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Business travel returns. Here’s what to look forward to in 2021

June 30, 2021 / US

After a nearly 18-month lull, travel is returning throughout the United States. Business travelers are coming back in full force, and popular airlines have seen recent increases in business travel bookings. According to United Chief Executive Officer Scott Kirby, “There’s pent-up demand for business travel.”

But things have changed since travel halted in the spring of 2020. Travelers are moving, staying, and working in new ways, and hotel and hospitality groups are responding with new and better ways to host guests. Here are 5 trends we’re seeing as business travel returns. 

A rise in sustainability

Sustainability will play a big role in how we move forward and explore the world. After a lull, travelers are paying more attention to their destination and its impact on the environment. 

In response, hospitality groups are making big moves toward more sustainable, green options. Updates go beyond reducing daily towel service. From increased usage of renewable energy sources to building sustainable hotels from the inside out, hotels are making big moves toward making travel more eco-friendly

The new bleisure

While travelers previously added an extra day or 2 to a business trip for leisure, now they’re bringing business with them on leisure trips. Travelers are taking advantage of remote work with more extended stays and time for work and play. 

To cater to these bleisure customers, hotels are adding more amenities for longer stays. This includes office space, updated wellness features, and in-room fitness accessories to allow travelers to continue their routines while away from home. 

Tammy Routh, SVP of Global Sales at Marriott International, says this trend is common throughout the hotel giant’s portfolio. “The extended-stay brands are the most popular bookings right now,” she says. 

More booking flexibility 

While hospitality companies and airlines were notorious for difficult cancellation policies, brands have become more flexible and changed their rules over the past year. As local COVID-19 mandates and guidance can change regularly, hotels and airlines are making it easier for travelers to make and modify reservations with ease

Business travelers are also booking reservations closer to their departure date, versus planning far in advance. This is likely due to the ever-changing nature of travel and health guidance. 

Increased safety measures

From sanitization stations to mobile check-ins, hotels have adapted intensive cleaning measures to help travelers feel safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Those cleaning measures will stay around in an effort to win back travelers long-term. 

According to a May 2021 study conducted by Hospitality Net, over 80% of people planning travel in the next 12 months intend to review health and safety protocols before selecting a hotel. More than 93% of travelers want their destination to share cleaning protocols, now and in the future. 

Hybrid meetings

As organizations assess travel practices post-pandemic, it’s likely that not all travelers will attend every event in person moving forward. Many hotels have begun catering to events and meetings that will take place in person as well as online. 

From updated videoconferencing technology to spaces that allow virtual and in-person attendees to better interact, hotels are finding ways to meet the new needs of the business traveler. 

Learn more about how Uber for Business can support your company’s return-to-travel efforts.