About 37 percent of U.S. workers said that the lack of business travel in 2020 demotivated them, according to a survey released this week by InterContinental Hotels Group. Nearly 45 percent of all respondents shared that business travel improves their working mood and makes them more motivated, while 41 percent said business travel helps them work smarter.
IHG from Jan. 5-8 conducted the online survey of 2,000 adult respondents in the United States, 2,000 in the United Kingdom and 2,000 in Australia.
“Two words [from survey results] that stood out to me were ‘human connection,’ ” IHG VP of global accounts Betty Wilson told BTN. “Fifty-five percent of respondents said business travel allows them to create more meaningful relationships, to be more productive in their jobs. We are fortunate to have all the technology tools we use now, but you miss a lot of the body language or nuance of communication. Nothing can really replace that in-person connection, that relationship building.”
Survey respondents seemed to agree: 40 percent of respondents who travel for business said they miss face-to-face meetings, and Wilson said IHG is beginning to see signs of group business recovery. “We are seeing more activity now in term of groups and meetings going forward,” Wilson said, referring to domestic business. “There is more confidence in terms of booking and getting meetings groups on the books, predominantly for later in 2021 and into 2022. There are really optimistic signs.”
In September, the company enhanced its Meet with Confidence meetings-safety program, which sits on its Way of Clean safety and cleanliness measures that were expanded in May.
Other business travel findings from the survey include 40 percent of respondents indicating they missed being able to stay in a different city, while 36 percent missed earning loyalty points, 38 percent missed staying in a comfy bed when traveling for business, 32 percent missed being able to order room service, 37 percent missed dining with clients and colleagues, and 37 percent missed having some time and space to themselves.
“When we think about dining experiences, whether that is what we are doing in the mainstream space with Holiday Inn Express or in the lifestyle space with Kimpton, which is really known for its bar and restaurant spaces, we are on the right track here, and we are leaning into the right things as we go forward,” Wilson said, when asked how IHG is using the survey to inform their service operations. “We are taking all of this with great interest as we plan for the future.”
Wilson added that the types of essential business travelers who have continued to travel during the pandemic are picking up pace. “In the U.S., we’ve seen and you’ve read in the news that essential travel is really continuing apace,” Wilson said. “Big box retail, manufacturing, infrastructure—the really good news there is we are seeing even more of those projects come to life and ramp up even more as the companies in those businesses feel like it really is safe. With Way of Clean as an example, we’re really leaned into traveler well-being and safety protocols. We are seeing even more of that business pick up. We are also seeing things like film production ramp more and more.”
Internationally, Wilson said Greater China has been leading the recovery and has been “quite strong,” with not only essential-type domestic business but also meetings taking place. “It’s a great sign of optimism,” she said.
In keeping with popular predictions, Wilson anticipates that business travel will pick up more as the year progresses, based on conversations she has had with the company’s largest corporate clients, but that varies by industry. Vaccine distribution naturally will be critical to any kind of recovery.