Analysis: Resuming business travel and meetings provides competitive edge

Workers and travelers want to bring business trips and conferences back

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From left, Suhani Shah and Christina Turley of As One Management hand out promotional material for Shah’s brothers’ business analytics company x•quic to Bharat Cha Patel, Dinesh Patel and Ashwin Patel on the tradeshow floor of AAHOACON2022. X•quic won the inaugural AAHOA “Tech Pitch Competition: Innovations, Ideas, and Products to Propel Us Forward,” in 2021.

BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS that resume business travel and in-person meetings are likely to have a competitive edge over those that do not, according to an analysis commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Also, the study found that also revealed that business travel and in-person meetings facilitate productivity, build organizational strength and foster collaboration in a way virtual interactions cannot.

The analysis, conducted by the San Diego State University School of Hospitality & Tourism Management for AHLA, said that COVID-19 has created a greater need for face-to-face connections that virtual-only meetings simply cannot satisfy. About 80 percent of millennials said they prefer in-person communication with their colleagues.

“Whether organizations are looking to boost productivity, organizational strength or collaboration, they’ll be better able to achieve these goals with business travel and in-person meetings. And as America transitions from pandemic-era virtual settings to more of a ‘new normal,’ businesses and organizations that resume business travel and meetings more quickly can gain a competitive edge over those that do not,” said Carl Winston, founder and director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at San Diego State University.

“There is a time and place for using virtual meeting platforms, but business travel and the face-to-face meetings it facilitates generate more positive outcomes for individuals, organizations, clients and customers in a way that may just be irreplaceable,” said Dr Lisa Cain, associate professor at Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

More than 5,000 people attended the AAHOACON 2022 show in Baltimore, Maryland in April, which showed the strength of in-person meetings.

“We can see light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and optimism. We’ve got great numbers at the conventions,” said Bharat Patel, AAHOA’s vice chair.

AAHOA members were excited to be out in person again, said Vinay Patel, recent past chairman of AAHOA.

“It feels like the pandemic is behind us. I’m not saying 100 percent, but it seems like we’re getting into some normalcy, especially coming to this conference,” Vinay said. “Everybody was excited to get back to business here. Obviously, there are still a lot of challenges ahead, but I think we’re prepped and ready to go in terms of managing.”

A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA found that nearly two-thirds of workers and 77 percent of business travelers agree that bringing back in-person experiences such as business trips and conferences is more important than ever.

“There is no substitute for the real thing, and after the last two years of virtual work arrangements and travel restrictions, it’s time for businesses, employees and customers alike to take advantage of the unmatched value business travel and face-to-face meetings provide,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO, AHLA.

According to AHLA, business travel is expected to increase in 2022 compared to last year. Also, an analysis by Kalibri Labs said that it will reach 80 percent of 2019 figures this year. Though a full recovery isn’t expected until 2024, global business travel is projected to increase by 14 percent in 2022.