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Road to Recovery: Preparing for the return of business travel

The following article is part of a series on reopening tips and strategies for hotels, part of our Road to Recovery guide for hoteliers. Click here to access the complete guide

The outlook for corporate travel has become admittedly less optimistic over the last several months, as coronavirus travel restrictions remain in place and companies shift more permanently to working virtually. However, a survey by FCM Travel Solutions reports that a majority of business travel managers believe that business travel will gradually recover over the next year, with domestic business travel returning in approximately 1-3 months, and international travel expected by Q2 2021.

In the meantime, travel managers are doing what they do best: planning. Many have been working hard to reconfigure their Duty of Care considerations to place greater emphasis on health and hygiene, while also developing “Return to Travel” documents, which sets out approval procedures and processes to reassure employees and management that it is safe to travel again. In addition to Duty of Care, areas like traveler communication, spend management, and travel policies are all being revised and reviewed

Travel suppliers such as hotels, even if they are currently closed, should actively participate in these conversations with travel buyers. Proactive conversations with travel buyers not only allow your hotel better prepare the property to meet new Duty of Care requirements, but will also keep your hotel top-of-mind for when business travel picks up again. 

Work closely with travel managers

In recent years, many corporate travelers were increasingly using online booking tools to manage their business trips, but new duty of care considerations mean that more companies are returning to managed travel. The complexity of traveling in this environment means that having a human expert that can closely manage all aspects of the trip will be critical.

What this means is that TMCs and consortia, especially local ones, will be the first ones to know about who is traveling and where they’ll be going. Consider working with travel agents in segments you may not have considered before, such as domestic and SME. Some consortia groups are offering free marketing opportunities for hotels right now to pitch to travel agents; these include webinars and other advertising opportunities that may have cost thousands of dollars before.

Focus business development efforts on domestic industries 

With international travel being slow to return, hotels that have been reliant on international guests will need to look to domestic sources for potential corporate business. Essential travel is still taking place, especially in industries such as manufacturing, logistics, mining and construction. Government travel is also picking up again, and industries such as training and education and financial services also report increasing business travel within the next six months, with winning new business and managing existing client relationships being the two dominant reasons motivating organizations to return to travel

Start repositioning your property for post-pandemic events

Analysts predict that group travel will be the last sector to return to normal, but that shouldn’t stop your hotel from preparing for its return. Hilton has already started planning EventReady, a safety protocol for meetings and events, while Singapore’s meeting and events industry have pulled together to reimagine hybrid virtual and in-person events for the future. Your hotel can already start thinking about its new pitch now, from developing new hygiene protocols for meetings, to introducing new virtual meeting technologies, to repositioning event and meeting space. 

Don’t lose sight of 2021 

Summer is typically the time when RFPs and corporate contracting takes place, and despite the disruptions to this year, travel managers are still working on 2021 contracts. With many hotel employees furloughed, it can be easy to overlook what’s in your RFP tool or forget to communicate with existing clients. If your hotel is working with reduced staff, a partner like Pegasus can be beneficial to ensure that your hotel continues to receive sales support and does not miss out on any opportunities. 

Looking for more ideas to prepare for the return of business travel? Download our guide, The Road to Recovery, for practical tips, strategies, and checklists for your revenue, marketing, and sales teams.

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