What Business Travel Will Look Like in the New Era of Normal
Brian Ferdinand on What Business Travel Will Look Like in the New Era of Normal
As countries closed borders to stop the spread of the virus, the ripple effect dealt a devastating blow to the travel and hospitality industry. Brian Ferdinand, the managing partner of SoBeNY and its parent company, CorpHousing Group, pointed out that airlines shut down routes and canceled flights, hotels emptied and closed their doors while taxis and share ride companies parked their cars until further notice. Virtually overnight, everybody went home to comply with the stay-at-home and social distancing recommendations.
Fast forward six months. Economies are beginning to re-open and the economy is slowly recovering as some sort of normalcy begins to creep back. Ferdinand says that when business travel returns, it will look a lot different than it did before.
Before COVID-19, business travel was the norm and most seasoned business travelers moved through airports and hotels without much thought to their accommodations or how they moved from point A to point B. For many, business travel was second nature, almost automated, as most travelers focused more on their schedule, meetings, and smartphones than the experience of traveling. The “travel” part as a means to an end, and only now do business travelers miss the experience of travel.
But as business travelers looking to get back out “on the road,” there is an array of new concerns to consider and choices to make. The new normal has forced business travelers to take an in-depth look once again and pay attention to the travel experience. Travelers now need to make safer choices that mitigate risk through reduced interactions with large groups and staying in safe and ultra-clean accommodations, while still feeling rested to focus on work.
This has led people to question whether staying at a high-traffic hotel is the best option, and many say no. In a survey conducted by a U.S. strategic research and branding firm specializing in travel data, travel-related perceptions of risk related to COVID-19 were examined. The results found that hotels were seen as the highest risk compared to other short-term stay accommodations like residential units and corporate housing. The negative perception was based on the idea of having to traverse high foot traffic areas such as lobbies or hallways, where a higher risk of person-to-person contact exists. Additionally, it is much harder to keep public areas adequately sanitized, and the risk is greater of being around people who may share a different view of safety or social distancing protocols.
Ferdinand adds that increased safety precautions, lower foot traffic, and highly supervised management of properties, including intense cleaning regimens, has given corporate housing a definite boost in the eye of the business traveler. And the accommodations and “extras” cannot be ignored.
Residential rental units are on the rise, and business travelers are starting to take notice as a safer option. The future of business travel will likely be highly focused on critical meetings, with less office-time interactions and more down-time, says Ferdinand. More downtime means business travelers are looking for comfort and safety over efficiency.
Before COVID-19, staying in a 200 square foot room for business travel was accepted because the hotel room was for sleeping and taking a quick shower. Now, business travelers want to transition from a more temporary setting to one that is similar to the amenities and comfort they experience in their own homes. This includes space, full kitchen, cleaning/disinfecting supplies under the kitchen sink, dining room to set up an office, high-speed Wi-Fi that isn’t shared access, and large, comfortable entertainment rooms.
As work-travel comes back online, business travelers will want the comfort and sense of safety of staying in a place that feels more like home while traveling to some of the most highly desirable neighborhoods in business-centered, metropolitan cities. And, the detailed cleaning and disinfectant regimens of residential rental units cannot be matched by the quick cleaning turnaround found in hotels where you have a high turnover of people checking in every single night.