Part One: The Bridge Year of 2022
By: Jeff Bzdawka, CEO, Knowland
As seen in Hotel Business, see the entire article here.
There has been a tendency to focus on the negative over the past nearly two years, and rightly so. We’ve watched the trends, hoping our industry would bounce back more quickly than it has. As with many industries, we continue to hold our breath as we move into another variant strain of the pandemic, and yet there is still hope. The hospitality industry has demonstrated time and time again its resiliency in the face of adversity and we will rise up stronger.
If we look back to the beginning of the downturn, it was heartening to see our industry come together. There was a level of comradery, co-opetition (the collaboration between business competitors, in the hope of mutually beneficial results), and mutual concern that brought us all together. Then as restrictions began to lift, we also came together to assure the public that it was o.k. to travel. We saw the results of these efforts as the leisure market woke up and travelers hit the road to see family and friends once again.
From a group business perspective, 2022 is shaping up to be a “bridge year” as projections tell us we won’t see the full recovery of events until late 2023. Corporate travel took a big hit during the pandemic, but it is making its way back. A report by Deloitte noted, “Corporate travel is expected to pick up significantly in the second half of 2021, but will still sit well below pre-pandemic levels. Total spend in Q4 2021 is projected to reach somewhere between 25%–35% of 2019 levels, although a third of companies say they will likely remain below 25% of 2019 spend at the end of 2021.”
Even though corporate travel will continue to look different for some time, there will be an increase as we head into 2022, with the return of meetings and events likely beginning to escalate towards Q3/Q4. As we move into this bridge year, we can begin to raise our heads and continue the transformation process of re-evaluating, re-tooling, and re-defining our businesses.
Surveys have shown meeting planners optimistically booking group business into 2022. Co-opetition will be key to assuring the corporate meeting market segment that the hotel industry is ready to host them.
Remember one bad experience can erode confidence and comfort in group travel and ultimately could set the industry back. Just as we came together at the beginning of the disruption, we will need to continue to work together to ensure our foundation has stabilized for the growth period ahead. Responsiveness to requests for information is key. For example, one of the biggest concerns expressed by meeting planners is the lack of timely responses to RFPs by hotels. This has resulted in meeting planners casting a wider net, creating more noise in the system, thus compounding the challenge of managing unqualified inbound RFPs.
To ensure your staff is prepared to be responsive now is the time to re-evaluate your hotel sales team. Do you have staff available to answer the phones, evaluate leads, and book those meetings? Are your sales teams trained to manage new business as well as service returning customers, beyond the RFP? Do they know what new/different services they can offer to set you ahead of the competition?