was led by small and medium-sized businesses.
Where we see these travel spikes, IHG expects continued demand from consumers, such as those in India, the Middle East and Africa (IMEA), driven by lighter travel restrictions in overseas markets. food, increased flight availability and the return of global events like Expo 2022. “The largest share of business travel to this region is for corporate bookings, as well as meetings and events,” DeCross says.
Adapting to Variants – A Wide Range of Responses
With the increase in covid cases due to the Omicron variant, the travel community continues to monitor restrictions and adhere to local, federal and international guidelines.
Some customers are limiting group and meeting sizes while others are moving forward with first trimester travel plans with additional safeguards like masks, vaccination requirements and testing.
“Customer response has varied and I think that will continue as we learn to coexist with Covid,” DeCross says. “We’ve seen some customers delay travel for a few weeks, while others push all travel back to Q2 or later.”
Business travelers and customers will see changes to IHG’s loyalty program that will allow them to earn more points faster and use them in more ways than ever before. IHG recently announced the first changes to IHG Rewards, including a new Gold Elite tier, renaming of the ‘Spire Elite’ tier to ‘Diamond Elite’, and enhanced bonus point earning tiers for all other Elite tiers. Other exciting changes to IHG Rewards will be announced later this year.
Groups & Meetings
In 2020, IHG launched its award-winning Meet with Confidence program to meet the changing needs of meeting planners. The meetings and events industry has seen the most uncertainty throughout 2021, but IHG is hearing encouraging things from planners as we enter the new year. “One of our main areas of focus is small to midsize meetings,” DeCross says. “Our global domain is well positioned to host these types of meetings with brands like Crowne Plaza, and we see Holiday Inn and Hotel Indigo becoming even bigger players in the groups and meetings segment.”
Changes IHG expects to see in groups and meetings include:
- More targeted cultural and team building events as people seek to make the most of their time together.
- More small and medium meetings because people will be more aware of the number of participants.
- In the IMEA, meetings and events are taking place within government guidelines and event capacity remains limited.
- The success of the current expo, along with the perception of the UAE as one of the safest travel destinations, presents opportunities for growth in early 2022.
- The FIFA World Cup in late 2022 will be a crucial revenue driver, along with an increase in spiritual and religious travel to the region.
- Strong growth in 2022 of SMERF groups (social, military, educational, religious and fraternal)
From testing services to staying on top of public health food and beverage guidelines and robust offerings around technology, IHG will continue to be nimble and work with planners to ensure that their needs are met. Partnerships like those with CVS and Wellness for Humanity are examples of how IHG continues to adapt to the changing environment and needs of our customers and meeting planners.
“I’ve been to several trade shows over the past few months in the United States and France, and you can feel the energy and excitement when people come together or meet for the first time,” DeCross says.
SMBs have proven to be one of the bright spots throughout the pandemic, and IHG Business Edge, IHG’s award-winning SMB program, has become an essential tool for buyers in the SMB segment. “We see continued growth opportunities for our IHG Business Edge account base and are focused on capturing even more market share this year,” said DeCross.
Due to fluctuating concerns and the latest variant, there are indications of a slight decline in SME travel for the first quarter, but not to the same extent as large companies, mainly due to more public health directives. strict in Europe.
Around the world, IHG is seeing increasingly positive signs in discretionary business travel in the group and transient sectors.
“We’ve always said that where people can travel, they travel — whether it’s for work or play,” DeCross says. “Our hotels are seeing a return to essential business demand. We look forward to a strong year for business travel and are confident that we have the right programs in place to enable our guests to be successful, whatever their needs. .
To learn more about the resumption of business travel, read our article describing the recovery in the first half of 2021. Learn more about IHG Hotels & Resorts here.