Industry Update
Opinion Article27 October 2020

Why The Pandemic Will Lead to a Surge of Meetings Business for Hotels and Venues

Much like the growing popularity of the leisure 'staycation,' the business 'staycation' reveals itself as a predominant post-COVID-19 trend that will leverage hotels within driving distance

By Ryan Hamilton, Co-Founder, and Bluebuzzard Technology Group

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In the spring of this year, office buildings around the world fell quiet. Employees spilled out of elevators, making their way back home along a commute that, over the following months, would no longer be required. In the span of a few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic had changed everything, and the corporate world was no exception.

As our communities grappled to understand the risks posed by COVID-19, the traditional models we have grown so accustomed to were aptly dismantled. For corporations, this meant the transition to a remote work infrastructure was expedited almost overnight. Bringing employees together in an office was no longer an option; it was time to let them bring the work home.

What wasn't yet clear, however, was what this shift meant for the future of businesses. Would employees ever return to the office? Moving forward, what would corporate meetings and gatherings (of any scale) look like if offices were no longer an appropriate environment?

The WFH Movement is Here to Stay

According to a survey on employee response to COVID-19, the average percentage of employees who will work at least part of the time remotely is projected to nearly triple from 12% before the COVID-19 pandemic to 30% after the pandemic. Moreover, an IBM survey found that of those currently working remotely, 80% would like to continue to work away from the office at least occasionally. In comparison, 58% would like this to be their primary way of working.

However, the question remains, is working from home an effective model? Can all jobs and duties be performed from a remote location?

Traditionally, concerns regarding the WFH model have centered around themes of productivity and collaboration. Even with the help of online tools such as Slack and Zoom, a WFH format has been notoriously associated with a lack of productivity and dwindling team morale.

After all, virtual interactions present a variety of unique challenges, including the inability to read body language, fatigue from utilizing virtual tools, and technical difficulties or connectivity issues. Simply stated, while the remote workplace is a viable solution that must be explored, it is not a perfect system. And although there are plenty of tasks and workflows that can be performed effectively from home, the workforce's future is not entirely virtual and remote. As we wait for the pandemic to come to pass, corporations are expected to embrace a balance of remote work and in-person presentations, meetings, and collaborative work sessions.

The future of the workplace isn't virtual, and it isn't in-person either. It's both.

A Hybrid Approach

For the hospitality industry, all eyes are trained on the path to recovery. Back in April, Forbes reported that the impact of the coronavirus on the sector was expected to add up to a loss of 5.9 million jobs and $910 billion in travel-related economic output. This was, notably, seven times the impact of 9/11.

Fortunately, though, hotels are positioned to play an important role in the careful implementation of corporate meetings and events moving forward. Corporate travel appears to be on a far more accelerated track to rebound than leisure travel.

Early indications of post-COVID meetings and domestic business travel are instilling confidence in hoteliers. In fact, GBTA member companies worldwide report an emerging willingness to permit employees to engage in domestic business travel, according to the latest poll conducted between August 5-9, 2020. Dave Hilfman, the interim Executive Director of GBTA, notes that presently, more companies look to be trending positively on domestic trips, while international travel remains off the table.

As businesses continue to adapt to the WFH model and take this opportunity to downsize their corporate real estate expenses, they are expected to have an increased need (and budget) for in-person meetings. Hotel venues are uniquely qualified to serve this purpose, as they provide corporations with a safe and pro-actively managed environment for their team to come together in a productive and meaningful manner. Unlike an office, hotels have an adequate amount of space to provide room for social distancing measures and attentive staff who are trained in all appropriate protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The modern meeting/event may include the use of:

  • Mandated PPE
  • Socially distanced seating
  • Social distance markers to direct traffic flow
  • Plexiglass dividers
  • A designated sanitization team
  • Single-use products
  • Virtual components

Many hotels also offer designated work/co-working spaces that will become increasingly sought-after and valuable. In anticipation of this shift, hoteliers should consider the following:

  • Do you have an affordable cloud-based sales and catering system that helps to optimize the group sales process?
  • Have you automated and streamlined lead management and follow up for reducing staffing?
  • Can prospective planners easily access images,3D tours and floorplans, menus, AV, and more?
  • Do you have a CRM to keep your sales workflow organized and build customer relationships?
  • Are all COVID-19 measures you have implemented communicated?
  • Are staff able to offer quick, attentive responses with a digital proposal, e-signatures?
  • Does the property offer full-service packages tailored specifically for business guests?
  • Can you quickly access data, reporting, activities, and monitor performance?

Much like the growing popularity of the leisure 'staycation,' the business 'staycation' reveals itself as a predominant post-COVID-19 trend that will leverage hotels within driving distance.

As corporations evolve from the belief that being in an office full-time is imperative to conduct business, employees are empowered to approach in-person gatherings and collaboration opportunities with renewed enthusiasm. For hoteliers, the takeaway is simple: business travel and meetings will once again mean big business. The pandemic could even mean more business for hotels and venues - eventually.

So the only question that remains is, hoteliers, are you ready to meet that inevitable demand?

Ryan Hamilton

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