Graham Pope, vice president of international sales, Cvent, talks about the ever-changing expectations in corporate travel for the upcoming year, and why it is necessary to balance technology, cost containment and sustainability to deliver a great customer experience
Today’s best practices help to anticipate trends in the upcoming year. The industry is expected to not only grow consistently but also metamorphose into being a vanguard of technology advancements with one thing at the core: customer experience.
The year 2022 has been a year of optimism and rejuvenation for the travel industry, which once grew uninterruptedly, but came to a complete halt due to the pandemic. The initial rebuild was slow, but today, travel momentum is continuing to grow strongly.
The UNTWO’s latest World Tourism Barometer showed an increase of 182 per cent for international tourism in the first three months of 2022 compared to the previous year, with destinations worldwide welcoming an estimated 117 million international arrivals compared to 41 million in 1Q2021.
However, reaching the pre-pandemic levels may take a while, given the lasting impacts of Covid, or other macroeconomic factors that can interfere with a full recovery.
Corporate travel bounces back
A resurgence in the market, especially in the hospitality and corporate travel industry, is clearly visible from where we stand today. Travel for business, leisure or bleisure (combining work with leisure) around the world is gaining momentum but with a whole new set of expectations and preemptions.
This offers an opportunity for hospitality professionals to tap into these prospects, win more MICE and Corporate Travel business and improve profitability. Hoteliers are going the extra mile to adapt to these changing demands of the travel managers who, in fact, are key contributors to their business.
The recent Travel Managers report from Cvent delves deeper into these newly emerged corporate traveller sentiments across the globe and ways in which the hotels can prepare themselves for a rebound.
Travel managers and their requisites
The report revealed that 90 per cent* of corporate travel managers are currently sourcing hotels for their organisation’s travel programmes and most of them projected their organisations’ travel spend to increase significantly in 2022. The trend is expected to continue for a long time. To win this business, however, hotels must be aware of travel managers’ preferences and requirements.
Health and safety remain a priority: Fearful of being stranded at another location, or contracting a new virus, business travellers are cautious while making travel decisions. Most are comfortable planning itineraries with the least exposure. Travel managers are booking properties that follow stringent Covid protocols and implement high standards of sanitisation and hygiene.
Budget accommodations are top of mind: Inflation has made everything expensive, including travel. However, currently travel managers are searching for hotels offering lucrative deals on stays. The willingness to pay a price is influenced by factors such as safety protocols, room size and work-supporting facilities, customer loyalty, discounts, and additional complimentary amenities.
No/low contact check-ins: Travellers are looking to minimise physical contact with people or equipment. Check-ins at hotels or registrations at events or meetings through mobile apps or face recognition technology, QR code, and such has become a new ask by travel managers. Keyless entry to hotel rooms is another new technology keeping anxious travellers satisfied.
Hotels need to make a strategic shift
The report also revealed that 50 per cent* of travel managers state their organisations’ programme considerations have somewhat changed since 2019.
Know what the travellers want: Hotels and venues that quickly understand the changed preferences of customers and implement measures facilitating those will get an edge over those who continue to rely on old practices. The time is to bring back existing customers and create opportunities for new customers by offering them what they are looking for.
Innovate using technology: Technology is set to bring a positive change to the travel industry. Its potential is limitless and those who know how to leverage it are sure to succeed. Imagining robots receiving guests at hotel lobbies and escorting them to the rooms or meeting venues is not a farfetched thought now. Several properties are investing in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) guided technology to make the guest experience safer and more efficient.
Prosper with dynamic pricing: The preference of travel managers has shifted towards receiving dual or dynamic pricing from the properties. Around 62 per cent* of respondents across all markets surveyed say they’re requesting dual or dynamic prices during their 2023 RFP negotiations. These strategies could open new doors for hotels, giving them the opportunity to vary pricing based on factors such as demand, availability, and customer loyalty.
The travel landscape has undergone a massive shift and is evolving every day, pushing the need for hoteliers to stay relevant to attract corporate travellers and event planners. There is a need to find the perfect balance between technology, cost containment and sustainability to deliver an experience that is safe for customers who are regaining faith in travelling and for organisations that are concerned for their employees to rebuild their customer connections by meeting face-to-face.
*All figures above are a consolidated representation of findings from Cvent’s Travel Manages Report covering markets across Asia/ANZ/MEA regions
Graham Pope is the vice president of international sales, Cvent. He has more than 15 years of experience in the events and software-as-a-service (SaaS) space. Prior to joining Cvent, he spent five years as EMEA group commercial director at Global Experience Specialists.