Remote work could turn out to be great for business travel

As more companies switch to remote work as a result of the pandemic, InterContinental Hotels Group believes the shift could be great for business travel’s recovery.

With the Covid-19 essentially grinding leisure and business travel to a halt since March, the hotel chain said its global revenues per available room, an industry metric known as RevPAR, fell 52% in 2020. It will take years for group travel, such as for conventions and short business stays to return to 2019 levels, according to the company, which is in line with industry estimates from STR, a hospitality data firm.

However, remote work could also cause a shift in how some employees will attend in-person meetings, which could benefit hotels and the travel industry. As many large companies reduce their office space, adopt more flexible remote work policies, and switch more meetings to video technology platforms like Zoom, hotels could benefit, said Keith Barr, Intercontinental’s chief executive officer.

“Instead of driving to the office five days a week, (their employees) may have to fly in once a month,” he said in an earnings call with analysts yesterday. “Additionally, people are talking about having small offices and less meeting space as well. And so they’re going to have to use hotels as gathering places to do things in the past with them in their offices.”

“I think the death of business travel has been exaggerated by a number of pundits out there,” he added.

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