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Experts See Strong Growth for Events, Despite Business Travel Slowdown

Corporate eventThis recent report in the New York Times, Business Travel’s Rebound Is Being Hit by a Slowing Economy, has good news for those in the incentive travel and motivational event business.
The desire for face-to-face connections led to a faster-than-expected rebound in business travel after the worst of the pandemic and will continue to propel growth in incentive travel and motivational events, according to this recent article in the New York Times by Jane L. Levere. The slowdown in business travel may open more opportunities to achieve better pricing for groups, the report indicates.
Jan Freitag, National Director for Hospitality Market Analytics at CoStar Group, is "'very bullish on group travel, trips for meetings, association events, to build internal culture.’” Those trips will recover more quickly than business travel, he believes, because “It’s all about building relationships. It’s very hard to do that online.”
Countering this trend, Grant Caplan, President of Procurigence, a business travel and events consulting firm in Houston, says that "'short business meetings and employee training sessions may continue to be conducted online, which is less expensive than in person.’”
The anticipated softness in business travel may create pricing opportunities for groups. Freitag says business traveler hotel occupancy varies by market, "'with occupancies high in markets like Nashville, Miami and Tampa, FL--places where business travelers may well be taking “bleisure” trips. But hotel occupancies by business travelers are low in markets like Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Houston.’”
He suggests that lower hotel occupancies suggests that a lower return-to-office rate in some places is reducing the opportunity for face-to-face business meetings.
The report finds that even as business travel has resumed, an October American Hotel and Lodging Association trade group finds that 87% of respondents are experiencing staff shortages, only a small improvement over the 97% reporting such problems in May.
Pandemic travel restrictions continue to influence travel decisions, although with less impact, according to the article. It reported on a survey by Tourism Economics, U.S. Travel Association and J.D. Power published in October finding that 42% of companies have policies that place pandemic-related business travel restrictions. That is down from 50% in the second quarter of this year. Over half of the respondents said pandemic-related business travel policies will be re-evaluated in the first half of 2023.

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