Business travel

Rise in COVID-19 variants tempers business travel

Business travel is slowly making a comeback, with the emphasis on slowness.

In a New York Times article, the newspaper noted that convention centers across the country are reopening and airlines and hotels are seeing their bookings increase slightly.

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The rise in COVID-19 strains such as the Delta variant has tempered any enthusiasm for a rapid recovery similar to what has taken place with pleasure travel.

“We’ll (again) likely see cancellations or certainly meetings pushed back by weeks or months,” Scott Graf, global president of BCD Meetings & Events, told The Times. “(But), I may be optimistic, but I hope that the progress in immunization increases dramatically over the next 60 to 90 days and that the fourth quarter and the start of 2022 are still pretty strong.”

Frank Passanante, senior vice president of Hilton Worldwide Sales for the Americas, was equally optimistic. He said he expected “large-scale conferencing” business to continue improving in the second half of 2021.

“There is no replacement for live meetings,” he said. “The face-to-face will come back. “

Among the most optimistic about the prospects for meetings, conventions and business events in the United States was Meeting Professionals International, a trade group.

“Recognizing that the Delta variant may impact demand in the short term,” the group said in a statement that it “remains optimistic about the return of meetings and events.”

But there is a feeling of “two steps up, one step back”. Convention centers, for example, are reopening. New York’s Jacob Javits Center reopened on Sunday and the San Diego Convention Center, home of the famous annual Comic-Con, reopened last week.

But already, the Javits Center lost one of its main events when the organizers of the New York International Auto Show canceled the event.

Many experts said they didn’t think many conventions would be canceled outright, but rather that attendance would be down.

Clifford Rippetoe, president and CEO of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, said he expected attendance at events this year to be 40 to 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels, and to 70% next year.

“Attendance is the biggest question mark right now,” he said. “We expect events with more US-based members and attendance to be closer to previous years than those with a more international audience.”


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