Study: Majority of Business Travelers to Reduce Trips Due to Rising COVID Cases

Study: Majority of Business Travelers to Reduce Trips Due to Rising COVID Cases

WASHINGTON—In what can only be described as disheartening news for the already beleaguered hotel and hospitality industries, a survey indicates that many U.S. business travelers are scaling back travel plans amid rising COVID-19 cases.

A new national survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association found that 67% of business travelers surveyed are planning to take fewer trips, 52% are likely to cancel existing travel plans without rescheduling, and 60% are planning to postpone existing travel plans.

Despite an uptick in leisure travel over the summer, the new survey highlights the dim outlook for business travel and events, which account for more than half of hotel revenue that aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

The lack of business travel and events has major repercussions for employment both directly on hotel properties, and in the broader community. Hotels are expected to end 2021 down nearly 500,000 jobs compared to 2019. For every 10 people directly employed on a hotel property, hotels support an additional 26 jobs in the community, from restaurants and retail to hotel supply companies—meaning an additional nearly 1.3 million hotel-supported jobs are also at risk.

“Hotels were already on pace to lose more business travel revenue this year than we did in 2020. And now rising COVID-19 cases threaten to further reduce the main source of revenue for our industry,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “Hotel employees and small business owners across the nation have been pleading for direct pandemic relief for over a year now. These results show why now is the time for Congress to listen to those calls and pass the Save Hotel Jobs Act.”

The survey of 2,200 adults was conducted August 11-12, 2021. Of these, 414 people, or 18% of respondents, are business travelers—that is, those who either work in a job that typically includes work-related travel or who expect to travel for business at least once between now and the end of the year. Key findings among business travelers included 68% are likely to take shorter trips and 66% are likely to only travel to places they can drive to.

The survey also tested attitudes among 1,590 people (72% of respondents) who are likely to attend large gatherings, meetings, and events—all key drivers of hotel revenue. Findings among those respondents include:

• 71% are likely to attend fewer in-person events or gatherings

• 67% are likely to have shorter meetings or events

• 59% are likely to postpone existing meetings or events until a later date, and

• 49% say they are likely to cancel existing meetings or events with no plans to reschedule.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, corporate travel is projected to remain at only 30% of 2019 levels through the end of 2021. This lack of corporate travel would cost the hotel industry an estimated $59 billion in 2021, according to leading economists, underscoring the need for targeted federal relief such as the Save Hotel Jobs Act.

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