The future of business travel

The past year has brought unique challenges for the travel industry, but as the vaccination roll-out accelerates and travel restrictions ease, we know that there is a great deal of pent up travel demand. Key to capitalising on this demand is a relentless focus on anticipating and adapting to changing customer preferences.

Cleanliness and flexibility will remain key

One trend that we know will continue to be critical for the foreseeable future is a greater focus on hygiene and cleanliness. Even for the most frequent traveller, this additional reassurance will be important. As time goes by, hospitality businesses will need to continue to adapt their safety measures – as we are doing with Hilton CleanStay – to ensure they respond to the latest guidelines, as well as guest preferences as they shift.

Business travellers have always been the first to adopt new technologies which make travel easier, and many of these technologies have gained new relevance during the pandemic. One such example is contactless check-in. Our Digital Key technology, which allows Hilton Honors members to check-in, choose their room and unlock their door using our app, has become increasingly popular and roll-out has accelerated over the last few months. The technology has now been implemented at more than 5,000 hotels worldwide.  

More than ever, business travellers will also be looking for flexibility, especially whilst restrictions continue to fluctuate. Regularly reviewing and updating cancellation policies – even beyond the peak of the pandemic – will be important to provide maximum flexibility for travellers.

Hybrid is here to stay

Eager to rebuild connections in a safe, responsible way, when it comes to meetings and events, companies are likely to continue choosing to combine in-person attendance and virtual participation through hybrid events for some time. There is no replacement for in-person interaction, and hosting meetings this way empowers businesses to bring people together in multiple, smaller groups in a way that gives the best of both worlds whilst restrictions remain in place.

We’ve successfully run a number of these meetings for our own teams and customers, including an event with in-person attendees in London and McLean, Virginia alongside hundreds of remote delegates around the world. The level of engagement across the sites and amongst remote attendees was fantastic. We recently launched Hilton EventReady Hybrid Solutions to share our expertise with businesses, inspiring them to create events as engaging and captivating as pre-pandemic. 

Flexible working patterns bring new opportunities 

After almost a year of remote working, many businesses are likely to continue to keep their office doors closed for some time, and some may reconsider their setup altogether. This trend, along with the ongoing challenges that many face with working from home – from dodgy Wi-Fi connections to family interruptions and uncomfortable working environments – is leading to a new form of business “travel”: booking hotel rooms as alternative remote offices.

As a result of these challenges, we’ve seen significant interest in WorkSpaces by Hilton from businesses including recruitment firms, whose employees need a quiet, distraction free space with strong Wi-Fi to conduct their all-important meetings. The programme provides quiet, distraction-free work environments with free Wi-Fi, a comfortable desk and chair, and access to the hotels’ business and leisure facilities. 

Remote working is also paving the way for an increase in demand for “bleisure” travel – where business and leisure travel are combined in one trip. Once restrictions ease, we may well see more guests taking advantage of flexible working arrangements to extend their weekend away, booking a room via WorkSpaces by Hilton to benefit from a different view from the home office.

By John Rogers, SVP Brands and Central Operations EMEA, Hilton

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