Five key trends defining the revival of group travel

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Labour shortages and unpredictable occupancy rates plagued the hotel industry during the pandemic and its effects remain apparent. Daniel O’Keefe senior vice president of hotel property solutions, Amadeus, explains hoteliers need to get wise to the trends that are going to shape the future of group travel... 

Hoteliers have had to adapt their operations in this complex environment, but recovery is on the horizon. According to Amadeus business intelligence data, where hoteliers have access to forward-looking ‘on the books’ hotel group occupancy rate for 2022, group travel is rebounding.

Taking the US as a case study, the data is showing that occupancy rates are already a match for the total bookings made in 2021, and with eight months still left in the year this shows huge potential for continued growth. With all UK COVID restrictions removed as of last month, a similar picture is developing in the US as the industry continues to take significant steps towards recovery.

Yet, this revival has also demonstrated how group travel has been forced to change and adapt as a result of the pandemic. Through our research* in Q1 2022, we have identified five trends that will guide the group travel and events market revival in the year ahead.

Changed group travel behaviour: The data reveals that hotels in non-traditional destinations are seeing increases in group travel bookings. For example, hotels in more remote locations are seeing a boost in occupancy compared to more urban areas that are still experiencing low occupancies compared to pre-pandemic. We’ve also seen a trend for smaller groups, of 50 people or less, with a shortened average lead-in time for an RFP.

Lean teams have to do more with less: Although the groups may be smaller, there is still a high volume of them, which means lean hotel teams are faced with the challenge of handling the influx of activity, with less commission and fewer hands to help. To help combat this, reward structures need to be re-evaluated to match the type of sales on offer and the requirements of the team in today’s operating environment.

Hybrid and in-person meetings are here to stay: With the increased innovation and use of technology, hybrid meetings and events are now a staple aspect of business travel. There is a real opportunity now for hotel event managers to remain competitive by supporting planners to tie together the in-person and at-home experience of hybrid meetings.

Meeting planner relationships are even more crucial: Research shows that employees will resume or continue to attend larger meetings, events, or conferences in 2022 so nurturing planner relationships will be key as planners seek out bargains. As the volume of RFPs increases, the speed of RFP response using real-time market intelligence to strike the fairest and best deal will play a central role in achieving success on all sides.

Innovative partnerships are unlocking new potential: As the landscape continues to evolve in group travel, new alliances between hotels and businesses will broaden reach and bookings. Hotels with the capabilities to use strong data insights into guest profiles will have a competitive edge in negotiating new partnerships to help grow new revenue streams.

The picture for the future of group travel in 2022 is certainly an optimistic one at this stage, but in order to have long term success, the industry must continue to adapt. Hospitality is still faced with labour challenges and adapting to the new changes so it is essential that hoteliers continue to keep the experience of the traveller at the heart of what they do. By utilizing data and technology hoteliers can respond quickly to changes and demands so that they can understand and deliver the best experience in 2022 and beyond.

The insights referred to are drawn from Amadeus’ MeetingBroker and Demand360 business intelligence data as well as interviews with hoteliers, industry experts, and Amadeus executives.

Holly Patrick
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Holly Patrick
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A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.

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